The Major in Chinese

The Chinese major is a major in Chinese literature that places an emphasis on language acquisition and that accommodates some study of Chinese culture in general, including for example, Chinese film and Chinese sociolinguistics. Students who complete the Chinese major are expected to have attained a superior level of proficiency in Mandarin Chinese, to have an understanding of the breadth of Chinese literary and cultural history, to be able to read authentic Chinese literary and cultural texts with accuracy and comprehension, and to complete either a senior project or a senior thesis that demonstrates depth of understanding of and original insight into a literary or cultural text or texts in the Chinese language.

Students whose primary interest is not literature and culture are encouraged to combine their study of the Mandarin Chinese language with a major in global and international studies or a discipline such as environmental studies, history, political science, religion, sociology, or anthropology; such students may also consider a joint major in Chinese literature and culture and a second discipline.

Most students in our Chinese language classes and many students in our Chinese literature and culture classes are not Chinese majors. Our goals for students in our classes, regardless of major, are below.

Literature and Culture

In our literature and culture courses, our goal is to foster students’ ability to understand and appreciate the complex literary and cultural traditions of China, both ancient and modern. We aim to help students develop the ability to reflect critically on the literatures and cultures of China; to have the skills to conduct research using primary and secondary sources, and using traditional as well as electronic methods; and to clearly and critically think about, discuss, evaluate, and write about their findings on cultural, linguistic, and literary topics.


Following the guidelines of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), we have set the following as the goals of our courses in Mandarin Chinese.


Communicate in Languages Other Than English.

  • Standard 1.1: Students engage in conversations, provide and obtain information, express feelings and emotions, and exchange opinions in Chinese.
  • Standard 1.2: Students understand and interpret written and spoken Chinese on a variety of topics.
  • Standard 1.3: Students use Chinese to present information, concepts, and ideas to an audience of listeners or readers on a variety of topics.


Gain Knowledge and Understanding of Other Cultures.

  • Standard 2.1: Students demonstrate an understanding of the relationship between the practices and perspectives of Chinese culture.
  • Standard 2.2: Students demonstrate an understanding of the relationship between the products and perspectives of Chinese culture.


Connect with Other Disciplines and Acquire Information.

  • Standard 3.1: Students reinforce and further their knowledge of other disciplines through the use of Chinese language.
  • Standard 3.2: Students acquire information and recognize the distinctive viewpoints that are only available through Chinese language and its cultures.


Develop Insight into the Nature of Language and Culture.

  • Standard 4.1: Students demonstrate understanding of the nature of language through comparisons of Chinese language and their own.
  • Standard 4.2: Students demonstrate understanding of the concept of culture through comparisons of Chinese culture and their own.


Participate in Multilingual Communities at Home and around the World.

  • Standard 5.1: Students use Chinese both within and beyond the school setting.
  • Standard 5.2: Students show evidence of becoming lifelong learners by using Chinese for personal enjoyment and enrichment.