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Academic Overview

East Asian Languages at the University of Kansas

Through our Department of East Asian Languages & Cultures, KU offers six languages: Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, Tibetan, and Uyghur. Languages are supported by a variety of interdisciplinary courses ranging from literature and art history, sociology, anthropology, political science, business, and economics, to name but a few. KU students from all majors and professional schools are encouraged to explore East Asian studies. 


In a few short weeks, CHIN 104: Elementary Chinese language students know their four tones and can speak beautifully about basic topics of daily life. Learning characters, the challenging but fun aspect of Chinese, starts slowly the first year, then accelerates the second and third years of study. Advanced-level students from KU can read newspapers and contemporary fiction by the time they graduate; graduating majors are fluent in Chinese.


Hindi is the third most spoken language in the world, after Chinese and English. It is the major language of India, home of the Indus Valley Civilization and now one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Learning Hindi opens a vast and new horizon to one of the oldest, richest and vibrant cultures and philosophies in the world.


Often considered the "Gateway to the East," Japan is a center for commerce, trade, education, and culture in East Asia. KU alums with Japanese language skills have followed career paths such as acting for Japanese television, banking in Tokyo, and working as a legal expert for Microsoft, as well as many who pursued graduate work in Japanese culture and history. Beyond the practical advantages, studying Japanese possesses its own intrinsic rewards: learning one of the world's most complex languages exercises the mind in unique ways. Japanese language students are never bored!


Although Korean has been a spoken language for several thousand years, the development of its phonetic alphabet in 1446, hangul, made it the easiest East Asian language to master. Today Korean is the 11th most spoken language in the world. More than half of Korean's vocabulary can be traced to Chinese, and the structure and grammar are similar to Japanese. KU is the only institution in Kansas that teaches intermediate and advanced Korean language courses.


Tibetan is spoken by six million people along the Tibetan Plateau, "the rooftop of the world," which spans parts of China, Bhutan, Nepal, and northern India. Tibetan is the language of the most extensive corpus of Buddhist texts in the world, of which only a fraction have been translated into other languages. Learning Tibetan can enhance the educational experience for students of religion, philosophy, eastern medicine, political science, and traditional arts.


Living at the cultural crossroads of Central Asia, mostly in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region of China, the traditionally Muslim Uyghurs have a rich body of literature, arts, music, and dance. Today, Uyghur is geopolitically strategic as the region shares a border with Pakistan, Afghanistan, the Central Asian Turkic republics, Russia, and Mongolia.

Placement Exams

If you have learned an East Asian language elsewhere and wish to take more language courses at KU, you should take an on-line placement exam prior to your arrival on campus. To take the exam, simply follow the link below, and access it with your KU ID (guest log-in options also available).  There is no fee for this test, and it may be taken at any time of the year. After taking the on-line placement test, you need to have an oral evaluation with a language coordinators to verify the test result. Please consult our "Placement and Proficiency" section for more information.

Students majoring in East Asian Studies must have at least third-year level language proficiency (CHIN/ JAP/ KOR 508) by graduation. Students majoring in Language and Literature must also take the equivalent of first semester fourth-year language (CHIN/ JPN/ KOR 562) and for students in Chinese, classical Chinese (CHIN 542) also.

After taking the on-line placement test, you need to have an oral evaluation with the one of the language instructors or language coordinators to verify the test result. 

Chinese: Yan Li

Japanese: Yuka Naito Billen

Korean: Ji-Yeon Lee

Hindi: Patrica Sabarwal

Uyghur & Tibetan: Contact our main office

Undergraduate Programs

The East Asian Languages and Cultures Department offers a full program of instruction in the languages, literatures, and cultures of China, Japan, and Korea.

Courses for Non-majors

We offer a varaiety of courses suitable for non-degree seeking students. Please visit our Course lisitings for an overview.

EALC also offers elementary and intermediate language courses in Tibetan (TIB 101TIB 102TIB 201,TIB 202) and Uyghur (UYGR 101UYGR 102UYGR 201UYGR 202). Tibetan and Uyghur language studies can be used to fulfill the CLAS second language requirement necessary to complete the B.A. degree.

