Getting Started in Asian Languages & Civilizations

Students in a classroom discuss slideshow showing Japanese ceremonial ceramic bowls
Students in Samuel Morse's course, “The Tea Ceremony and Japanese Culture.”

Students can begin exploring Asian Languages Civilizations by taking a language course, a content course, or both! 

Courses in Arabic, Chinese, and Japanese range from introductory courses that presume no prior knowledge to advanced, fourth-year courses that will have you reading, writing, and discussing in the language. The major expects students to attain at least a third-year level competency in one Asian language, but there are many opportunities, including Study Abroad, to go beyond that level. Please consult the separate “Language Placement Information” section for placement recommendations for Arabic, Chinese, or Japanese language courses. 

The interdisciplinary character of the major is one of its greatest strengths, and the content courses represent a broad range academic disciplines such as anthropology, art history, film studies, history, literature, political science, and religion. The courses are roughly grouped into geographic area—such as East Asia, South Asia, and West Asia—but you will find that many intersect thematically and methodologically across those boundaries. The interdisciplinary nature of the program, for example, allows majors to design senior thesis projects that straddle disciplinary boundaries in ways that might not be feasible in some majors.

All ASLC content courses are taught in English with translated materials. 100 and 200-level courses serve as introductions, while 300 and 400-level courses engage in-depth focused themes and methodologies. Few courses have prerequisites and there is no required sequence of courses that majors must take. We do recommend, in general, that students begin with introductory courses if they have no prior familiarity with an area of study.

Majors will be asked to design, in consultation with their major advisor, an individualized concentration of 4 courses, including at least one course with a significant research component. A concentration may typically be organized abound a geographic focus (China, for example), but some majors design a thematic focus (visual culture, for example); in either case, a concentration should intersect in some way with the language being studied.