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Languages in Asian Studies

College of Liberal Arts

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At both the undergraduate and graduate levels, the Department of Asian Studies promotes language study as essential to a deep and ethical understanding of Asia.

Language is the medium of knowledge—we use it to think and to say what we think. Studying an Asian language helps students get beyond the intellectual and moral limits of English-only resources. Knowing only one language condemns us to thinking that its way of interpreting the world is natural and correct. Language learning encourages us to focus on other people, to learn what makes them unique, and to understand the world in their terms. Our knowledge of Asia gains both perspective and humility through the study of its many languages.

Language is also the medium of relationships, our connection to each other in sound and writing. Learning an Asian language, or any language, shows respect, saying in effect, “You and your world are worth my time.” It is thus a moral gesture and a tangible demonstration of the value of other people and other cultures. Speaking a language makes interpersonal ethics possible by putting people in conversation, but the personal effort to learn a language also consists of self-discipline that contributes to the ethical formation of an individual.

In the context of Asian Studies, our world-class language instructors guide students in both of these ways, helping them learn to communicate and do things in the language they study. Currently, we offer courses in ten Asian languages: Bengali, Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, Kannada, Korean, Malayalam, Sanskrit, Tamil, and Urdu. Click a language in the sidebar to learn more about courses, placement exams, and reasons to study a particular language.