Retroactive Credit

Students with no prior college or university Chinese, Japanese, or Korean course credit (either through high school, self study or as heritage learners) are eligible for retroactive credit according to this formula:

  • Students who place in second-semester Chinese, Japanese, or Korean (CHIN 108, JPN 108, KOR 108) and earn grades of C or higher may receive 2 hours of retroactive credit.
  • Students who place in third-semester Chinese, Japanese, or Korean (CHIN 204, JPN204, KOR 204) and earn grades of C or higher may receive 5 hours of retroactive credit.
  • Students who place in fourth-semester Chinese, Japanese, or Korean (CHIN 208, JPN 208, KOR 208) and earn grades of C or higher may receive 7 hours of retroactive credit.
  • Students who place in fifth-semester Chinese, Japanese or Korean (CHIN 504, JPN 504, KOR 504 or higher) and earn grades of C or higher may receive 10 hours of retroactive credit.

Students who want to be considered for retroactive credit must:

  • Meet with their language faculty advisor to discuss previous study and familiarity of the language
  • Take a placement test to confirm language placement
  • Then, upon completion of the course, reach out to the EALC undergraduate advisor to receive credit

Regardless of the number of credits received, you will be charged $50.00 by the Bursar’s office after the credits have been applied to your transcript.


Master's Degree in East Asian Languages & Cultures

The Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Kansas is the only department in Kansas offering a regular program of instruction in the languages, literatures, and cultures of East Asia.  Students in the Master's Degree program in EALC study under close supervision with nationally known scholars of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.  The graduate program trains students who will devote themselves to becoming effective links between the Far East and the United States.

Students concentrate in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, or East Asian Cultures, usually entering the program with at least two years of college-level language. The program typically takes two years to complete, and now includes a Thesis option and a Non-thesis option.  Further details regarding pre-requisites and requirements for degree may be found on our M.A. Degree page.

The department also offers a joint J.D./M.A. degree in cooperation with the KU School of Law.

If you completed a Bachelor’s degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA and wish to take an upcoming graduate-level course in the department, you may apply as a non-degree-seeking (NDS) student.


EALC Graduate Student Handbook [PDF]

List of Master's Thesis Titles from EALC Graduates [PDF]

KU Office of Graduate Studies »

KU College Office of Graduate Affairs »

Departmental & Thesis Advising

During the first year of coursework, students choose a faculty member to be their Faculty/Thesis advisor and who will eventually serve as the exam/thesis committee chair.  A thesis advisor may be a faculty member in another department who is a specialist in East Asian Studies.

All M.A. students in the department will also work closely with the department Director of Graduate Studies, Keith McMahon, who will advise on the selection of coursework in the chosen degree track, make recommendations on choosing and generally developing a thesis topic, conducting research and writing a thesis/research papers. 

Directed Readings Courses

Directed Readings courses are designed for students who have exhausted all relevant, regular course offerings in a particular subject area and have a project to propose for independent study. A Directed Readings course is one in which a faculty member supervises a student's independent study project, typically the topic of the student's Master's thesis or research papers.

Mentoring for Graduate Teaching Assistants

GTAs teaching language sequence courses receive close mentoring designed to provide support for the teaching assistant and raise the quality of instruction in the department.  Language instruction GTAs in the department may be required to enroll each semester in a 1 hour practicum course in their target language;

  • EALC 701 Practicum in Teaching Chinese
  • EALC 702 Practicum in Teaching Japanese
  • EALC 703 Practicum in Teaching Korean

The faculty mentor leading the course will work closely with the GTA on applicable second language acquisition theories and principles of foreign language pedagogy and focus on enhancing teaching methodologies, instructional techniques, and development of pedagogical materials.

Below you will find a selection of courses offered by our department. For a comprehensive and up-to-date listing, please consult the KU Course Catalog.


East Asian Languages & Cultures

Eastern Civilization









Give to East Asia

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