The Department of Asian Languages and Cultures (ALC) provides undergraduates with the opportunity to explore a variety of Asian cultures in depth, compare traditions across Asia, and consider them in relation to those of other regions, both within and outside Asia. ALC offers language courses from beginning to advanced levels as well as a broad range of humanities courses in Asian literature, film, visual culture, and gender studies, among other areas. ALC also offers a major in Asian Languages and Cultures (in one of five areas: Chinese, Japanese, Korean, South Asia, or Comparative) and minors in Advanced Asian Languages (in Chinese, Hidi-Urdu, Japanese, or Korean) and Asian Humanities. Please refer to our Major/Minors page for more information about these different courses of study.
ALC offers Chinese, Hindi-Urdu, Japanese, and Korean language courses from beginning through advanced levels. Accelerated courses are meant for students with uneven linguistic skills — those who have some speaking proficiency, but limited or no reading and/or writing proficiency. Typically, accelerated courses serve heritage language learners, whose language acquisition happened mostly at home and not in their community or country of residence, but other students with uneven linguistic skills may also be placed into accelerated courses.
For ALC course offerings, please visit our Undergraduate Courses page.
Why study an Asian language?
Knowledge of an Asian language offers entry into rich and complex cultures that are both fascinating and thought-provoking. Proficiency in any one or more of these languages provides outstanding job qualifications in virtually any field, and if you decide to study abroad or work abroad, facility with a language other than English will dramatically increase your opportunities.
Asian languages offered by ALC also satisfy the WCAS foreign language requirements as well as the language requirements for most tracks of the School of Communications, and the global and diverse culture requirement for Medill School of Journalism. In addition, students in McCormick School of Engineering may use our languages to fulfill their humanities/social sciences theme requirement.
Northwestern students also apply their language skills to international relations and government jobs in the United States. According to Sainz and Zoido, college graduates who speak a second language on average earn more than those who do not.
Why study Asian cultures?
Those who are drawn to the humanities will reap great benefits from the pursuit of an interdisciplinary understanding of both pre-modern and modern Asian societies in their varied cultural expressions and manifestations. At the same time, social-science and business-oriented students will benefit from the opportunity to expand their experience of human social behavior, while science majors and engineers will be better prepared for the global nature of contemporary research.
Literature (including the various genres of poetry, fiction, theater, graphic novels, film, anime, and television) often provides one of the most significant venues through which students encounter a different culture. By engaging with an Asian culture’s words and images, whether in the original or in translation, students quickly gain privileged access to new worlds.
Other Northwestern departments and programs recognize ALC courses as a way to fulfill their home department/program major or minor requirements. Read more about programs that are affiliated with ALC.
If you are interested in learning one of the Asian languages offered by our department, you should ideally start your language study in your first year at Northwestern. Most of our language courses are year-long three-quarter sequential classes, beginning in the fall quarter. Learning a foreign language from your first year will expand your options for study and research abroad, scholarship and fellowship, and internship opportunities.
If you have prior knowledge of one of the Asian languages we teach please follow the instruction in the placement test instruction page.
- Chinese language placement test 2020
- Hindi-Urdu language placement test 2020
- Japanese language placement test 2020
- Korean language placement test 2020
If you have NO prior knowledge of the Asian language you would like to study, please register for CHINESE 111-1, HIND_URD 111-1, JAPANESE 111-1 or KOREAN 111-1 in the fall quarter.
Can AP or IB credit count towards the ALC major/minor or the language requirement?
AP and IB course work is eligible for up to two elective language credits determined by AP/IB scores received.
Those AP/IB credits, however, cannot be used towards the major/minor offered through ALC. Also, AP/IB course work, scores or credits are not used for the purpose of placement or for verifying the proficiency towards the WCAS foreign language requirement in the languages offered through ALC (Exception is Hindi-Urdu with IB score). For more information, please visit WCAS placement exam and credit transfer page.
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If you are interested in majoring or minoring in Asian Languages and Cultures, please make sure to meet with the following Director of Undergraduate Studies:
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