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. Students learn how words began and languages continue to develop. They learn to speak and read modern dialects. They study stories, myths, and writings. The program includes the cultures of many different ethnic peoples who lived and moved throughout South and Southeast Asia
The region of South Asia is described by many linguists as very diverse. In this region alone, there are over 650 individual languages! Some of the more commonly spoken languages are Hindi, Bengali, Thai, and Vietnamese.
As you might expect, the literature tradition of this region is also very rich. There are traditional texts of India ("Mahabharata") and Thailand ("Ramakien"). You might also explore modern writers of the Philippines or the oral histories passed down in the island nations of Indonesia and within Polynesia.
Because this area is so diverse (and often, defined rather loosely), not all programs will offer the same course work. Make sure to investigate individual programs, as each will offer its own unique focus.
In general though, South and Southeast Asian languages and literature programs teach you about the culture and subcultures of countries that speak an Asian language. You often take courses from different fields of study, such as art, anthropology, and history. Most importantly, you learn to speak at least one language spoken in this region. Languages spoken in India are commonly taught, but you might also learn Tagalog or Indonesian.
You also learn how to read and write the language. Many courses also teach you translation techniques. Of course, you read original literature and poetry as well as learn about music, film, and other South and Southeast cultural traditions. Most upper-level courses require you to read important works of literature in their original form.
About 25 colleges and universities offer bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees in South and Southeast languages and literature. Some schools offer concentrations as part of a larger program in Asian language and literature.
A few two-year colleges offer the first two years of study, but usually in the most commonly spoken languages. 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 in this field become professors.
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
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
- Literary Studies
- Literature, Film, and Folklore
- Reading and Speaking Skills
- Study in a South or Southeast Asian language or its dialects (beginning, intermediate, advanced)
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
You may be required or encouraged to spend some time living, working, or studying abroad. This gives you a total immersion experience in South and Southeast Asian culture. It also gives you the chance to practice your second language skills in the native setting.
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.
Some programs only focus on select South and Southeast Asian countries.
Very few people who receive a bachelor's degree in South and Southeast Asian languages 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. Some common career routes include journalism and teaching.
Similar fields of study
- Asian Studies
- Asian-American Studies
- Central and Eastern Asian Languages and Literature
- Comparative Literature
- East Asian Studies
- Second Language, General
- South and Southeast Asian Studies
Careers you may qualify for
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.