What are LACs?

LACs are one-credit sections attached to disciplinary courses across Cornell's campus. Each section is taught entirely in a language other than English by a graduate student teaching assistant. The goal of LAC is to move language practice out of the traditional classroom setting and integrate it into disciplinary areas. The content is therefore not traditional grammar or the language itself, but rather field-specific academic discourse, specialized vocabulary, and technical terms drawn from the "parent" class.  Most class time is spent engaging in disciplinary discussion, exploring topics that are already familiar to you because of your concurrent participation in the "parent" course. 

When do LACs meet?

LAC sections meet once a week for 50 minutes. At the start of the semester, the meeting time is determined at a time that is mutually convenient for the instructor, your classmates, and you. Many LACs end up meeting in the afternoon or early evenings when other classes do not take place.

Who can participate?

LACs are suitable for any students who are already conversant in the target language, and often include a mix of

  • First language speakers (i.e., individuals whose secondary education occurred in the target language)
  • Heritage speakers (i.e, individuals who have a family or cultural connection to the target language and use the language in the home context)
  • Second language speakers (i.e., individuals who have studied the language previously in formal or informal educational settings) 

Because LAC discussions draw heavily on the parent-course content, these special sections are intended primarily for students who are currently enrolled in the associated parent course. Enrollment is capped at 12 students. Should seats remain available, students who meet the language eligibility requirements may occasionally be able to enroll if they have interest in the topic, or if they have already taken the parent course in a previous semester. However, if you are not concurrently enrolled in the parent course, you will need to seek permission from both the parent faculty and the LAC instructor prior to enrolling.

What language level do I need?

Because each LAC section is conducted entirely in a language other than English, you should have at least an intermediate level of speaking ability in the target language. We will not, however, test your language proficiency. Via a preliminary interest survey, you will estimate your own spoken ability by answering some questions about a language you identify as already having experience with. 

The list below contains examples of what speakers can do at each sublevel. LAC sections are most appropriate for speakers operating at an "Intermediate Mid" sublevel of speaking (or higher). In some cases, it may be acceptable for "Intermediate Low" speakers  to enroll. If you suspect you fall into this category, we invite you to indicate your interest via this survey, but also to consult directly with the LAC instructor prior to enrollment.

  • Intermediate Low speakers are able to converse in some straightforward social situations. Their conversations are restricted to topics they can predict, such as discussing oneself and one's family, describing daily activities, stating preferences, and meeting their immediate needs, such as ordering food or making purchases. They can speak in short sentences and statements, as well as ask some questions. Their speech often contains pauses, self-corrections, and inaccurate forms.
  • Intermediate Mid and High speakers are able to handle a wider range of tasks associated with straightforward and routine conversations. In social situations, they can share information about their work, education, hobbies, interests, and abilities. They can speak both in sentences and in strings of sentences and are able to narrate events in all major time frames (past, present, future). They are capable of asking a range of questions to satisfy their needs, including asking for directions or the costs of particular services. Their speech may contain pauses, self-corrections, and inaccurate forms.
  • Advanced speakers display confidence and ease with handling a wide range of conversational tasks. They can participate in most conversational exchanges in both formal and informal settings. They can discuss not only topics relating to themselves, but also topics of broader public interest such as current events. They are able to speak in connected paragraph-length discourse. Their speech has substantial flow and their vocabulary is moderately extensive. Their language may break down at times when performing more complex tasks.

You can find more detailed descriptions of each sublevel by consulting the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines for Speaking

What languages are offered?

Since the program was launched in 2016, the Language Resource Center has set up LAC courses in 14 different languages, including Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin), French, German, Hindi, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latin (conversational), Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Yoruba. The languages that can be offered depend on multiple factors. Initially, at least five students who speak the same target language should express interest in enrolling via the preliminary interest survey. Even if a quorum of speakers with a shared language background is identified, each language offering remains contingent upon the availability of a graduate student instructor who has fluency in the target language and knowledge of the subject area. 

New languages can always be added.

How are LACs graded?

The default setting for this 1-credit special language section is letter grading. However, you have the option to choose between receiving a letter grade or S/U (satisfactory/unsatisfactory) grade in your student center

Grading criteria vary between sections. However, you can expect the following components to consistently appear across LAC syllabi:

  • Attendance and participation: This is the most important element of the course. You will be expected to attend all sessions, come prepared, and contribute to in-class discussions.
  • Final project: Often, this component takes the form of an oral presentation (8-10 minutes) on a topic relevant to the course that interests you.

Since the section only carries 1 credit, the time you spend on associated activities outside of class time is minimal and will not exceed 2 hours in a given week. Other examples of graded components may include activities such as

  • Give a five-minute presentation of a news article you select related to a weekly topic.
  • Complete a short reading in the target language and/or contribute a brief written post to an online discussion.
  • Identify five key vocabulary terms from a previous class discussion with term definitions/translations and example sentences.

How can LAC enrich my studies?

Throughout their time at Cornell, most students in the College of Arts & Sciences take 3- or 4-credit language classes to fulfill their language requirement. As a 1-credit offering, LACs cannot be used to fulfill the language requirement. However, through LAC enrollment, you will earn one elective credit from the College of Arts & Sciences, which contributes to the total number of 12 credits you will need to complete each semester to maintain good academic standing. Also, as a course with a Foreign Language (FL) designation, LAC may help work toward meeting distribution requirements in other Colleges. Check with your academic advisor to see how this applies to you.  

We also recognize that many students have fluency in languages other than English, and passion to continue studying them, yet do not have time or flexibility in their schedule to enroll in courses requiring intensive language study. Participating in a LAC will enable you to

  • Maintain your fluency in the target language through a manageable weekly time commitment.
  • Engage in stimulating academic discussions on topics of interest to you.
  • Learn field-specific terminology relevant to your academic discipline.
  • Use the target language in an academic setting.

How can I enroll in a LAC?

If you would like to participate in a LAC section, you will need to complete a preliminary interest survey. These surveys are typically sent to all students who are enrolled in a participating disciplinary course before the start of each semester. Completing this survey helps us determine if a quorum of students with a shared language background are enrolled in the associated course. While we cannot guarantee that a LAC will be offered in your language, completing the survey increases the likelihood.

Who can I contact with questions?

The LAC initiative is supported and coordinated by the Language Resource Center within the College of Arts & Sciences. For additional questions, you may contact Ahmed Shamim ( who coordinates the initiative.