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University of Pittsburgh

Chinese: Overview

The Challenge of China for Adventurous Students

Grassland, Maqu, Gansu Province.

Virtual reality is no substitute for the real thing when you want to become part of the global village in a cross-cultural experience. With your present command of English plus a knowledge of Chinese (25 percent of the world’s population speak this language), you can communicate with almost everyone in the world. Communication is the name of the game in virtually every field of the humanities and social sciences as well as that of business and the vast cyberspace.

It is generally acknowledged that China and Japan are among the dominant powers in the world, to say nothing of the influence they have had on the Western hemisphere. As the longest, continuous culture in the world, China has much to offer. But communication doesn’t count for much if you have nothing to say or, even if you have something to say, don't know how to say it. Acquiring a knowledge of Chinese can be the most enriching experience of your life. Give it a try!

The Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures offers a Chinese major that combines the best of Chinese studies, ancient and modern, with expert training in speaking, reading, and writing the language. Upon this solid language foundation is built a diverse and balanced curriculum of courses in cultural studies, thought systems, literary masterpieces, and modern cinema. Students are also invited to take an interdisciplinary approach by selecting courses from fields related to China offered in other departments. There is also a minor in Chinese.

Language Program

The Chinese language program is offered regularly in four proficiency levels, designed for students who have no or little background in the language, to advanced level learners.

We use an integrated approach in our language program. That is, we emphasize the importance of achieving proficiency in all the four skills, including listening, speaking, reading, and writing. For beginner level learners, we start out from focusing more on spoken skills and ease students into recognizing and using characters, and then help them to progress gradually in reading and writing passages. Conversations and themes in textbooks for beginning to intermediate learners focus more on everyday topics such as food, lodging, travel, etc., while themes for advanced level students encompass topics pertaining to social problems, news reports, and popular Chinese culture that are more suitable for expressing opinions. (See course description for details.)

Class is divided into two components—lecture (fact class) and recitation (act class). In lecture class, students learn about grammar and key patterns for usage. They are then asked to apply their knowledge to practice speaking in recitation classes. The recitation class size is kept small (about a dozen or fewer students) so that students can practice using language in interactive instructional activities and simulated real-life situations. The recitation class is taught by native speakers of Chinese and use of English is not allowed.

In the first two years, class meets seven times a week, two for lecture and five for recitation. In Third Year Chinese, class meets five times a week, 2 for lecture and 3 for recitation. If you have inquires about our language program, please contact Professor Yi Xu.

Literature and Culture courses

We have a diverse and balanced curriculum of courses in cultural studies, thought systems, literary masterpieces, and cinema. Those courses will equip students with knowledge of both ancient and modern China, which they will find very useful whether they wish to communicate with people on the other side of the globe or pursue a career path that is related to this country that boasts one of the longest cultural histories in the world.

Study abroad and internships

We encourage our students to study in both the People's Republic of China and Taiwan. A number of Pitt students enroll in many college-level programs in PRC and Taiwan to improve language proficiency and to gain firsthand experience there.

Internships, either as a part of your undergraduate study or undertaken after graduation, will give you a chance to apply your language skills and obtain job experience at the same time in the target culture. We will give you as much assistance as possible in finding an appropriate intern situation.

Major requirements

To obtain a major in Chinese, you must complete 32 credits of speaking, reading, and writing courses (that is three years of speaking, reading, and writing courses). Further, 13 credits of courses in literature, film, culture, and classical Chinese are required, as well as six credits of China-related courses in other departments. In addition, a 3-credit "Senior Project" course is required in the senior year.Students interested in a Chinese major minor should consult with Stephen Luft.

Certificate in Asian Studies

To obtain a certificate in Asian Studies, you need two years of an East Asian language. This means if you're a Chinese major or minor, you will not need additional coursework. For more information, contact Katherine Carlitz at the Asian Studies Center or visit the Asian Studies Center Web site.


Advanced Placement

If you earn an AP score 4 or 5, you should request an interview before enrolling in a language program. If you are placed at the second year level or higher, you will be given 10 credits for CHIN 0001 and CHIN 0002. For further details contact Proessor Yi Xu.

Where do students go after graduation?

An advanced skill in Chinese has long created a very favorable edge when looking for work. We have placed many students in various federal agencies and departments and private corporations. Some students also go on to pursue graduate degrees at Pitt and other institutions in such areas as computer science, medicine, law, government, social sciences, and humanities.

Visit us

We welcome prospective students/parents to meet our faculty and learn more about our program. Contact Professor Yi Xu to schedule an appointment.

During summer months, not every faculty member is available for meeting new students. We will tr to make arrangements so that you can meet our faculty face to face, though, so give us a call.