I don't have any personal experience here - but some googling suggests that CCNY only offers a M.A. in art history - and that the language exam it requires is about reading skills rather than conversation:
Each semester City College offers exams in Spanish, French, German, Italian, Classical Greek, Japanese, and Latin. This examination tests your ability to translate a short document from your chosen language into English. You are permitted to bring a dictionary to the exam if you wish. You must register in advance for the exam. Each semester we will post the deadline for registration. You can register for this exam in the MPIR office during office hours. You may prepare for this exam in any way you choose (for example, taking a class). If you are multilingual, you will not need any special preparation.
This seems in line with language requirements in math programs - the idea being that there may be important texts in your field that either a) haven't been translated to English, or b) would be advantageous to read in the original language.