The rapid growth of the Pacific Rim as an economic and technological giant in world affairs has spurred a parallel interest in the region's languages and people. Chinese has become one of the most widely taught foreign languages in the United States, critical to a wide range of professions and interests from politics and diplomacy to business, education and cutting-edge technology. But the interest extends beyond purely practical concerns to a growing fascination with the unique play of tradition and innovation, ritual and creativity in the cultures of China. Balancing past and future, they have emerged as both partners and competitors in a shifting global order.
Different from Asian Studies, which is an interdisciplinary program requiring completing a 140 Asian language course, the East Asian Languages and Literatures Department, which includes Chinese and Japanese, emphasizes four-year's of work in the Chinese language as key to understanding the heritage, culture and current affairs of China. It is designed for the diversified liberal arts education in the 21st century to meet the urgent need for China specialists who are competent in the language and able to study China through the original materials. The East Asian Languages and Literatures Department offers a Chinese major, a Chinese minor and a Japanese minor. The department also provides the two-year language courses (Chinese 140 and Japanese 140) for Asian studies majors.