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Field of Study: South and Southeast Asian Languages and Literature


Programs in South and Southeast Asian languages and literature teach people the spoken and written traditions of the region.



South and Southeast Asian languages and literature programs include topics such as:

  • Reading, writing, and speaking one or more languages
  • Culture and society
  • Art
  • Anthropology
  • History
  • Literature and poetry
  • Folklore and film
  • Translation techniques

A few colleges and universities offer bachelor's degrees in South and Southeast Asian languages and literature. Some schools offer concentrations as part of a larger program in Asian language and literature. A bachelor's degree usually takes about four years of full-time study.

A few universities offer graduate degrees in South and Southeast Asian languages and literature. A master's degree typically requires two years of study beyond a bachelor's degree. Doctoral (PhD) degree programs usually require two or more years of study beyond the master's degree.


College preparation

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.

  • Second Language
  • World Geography
  • World History
  • Ancient Civilizations
  • Contemporary World Issues
  • Advanced English Composition courses
  • Advanced Literature courses


Graduate admissions

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 speak, read, write, and understand at least one South or Southeast Asian language at an advanced level.

Additional requirements at some schools include:

  • Graduate Record Exam (GRE) General
  • Undergraduate degree or significant course work in literature from this region
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Personal statement
  • Academic writing sample


Typical course work

This program typically includes courses in the following subjects:

  • Applied Phonetics
  • Civilization and Cultural History
  • Conversation and Composition
  • Linguistics
  • Literary Studies
  • Literature, Film, and Folklore
  • Reading and Speaking Skills
  • Study in a South or Southeast Asian language or its dialects (beginning, intermediate, advanced)
  • Translation

Graduate programs in South and Southeast Asian 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

In the South and Southeast Asian region there are over 650 individual languages. Some of the more commonly spoken languages are Hindi, Bengali, Thai, and Vietnamese.

Because this area is so diverse (and often, rather loosely defined), not all programs will offer the same course work. Make sure to investigate individual programs, as each will have its own unique focus.

Students who major in South and Southeast Asian languages 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 South and Southeast Asian languages and literature may offer elective courses as part of a major in interdisciplinary studies or liberal arts.


Similar fields of study

Careers you may qualify for

College Foreign Language Teachers
Interpreters and Translators



American Institute of Indian Studies

The Association for Asian Studies

Association of Southeast Asian Nations

Languages on the Web
Browse language and literature groups.

No schools' programs are being reported at this time.