East Asian Languages and Literatures

The major in East Asian Languages and Literatures provides an intellectually focused and rigorous immersion in the East Asian humanities. It emphasizes the analysis of literature, culture, and thought and is built upon a solid foundation of language study in either Chinese or Japanese. The program’s course offerings reflect both the breadth and the depth of East Asian textual traditions from premodern through modern times, as well as the variety of East Asian film and theater. Courses on Chinese and Japanese literature in translation and courses on Japanese film are open to all undergraduates. Students considering the major in East Asian Languages and Literatures should take one or more courses on literature in translation early in their academic careers.

Many students pursuing other majors enroll in the department’s language courses, which include Chinese, Japanese, and Korean from elementary to advanced levels. These are relatively difficult languages, so students interested in learning them should start as early as possible, particularly if they intend to major in East Asian Languages and Literatures. The language courses are taught in a semi-intensive format, requiring substantial daily preparation and meeting three to five times per week. Special courses are offered for students with a background in Chinese or Korean.

Prospective majors should consult the director of undergraduate studies (DUS) by the beginning of the sophomore year. Students who do not complete the language prerequisite (intermediate Chinese or Japanese or the equivalent) by the end of the sophomore year will have difficulty completing the requirements of the major unless they study abroad.

The department strongly encourages students to study abroad for at least one term. Majors sometimes apply credits from approved summer or term abroad programs in China and Japan. Students interested in studying an East Asian language abroad, regardless of their major, may qualify for financial support through the Richard U. Light Fellowship program. For eligibility requirements and further information, prospective applicants should visit the Light Fellowship Website.


First-year students who come to Yale with some knowledge of Chinese, Japanese, or Korean should take a placement test. The date of the test will be announced on the departmental website. Before the day of the examination, students taking the placement test must also complete an online component through the departmental website.