The Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures aims to foster broad cultural awareness while providing the most rigorous possible training in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean languages. The department offers coordinated three-year sequences of language instruction, as well as electives taught in East Asian languages and in English. Students in the program should develop not only cultural literacy in the language area of their choice but an understanding of the world from the perspective of East Asia.
East Asian Studies in EALAC
The East Asian Department seeks to give students comprehensive exposure to the cultures of East Asia. The department’s wide selection of elective courses taught in English, Chinese, Japanese and Korean serves students throughout the university as well as majors and minors in the program. Through this blend of East Asian-language and English-language courses, the department seeks to enrich students’ understanding of East Asian social, cultural, and literary traditions and to give them a sophisticated appreciation of contemporary East Asia beyond common stereotypes. The gateway course “East Asia: Texts and Contexts” introduces students to topics in the classical and contemporary literary and cultural traditions of East Asia through works in English translation. Other courses offered in English range across themes from classical poetry to myths and folklore, to contemporary animated film. These courses are all founded in the common tradition of the humanities, making them suitable complements to study in a variety of disciplines.
Language and culture are integrated throughout the EALAC curriculum.
The department’s broad goals for language learning are:
- Functional fluency in the spoken language for everyday situations in that language environment.
- The ability to make a formal presentation in the language about a subject in the student’s area of academic or professional interest.
- The ability to read and comprehend professional, academic or literary texts written in the modern language (in the case of Chinese, in both simplified and traditional characters). Students of Chinese will also develop the ability to read texts in the classical language.
Language Learning Goals
More specifically, our students should acquire the following language knowledge and skills:
- Advanced vocabulary and grammar, and both formal and informal, written and spoken expressions, suitable to various contexts
- Socio-cultural knowledge that enables them to communicate in an appropriate register in real-world situations
- Understanding of the target culture by comparing and/or making connections to their own
- The ability to handle a variety of authentic audio, visual, and written and printed resources including academic or literary texts written in the target language (in the case of Chinese, in both simplified and traditional characters) independently
- The ability to articulate their own thoughts and opinions in a coherent, persuasive manner in the target language
- The ability to plan and successfully produce spoken and written presentations.
One additional goal of the language programs in EALAC is to give students the tools to pursue their language study beyond the classroom and beyond graduation. The East Asian languages are among the most difficult for monolingual English speakers to achieve fluency in. Written Chinese and Japanese take a particularly long time. Even for the most accomplished non-native students, language learning is not over with three or four years in the classroom. A large percentage of students who pass through courses in Georgetown EALAC go on to live and work in East Asia or to pursue further study involving East Asian languages. The program seeks to equip these students with the linguistic and intellectual foundations to flourish and continue to develop in whatever East Asian professional or academic environment they enter after graduation.
Cultural Learning Goals
The program’s overall goals for cultural learning include the following:
- General knowledge of classical traditions and contemporary cultures of East Asia in all facets, including new media and popular culture as well as history, religious traditions, major works of the literary canon and writing on social issues. The introductory course East Asia: Texts and Contexts and the range of electives are the primary vehicles in the curriculum for this cultural component of the majors.
- The ability to do in-depth research on a humanities-related original topic of the student’s choice, using both English and East Asian language research and primary source materials. Toward this end, Chinese and Japanese majors cap their four years of study with a thesis written for the Senior Seminar. The students may write this thesis in either English or the language of study. In either case, students writing the thesis must demonstrate their ability to manage textual sources in their language of study. In the final semester of senior year, a few students also complete an honors thesis, which must demonstrate original research drawing heavily on Japanese or Chinese sources.
- Broadly, “cultural translation” ability—that is, the ability to move between East Asian and other cultural contexts socially, linguistically, and intellectually, and to convey knowledge from one context to the other. This includes understanding linguistic and non-linguistic customs and behavior in East Asian socio-cultural situations. It also includes drawing knowledge from Chinese, Japanese or Korean texts and experiences and finding ways to translate or express that knowledge to audiences outside East Asia.