With the support of the Center for East Asian Studies, the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures (EALC) offers a full range of instruction in three major East Asian languages—Chinese, Japanese, and Korean—and two levels of Uyghur and Tibetan.

Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures

Placement and Proficiency Exams

Chinese Language Program

China has one of the fastest economic growth rates in the world and holds one quarter of the world's population. It is a country with an ancient and fascinating history and a complex and interesting role to play in the present. Knowledge of Chinese language and culture is also an asset in a wide range of careers. KU has taught Chinese since 1959, and it has the strongest Chinese language program in the Great Plains. KU’s Chinese language program offers courses in a variety of focuses from elementary to advanced coursework. All courses are designed to build a solid foundation of language proficiency and promote development of comprehensive skills in Chinese.

Beijing market stall in black and white by William Ashley

Japanese Language Program

Japan is a small island nation but one of the world’s biggest economies. In addition to serving as a mediator of Western scientific and technological knowledge for Asia, Japan is a center of commerce, trade, education, and culture in East Asia. Japanese cultural commodities are ubiquitous throughout Asia and, one might add, throughout the West due to the influence of manga, anime, Godzilla, Ultraman, and Pokemon. KU offers four years of Japanese classes. All courses are designed to build a solid foundation of language proficiency and promote development of comprehensive skills in Japanese.

Red Japanese temple with Mt Fiji in the background by David Edelstein

Korean Language Program

Korea is a relatively small country, only slightly larger than Kansas, but its population, South and North combined, is twenty-times that of Kansas. Korean is spoken not only by citizens of the Korean peninsula and members of the Korean diaspora, but also by a growing number of non-Koreans for various purposes. It is the 11th most spoken language in the world. Although the Korean vernacular script known as han’gŭl (great writing) was invented in 1446, it has enjoyed wide-spread popularity for only about a century. Han’gŭl is easy to master, which contributes to the nearly 100% literacy among Korean citizens. While more than half of the Korean vocabulary came originally from Chinese, the structure and grammar of the language are similar to Japanese. KU is the only institution in Kansas offering elementary to advanced Korean language courses.

Aerial view of Daehak-ro district, Seoul, by Bundo Kim

Tibetan Language Program

Tibetan is spoken by approximately six million people living on the Tibetan plateau, which spreads across China, Bhutan, Nepal, and parts of northern India. This plateau, often called “the roof of the world,” is bordered by the Himalaya mountain range. Literary Tibetan is the language of the most extensive corpus of Buddhist texts in the world, only a miniscule fraction of which have been translated into other languages. Learning Tibetan is a path to knowledge of one of the world’s great religions, as well as to ancient teachings in the fields of philosophy, art, and Eastern medicine. The Tibetan language program, which offers classes at the elementary and immediate levels, started in 2005, and KU is the only university in the Great Plains to offer this language.

Buddhist monastery Thrangu Tashi Yangtse, Nepal near Stupa Namobuddha in the Himalaya mountains by Raimond Klavins

Uyghur Language Program

Uyghur (ooey-GHUR say Uyghurs, WEE-gur say Americans) is a Central Asian Turkic language spoken along the Silk Route in Chinese Turkestan (Xinjiang). The Uyghurs, who number nearly ten million, are closely related to the Uzbeks, and have a rich body of literature, arts, music, and dance, that stretches back to the 9th century. Living at the cultural crossroads of Central Asia, the Uyghur are influenced not only from Central Asian Turkic culture, but also Persian, Arabic, Mongolian, Indian, and ancient Indo-European cultures. Today, the language is geopolitically strategic as the region shares a border with Pakistan, Afghanistan, the Central Asian Turkic republics, Russia, and Mongolia. KU is one of the only institutions in the United States offering Uyghur. Because few people in the United States study Uyghur, speaking this language is a skill that can set you apart in your future research or career.

Mosque in the center of Urumchi in Xinjiang, China by Akbar Amat