Graduate students (at least in the US) often have to take foreign language competency exams, particularly if they are in the humanities. In things like classics or Biblical studies, I might expect a higher standard. But what is the standard generally required of students outside of such areas (but still within the humanities) in the US?
Since these are PhD programmes, I would normally expect a high standard (e.g. at least beyond the second year level in a good undergraduate programme). But purely anecdotally, I've reason to doubt this:
I know one person who was a native Japanese speaker and who used Japanese and German (or possibly English, via some exemption for foreign ESL speakers) to meet her language requirements, but who claims that her German isn't very good.
I know of a first-year student in art history who is using Italian and Chinese to meet such requirements. His comments about his Italian revision and experience suggested that he was at a fairly low level,1 and his attempts to write or converse in Chinese were, speaking as a native Chinese speaker, not particularly competent. Apparently he had to take his Italian exam shortly upon entering grad school.
While perhaps I'm just being too presumptuous of other people, this seems to suggest that the idea I have of language competency exams requiring people to comfortably read something like untranslated Foucault easily is wrong.
1. From his comments, it seemed that I know at least as much French as he does Italian, yet I have trouble reading French scholarly texts with confidence.