East Asian Languages and Cultures Major

The Department of Asian Languages, Literatures, and Cultures offers three distinct major tracks: East Asian Languages & Cultures, Chinese, and Japanese. Each major requires a minimum of ten courses. Up to four study-away credits can be counted toward a major. Below are the learning objectives and minimum requirements of the East Asian Languages and Cultures Major.

Prospective and current majors should use your Williams login to sign up for this GLOW course.

Learning Objectives for the East Asian Languages and Cultures Major 

Students who complete the requirements for a major in East Asian Languages and Cultures will be able to:

  • Attain a minimum of Intermediate High level in speaking, listening and reading of either Chinese or Japanese, and Intermediate Low level in writing in the language based on the ACTFL proficiency guidelines.
  • Acquire research, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills by engaging in linguistic or literary analysis in the field of Chinese studies or Japanese studies.
  • Obtain basic intercultural communicative skills to navigate some social and cultural contexts in Chinese- or Japanese-speaking environments.
  • Continue their engagement with an Asian language and culture as lifelong learners and users of the target language.
  • Students who choose the dual-language option will attain the Advanced level in speaking, listening, and reading in either Chinese or Japanese, and the intermediate level in a second Asian language based on the ACTFL proficiency guidelines. 

Minimum Requirements of the East Asian Languages and Cultures Major

In order to develop proficiency and intercultural communicative skills in the language, students are required to complete at least six language courses (or attain a minimum proficiency equivalent to the completion of 302) in one East Asian language offered by the department (currently Chinese Mandarin and Japanese). To gain a deeper understanding of the Chinese or Japanese cultural traditions and to develop research skills in the Chinese or Japanese fields, they should take at least two Chinese/Japanese core electives in literary, linguistic, or cultural studies in their primary focus of study with prefixes and primary cross-listings in CHIN/JAPN, and two approved electives related to Chinese/Japanese language and culture (including additional CHIN/JAPN core electives, additional Asian language courses, or Chinese/Japanese studies courses offered in art, comparative literature, history, music, political science, religion, etc.). 

Students placed out of lower-level language courses can take additional approved electives to replace the language course requirement. Potential electives can be found under the course listings for the program in Asian Studies. 

This major offers students who are able to complete the 402 level in either Chinese or Japanese by the end of their sophomore year a dual-language option which will allow them to learn a second Asian language and reach the Intermediate level in speaking that language by the time of graduation. Please consult with the chair or language coordinator for more information about this option.


Due to the pandemic, the department has reduced the number of courses required for its majors for the graduating classes of ‘21, ‘22, and ‘23. For these years, the minimum requirements are nine courses as follows:

At least six CHIN/JAPN language courses (or a minimum proficiency of completing 302), two CHIN/JAPN core electives, and one approved elective. 

Students with higher language proficiency who are placed out of any of the core language courses (101 through 402) can take an equal number of faculty-approved electives taught either in Chinese/Japanese or in English on literature, linguistics, culture studies or related Chinese or Japanese studies disciplines (e.g., art history, history, political science) to fulfill the core language requirement. Students who plan to study abroad either during the summer or during their junior or senior year MUST consult with department faculty for advice.