Academic Overview

We offer elementary to advanced language instruction in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean, along with elementary and intermediate classes in Tibetan and Uyghur. Language study is complemented by a wide variety of country-specific and general East Asia courses in literature, philosophy, political science, art history, linguistics, anthropology, business, economics, and other fields: see EALC courses under Course Listings. We offer several different undergraduate major and minor tracks. At the graduate level we offer an M.A.M.A./ J.D. degree and Graduate Certificates.

East Asian Languages at the University of Kansas

  • Chinese

    In a few short weeks, Elementary Chinese language students at KU have learned Chinese pronunciation and begun to speak about basic topics of daily life. Learning Chinese characters, one of the most interesting and fun aspects of Chinese, starts slowly the first year, the number mastered gradually increasing over the following years of study. Advanced-level students can read contemporary Chinese fiction, news articles, classical texts, understand songs and movies, and speak fluently

  • Korean

    Although Korean has been a spoken language for several thousand years, the development of its phonetic alphabet, Hangul, in 1446, made it the easiest East Asian script 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.

  • Uyghur

    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 a geopolitically strategic language, as the region shares a border with Pakistan, Afghanistan, the Central Asian Turkic republics, Russia, and Mongolia.


  • Japanese

    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!

  • Tibetan

    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.

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.

Placement & Proficiency test Chinese, Japanese or Korean

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

Uyghur & Tibetan: Contact our main office

Retroactive Credit

Students with no prior college or university Chinese, Japanese, or Korean course credit, but who have knowledge of one of these languages either through high school courses, 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.