Chinese Language Study

Great Wall of China

The Chinese Program offers skill level courses, ranging from the elementary to the advanced levels, and topics courses introducing the students to key themes, texts, and figures of modern and premodern China and the Chinese-speaking world. Our mission is to help students attain proficiency in Chinese reading, writing, listening, and speaking. At the same time, since language and culture are intertwined and inseparable, we work with our students toward a higher degree of cultural proficiency. We achieve our goals through activities introducing the students to culturally authentic materials and by using a variety of resources, tools, technologies, and methodologies. Communication between instructors and students in the target language is a regular feature in our classes. We will start with the more colloquial/spoken Chinese and gradually introduce students to the more formal/written language as we move forward, to help our students develop a broader range of conversational and writing skills.

Undergraduate Programs

Visit the Eagle Service Course Catalog for course offerings and details.

Why Study Chinese at AU?

With a population of over 1.4 billion, China is one of the most important countries in the world and Chinese the most spoken language of all globally. With 3,500 years of written history, Chinese civilization is one of the major ancient civilizations with huge cultural diversity. On the other hand, the past ten years have seen China secure its position as the second-largest economy in the world. Thanks to China's increasing presence on the world stage, Chinese has been designated as a critical language by the U.S. government and is one of the six official languages of the United Nations. Therefore, being proficient in Chinese has many advantages. Students with linguistic and cultural proficiency in Chinese will have plenty of employment opportunities. Studying with AU’s program in Chinese Language and Culture, you will be well equipped with an oral and written proficiency in Chinese and an understanding of Chinese culture, society, and history.

Faculty

Program Contacts

Program Director

Xiaoquan Raphael Zhang, PhD
Director, Chinese Program
xrzhang@american.edu

Academic Advising

Ryan Cassidy
wlcprogramadvisor@american.edu
202-885-1452
Gray Hall 101

Declare Major or Minor

Related Links

  • CLEAR (Language coaching and resources)

Q&A with Prof. Xiaoquan Raphael Zhang

The Chinese Program offers three levels of skill-level courses, Elementary (CHIN 112-113), Intermediate (CHIN 212-213), and Advanced (CHIN 312-313). We also require that our students of Chinese major take Newspaper/Media Chinese (CHIN 410) and Chinese Civilization (CHIN 411). Besides, students can also take other electives including repeatable Advanced Chinese Topics, such as Modern Chinese through Film and Fiction, Modern China through Popular Culture, Chinese Business Translation, and Chinese Media & Political Translation (CHIN 450), as well as non-recurring Selected Topics (CHIN 396 and CHIN 496).

Most of our textbooks are in simplified characters; however, they also come with texts in traditional characters as appendixes. We encourage our students to learn to recognize traditional characters, but it is not required.

No, our Elementary Chinese classes begin with the study of Chinese pronunciation via pinyin (Chinese romanization) and basic Chinese characters. Students will also learn how to use the language in different contexts, both formal and informal. In the topics-level courses, students put into practice their accumulated knowledge of Chinese to engage in the discussion and analysis of more complex texts, discourses, and ideas. It is truly remarkable when you see how much you can do with Chinese upon the completion of each level of study.

Our skill-level classes are capped at 15 students and our 400-level classes are capped at 12 students. This allows for more student-teacher interaction and enables students to fully participate in their language-learning experience. It works out very well and, most importantly, benefits our students.

Yes, students can study abroad in programs based in China and other Chinese-speaking regions of the world. Students can check with AU Abroad for more details about programs currently available.

Yes, students can choose to declare either major or minor in Chinese Studies. The Chinese Studies major involves Chinese study on the three skill levels; after that, students take topics courses (400-level) in Chinese. They also complete a capstone project during the final year of study. The major is very comprehensive and prepares students to use Chinese after their undergraduate studies. Students may choose to major in Chinese Studies and in an additional major offered at AU. The department also offers a minor in Chinese Studies, which is comprehensive and includes coursework at all four levels of Chinese study.

A major or minor is not required to take Chinese at AU. We have students in our program with a diverse range of academic interests and career goals, so all are welcome to enroll in our Chinese courses.

Thanks to China's increasing presence on the world stage, the demand for graduates with Chinese proficiency is stable. AU students who have majored in Chinese and acquired linguistic and cultural proficiency would be very competitive candidates for positions in the State Department, the Department of Defense, Homeland Security, the Intelligence Community, etc. The private market also offers many opportunities for those majoring in Chinese in such fields as the media, business, NGOs, interpreting and translation services, etc. With a Chinese major, students wishing to continue to graduate programs related to either Chinese or [East] Asian Studies will also be better equipped to do so and substantially increase their chances for admission.