The Asian Languages & Civilizations Major

Major Program

The major in Asian Languages and Civilizations is an individualized course of study. All majors are required to take a minimum of ten courses dealing with Asia. At least six of these, including two content courses, must be taken at Amherst College. A maximum of six language courses may be counted toward the ten courses required for the major. Normally, the program of study includes four or more non-language courses in the cultural area of the chosen language. In exceptional cases, a student may petition the department to approve an alternative course of study with a thematic, disciplinary, or interdisciplinary focus, designed in consultation with a departmental advisor. The program of study should include one course with a substantial independent research component. Students counting the language courses towards their major will show a certain minimum level of competence in one language, either by achieving a grade of a B or better in the second semester of the third year of that language at Amherst or by demonstrating equivalent competence in a manner approved by the department. Students taking their required language courses elsewhere, or wishing to meet the language requirement by other means, may be required, at the discretion of the department, to pass a proficiency examination. No pass-fail option is allowed for any courses required for the departmental major.

Declaring the Major

  1. Determine a concentration within the major.
  2. Make an appointment to see the Chair of the Department and discuss your proposed course of study. The Chair can then sign your ‘declaration of major’ form and will assign you an advisor in the department.
  3. The 'declaration of major' form is available from the Registrar, and here:  Major Declaration Form.

Comprehensive Exam

The comprehensive examination is defined as follows: Majors must satisfy a comprehensive assessment by participating in the department’s undergraduate student conference in the final semester of the senior year. Students seeking departmental honors will be expected to present on their senior thesis. Students not writing a senior honors thesis will be expected to present research undertaken in one of their courses in the department.

The undergraduate student conference is held early in the spring semester each year. All graduating seniors in the department will present on an original research project at this forum. As a crucial component of the major, participation is mandatory. Advisors will let seniors know of the date of the conference well in advance, usually at the beginning of the fall semester.

Students writing a senior honors thesis should present on their thesis at the conference. Thesis writers need not have completed the thesis by the time of the conference, but they should have done enough work on it so as to give a substantive presentation on their research.

Students not writing a senior honors thesis would ideally present on an original research paper undertaken in one of their ASLC courses. Barring that, a student can also take a special topics course that results in a piece of original research. Another possibility is to write a paper that expands on coursework as approved by the student’s advisor. Regardless of how the research requirement is completed, a paper used for the presentation must be from a class above the 100-level.

Departmental Honors

Students who wish to be candidates for Departmental Honors must submit a thesis to the Department, and, in addition to the ten required courses and the capstone presentation, enroll in ASLC 498 and 499, the thesis writing courses, in their final two semesters. Thesis students are required to complete a senior thesis on an independently chosen topic, and to participate in an oral defense of the thesis with three faculty members chosen jointly by the student and the department.

Study Abroad

The department encourages study abroad in the language of concentration. A student majoring in the department who studies abroad for one semester may petition to have a maximum of two courses or the equivalent count toward the major. The request is subject to departmental approval.