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Culturally, socially, and politically Chinese is a language of global significance. Countless works of philosophy, literature, science, health, law, art, history, religion, and political science have been written in this language over four thousand years of history. Chinese and English share the distinction of being the world's most widely spoken languages.

In modern times, the economies of Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore have been booming for decades, and the People's Republic of China has the highest rate of economic growth in the world. Considering its population of 1.2 billion and a culture as old as extinct civilizations like Babylon or Sumer, one can imagine China as a huge and ancient dinosaur running with the speed of a rabbit.

Some people believe that the Chinese language is difficult to learn, because of its unfamiliar writing system. Chinese, however, is not so much difficult as it is different from more familiar languages with its beautiful characters and poetic tones. 1.2 billion people speak it with no trouble every day, and students who have studied a couple of years of Chinese at Carleton can converse fluently in daily Chinese. The faculty make sure the teaching process is effective and enjoyable; laughter is commonly heard from Chinese classrooms as students converse, recite, and perform.

Language Courses

Introductory and intermediate courses focus on conversational skills and basic reading and writing, in a Chinese cultural context. Advanced courses deepen competence in written and spoken language and expose students to new literary genres, including short stories, documentary prose, and essays, as well as film.

Literature and Culture in Chinese

Recent offerings include Contemporary Prose (essays), Contemporary Fiction, and Mass Media (TV and film).

Literature and Culture in Translation

Recent offerings include The Tao Te-ching; Studies in Chinese Art and Literature: the Dragon, the Mountain, and the Hare in the Moon; Beauty, Good, and Evil in Chinese Literature; and Comparative Study of English and Chinese Short Stories.

Related Linguistics Courses

Courses in Writing Systems and Historical Linguistics are both taught in the department, and deal extensively with aspects of the Chinese language and its history.

Majors and Concentrations

Students may petition for a special major in Chinese or they may focus on the study of language or literature as Asian Studies majors. Chinese courses are also an integral part of the East Asian Studies Concentration and a certificate of advanced study in foreign language and literature or foreign language and area studies is offered by the college to students that have completed the requisite number of courses after 206. For guidelines on applying for the Chinese Special Major contact Mark Hansell, Department of Asian Languages & Literatures.


Chinese House became a reality in the fall of 1995, and in 1996, Parish Language House was established, combining the variety of separate language residences into one international house. Applications to live in Parish International House are available here. There is also a Chinese Club that organizes events like film viewing, New Year celebrations, etc. A weekly Chinese Table offers the opportunity to practice speaking skills over lunch.

Off Campus Studies

Chinese Studies in China is a term-long off-campus language and culture program based at Tongji University, Shanghai, China. The intensive language courses build oral and written proficiency. The culture courses examine the basis of Chinese civilization, and immerse the students in the Chinese artistic and spiritual world. The program includes extensive travel to historical, cultural, and scenic sites.