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Undergraduate Catalog

2008 - 2009

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Asian and Near Eastern Languages

Robert A. Russell, Chair
3064C JFSB, (801) 422-6405

College of Humanities Advisement Center
1175 JFSB, (801) 422-4789

Admission to Degree Program

All degree programs in the Department of Asian and Near Eastern Languages are open enrollment. Some special limitations apply for teaching minors.

The Discipline

The many countries of Asia and the Near East are among the oldest civilizations in the world. The study of the languages and cultures of these nations gives students access to some of the richest and most varied traditions of thought, belief, and behavior to be found in the world. A large percentage of the vast, essentially non-Christian segment of the world’s population resides in these two zones: Asia—with its diverse heritage of belief in Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, and other systems of thought—continues to retain its “exotic” image for most Westerners, even though many nations in the region are at the forefront of contemporary politics and economics. The Near East, birthplace of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, remains a little-understood, often stereotyped area of considerable economic, strategic, and religious importance today.

The languages of these regions are themselves generally difficult, with complex writing systems that require diligent study. But exposure to these languages and the cultures they express will enable students to look at the world from new perspectives and deepen their understanding of peoples whose history and practices are widely divergent from their own.

Courses in the department equip students with verbal and written facility in the languages of their chosen area, whereas linguistics courses offer an understanding of how the languages are structured and acquired. A study of the literature reveals old and sophisticated traditions no less important than that of English or any other major language.

Majors are available in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. Students can obtain a minor in Arabic and Hebrew. Each major discipline is briefly described below.

Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin)

The study of Chinese accesses the literature, thought, culture, and society of the world's largest population with the longest cultural continuum; moreover, since the civilizations of Japan, Korea, and Vietnam are founded on traditional Chinese Confucianism, a major in Chinese opens up much of the wider world of modern Asia. You will communicate in spoken and written Mandarin, gain skills in analyzing and appreciating both traditional and modern literature, acquire effective research strategies, and learn to write clearly and persuasively. All the personal enrichment and interpersonal understanding that results from a liberal arts education in the humanities is offered through the study of Chinese.


The study of Japanese at the university level will provide students with advanced language skills and a greater understanding of Japan and its people. Although Japan's growing influence is widely recognized, the rich cultural heritage of Japan in literature, thought, painting, music, and the other arts is not as well known. The study of Japanese language and literature will introduce students to many of the major aspects of that heritage while providing the kind of training in language and cultural skills that will prepare students to undertake careers in a wide variety of fields.


Korean is a difficult language, and at BYU we emphasize reading and writing the language as well as speaking and listening. Basic course work emphasizes linguistic skill and the language’s literary value and tradition.

Note: Instruction is also regularly available in Hebrew and Arabic.

Career Opportunities

Students who major or minor in the languages and cultures of Asia and the Near East will find that, as will any other humanities-centered course of study, they have been well provided with tools to communicate both in the target language and in English and have broadened and deepened their knowledge of the region of their choice. Career options are many and varied for such students, but those who do not plan to continue on in the academic study of the language are strongly urged to consider a second major or a strong minor in a practical field that can be combined with their language skills. In the competitive world of today, language ability alone no longer provides the competitive advantage it once offered on the job market. Students are urged to consult the College of Humanities Advisement Center, Career Placement Services, and their academic advisors for the best ways to make use of their language as they begin to seek employment.


Chinese majors have all of the advantages of the liberal arts graduate (who claims effective communication and interpersonal skills) with the added edge of knowing the language and culture behind a leading world economy. Therefore, graduates enter the work force in a wide variety of occupations, such as journalism, insurance, business, travel, investment, and government service. They not only are marketable as trained linguists, translators, and cultural advisors, but are vigorously recruited as personnel managers and business representatives by companies with overseas interests. Graduates are also highly competitive in applying to professional schools for medicine, dentistry, law, and business.


In recent years, graduates from the Japanese major at BYU have gone on to law, engineering, computer, or MBA programs, while others have continued on to medical school. A few have pursued graduate work in a variety of academic fields at some of the most prestigious universities in the country. Others have gone directly to work in government service, in the military, and in American or Japanese business firms where their language ability and cultural background are in high demand.


Most of the jobs available for students with a Korean major are in government (NSA, CIA, FBI), etc., but Korean majors also have all the advantages of a liberal arts degree. Many of our graduates go on to professional schools, law, business, or medicine. Korean is an excellent complement, either as a major or minor, to studies in prelaw, political science, accounting, English, international relations, and many other majors available on campus. Korean is an important language in the world of diplomacy and defense, as well as the world of international business. (Korea is the eighth largest trading partner of the U.S.) Our graduates have been hired by the U.S. government and by U.S., international, and Korean businesses. They work in technical areas as well, involving everything from computers to broadcasting to medicine.

General Information

The Department of Asian and Near Eastern Languages strongly recommends that StDev 317, a 1-credit-hour course, be taken at the end of the sophomore year or the beginning of the junior year. Because liberal arts degrees provide preparation in a variety of useful fields rather than a single career track, this course is recommended to help liberal arts students focus on specific educational and occupational goals and to identify the career options or educational opportunities available to them. The course will introduce them to the resources needed for accessing information about graduate schools, internships, careers, and career development. Students will learn basic employment strategies, including the steps necessary for obtaining employment related to their own specialty.

Graduation Requirements

To receive a BYU bachelor's degree a student must complete, in addition to all requirements for a specific major, the following university requirements:

  • The university core, consisting of requirements in general and religious education. (See University Core for details. For a complete listing of courses that meet university core requirements, see the current class schedule.)
  • A minimum of 30 credit hours in residence
  • A minimum of 120 credit hours
  • A cumulative GPA of at least 2.0
  • Be in good standing with the Honor Code Office

Undergraduate Programs and Degrees

Students should see their college advisement center for help or information concerning the undergraduate programs.

Graduate Programs and Degrees

    MA in Language Acquisition and Teaching (Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, or Korean)

For more information see the BYU 2007–2008 Graduate Catalog.

General Information

Language Credit by Examination

Credit by examination is available for many lower-division courses of the above-listed languages. Enrollment in an advanced class is prerequisite to taking the examination.

The following languages are not taught on a regular basis but may be offered if sufficient demand exists. Credit by examination is available for some of the Near Eastern languages listed below.

    Persian (Farsi)

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