East Asian Languages at the University of Kansas
Through our Department of East Asian Languages & Cultures, KU offers five languages: Chinese, 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.
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.
If you have learned East Asian languages elsewhere, you should take a placement test. There is no fee for this test, and it may be taken at any time of the year. If you enter with less that the two-year minimum requirement, you may take courses to remedy the deficiency, but they will not count toward the degree. The appropriate Undergraduate Advisor will help decide what courses to take. By graduation, all students must have at least third-year level language proficiency (Chinese 504-508, Japanese 504-508, or Korean 504-508). Students in the Language and Literature concentrations must also take the equivalent of fourth-year language and for student in Chinese, classical Chinese.
Please consult our "Placement and Proficiency" section for more information.