Field of Study: Chinese Language and Literature
Programs in Chinese language and literature teach people the spoken and written traditions of China. Students learn how words began and the languages developed. They learn about regional dialects. They study stories, myths, and writings. Students also learn to apply the knowledge to business and technology.
China's official language is Mandarin. Because China has the largest population of any nation, Mandarin shares with English the distinction of being one of the two most spoken languages on Earth. It is often said that one half of the world speaks English, and the other half speaks Chinese!
In Chinese language and literature programs, you study just what the name implies – language and literature. You take courses from different fields of study, such as art, anthropology, and history. You learn about Chinese culture and history, from ancient times to the Revolution and rule of Mao Tse Tung to current times.
Within China are several other distinctive but related language families. Because of this, most programs typically teach you how to speak Mandarin. You also learn how to read and write the language. Mandarin is both easy and difficult to learn. Unlike English, Mandarin doesn't have verb tenses or use plurals for nouns. This makes it easy. However, words have different meanings depending how you pronounce them, so you must have a good ear. Chinese characters are quite beautiful but also complex, and learning how to read and write them requires much memorization.
Many courses also teach you translation techniques. In addition, you read original works of literature, including poems, essays, epics, and novels. You also study folklore and film.
Over 70 colleges and universities offer bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees in the Chinese language and literature. Some two-year colleges offer the first two years of study. Students can often transfer these credits to a four-year school. Master's degrees typically take five or six years of full-time study after high school. Doctoral degree programs typically take three to five years after the master's degree. Most people with graduate degrees become professors.
Students who major in Chinese language and literature may choose concentrations such as:
Cantonese (Min, Hakka, Yue)
Creative and Technical Writing
Folklore and Myth
You can prepare for this program by taking courses in high school that prepare you for college. This typically includes four years of English, three years of math, three years of social studies, and two years of science. Some colleges also require two years of a second language.
- Multi/Interdisciplinary Studies
- Second Language
- World Geography
- World History
- Ancient Civilizations
- World Area Studies
- Political Science
- Contemporary World Issues
Admission to graduate programs is competitive. You need a bachelor's degree, good grades, and good test scores. In addition, you must be able to demonstrate that you can speak, read, write, and understand Chinese at an advanced level.
Additional requirements at some schools include:
- Graduate Record Exam (GRE) General
- Letters of recommendation
- Personal statement
- Academic writing sample
Typical course work
This program typically includes courses in the following subjects:
- Applied Phonetics
- Business Chinese
- Civilization and Cultural History
- Conversation and Composition
- Literary Studies
- Literature, Folklore, and Film
- Reading Skills
- Study in Mandarin Chinese (beginning, intermediate, advanced)
Graduate programs in Chinese language and literature typically require:
- Required courses
- Thesis (master's degree)
- Preliminary exams (doctoral degree only)
- Dissertation and dissertation defense (doctoral degree)
Things to know
Students who major in Chinese language and literature may be required or encouraged to spend some time living, working, and studying abroad. Most programs coordinate semester abroad or work internships. In most cases, you can participate in these after you have completed at least two years of language study.
Colleges that do not have complete programs in Chinese language and literature may offer elective courses as part of a major in interdisciplinary studies or liberal arts.
Often, Chinese language and literature programs are part of larger Asian studies departments.
Very few people who receive a bachelor's degree in Chinese language and literature ever get a job directly related to the field. Even so, this program provides a solid background for many careers that require a four-year degree. China has become much more involved in the global economy in the last decade or so. Studying Chinese has more applications in business and government than it has had in many years. Therefore, being able to speak Chinese (or dialects of) will especially be attractive to business-related employers.
A degree in Chinese language and literature is considered good preparation for graduate study in law, English, business, international studies, and further study in Chinese language and literature.
Similar fields of study
- Asian Studies
- Asian-American Studies
- Central and Eastern Asian Languages and Literature
- East Asian Studies
- Second Language, General
Careers you may qualify for
Association for Asian Studies
Languages on the Web
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Schools that offer program
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, Located in Southeast
College of Saint Benedict - St. Joseph , Located in Central
Concordia College - Moorhead , Located in Northwest
Hamline University - St. Paul , Located in Metro
Macalester College - St. Paul , Located in Metro
St. John's University - Collegeville , Located in Central
St. Olaf College - Northfield , Located in Southeast