Chinese Department


For Prospective Students

Why study Chinese at Reed?

There are many reasons to take classes in the Chinese department at Reed or to become a Chinese major. Here are a few:

Chinese is the most spoken language in the world, easier to learn than you might think, and good for your brain

  • With more than 1.3 billion speakers, Chinese is by far the most spoken language in the world. In addition the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan, Mandarin Chinese is also spoken by important and influential Chinese communities in Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, the Philippines, and Mongolia. It is the third most spoken language in the United States, after English and Spanish.
  • Chinese is a fun and interesting language, and, despite its notorious difficulty, is actually  easier in certain respects than other foreign languages. There are no tenses, no cases, and no genders in spoken Chinese, and the basic grammar of the language is similar in many ways to English.
  • Chinese as a language exercises both hemispheres of the brain. For many learners, especially those who have struggled with other alphabetic foreign languages in the past, Chinese characters can be easier to learn and remember. (“Chinese Speakers use more of their brain than English speakers,” Quartz, February 26, 2015)

China is home to one of the oldest, continuing civilizations in the world

Stretching back more than 5,000 years, Chinese culture is a rich treasure trove of cultural, literary, and philosophical ideas, artifacts, and debates.

China’s economic growth and importance on the world stage continue to grow. Being proficient in Chinese language and culture can create opportunities and provide a competitive edge

  • China’s economy is the second largest in the world. It is also one of the largest trading partners of the United States, and many US companies do business in China and have long-term investments there. Given the reality of China's large and growing market, business leaders continue to look for people who can speak Chinese and operate successfully in a Chinese cultural context.Chinese is a language whose importance on the world stage is growing (“
  • Chinese to Rise as a Global Language,” Science Daily, May 18, 2020) For the U.S., Chinese is a "critical-need language." It is crucial to maintaining the interests of peace and prosperity both here and abroad.
  • Simply being multilingual makes you more attractive to businesses (“4 Reasons Why Hiring Bilingual People Will Help Your Business Succeed,” Glassdoor, October 10, 2018). But being educated in Chinese language, literature, and culture is still comparatively rare among non-native speakers. A Chinese degree on your resume can thus help you stand out from your competition.

Small class sizes and a curriculum that provides a solid foundation for broader study of China at Reed and beyond

  • Classes in the Chinese department are typically smaller than average at Reed, making it easier to receive individual attention in class and have more opportunity to practice what you learn.
  • Reed boasts eight China-oriented faculty spread across six departments – Anthropology, Art History, Chinese language and literature, Economics, History and Religion – and so students have a choice as to which disciplinary lens they polish when studying this long-enduring multicultural society. For more information, see "Deciding on Chinese Studies at Reed".


What are the requirements for the major?

Students majoring in Chinese will take courses in Chinese language, in Chinese literature, film, and media, and in Chinese Humanities

First-year students enrolling in Chinese are strongly advised to enroll in Chinese language in their first semester. Chinese placement exams are administered during Orientation week for students with previous experience. When evaluating the exam the faculty will also consider previous coursework and AP results.

In the second year, prior to declaring a major, students should continue language study and take one or two literature, film, or media courses offered by the department.

What are the requirements for the minor?

Students who minor in Chinese will learn Mandarin to an advanced level and build a foundational understanding of Chinese modern and/or premodern culture. It requires either four or six courses depending on students' proficiency with the Chinese language.  

Can I study abroad?

Absolutely. The department maintains a list of Programs and Resources for studying Chinese language and culture abroad.

Are there summer research opportunities?

Chinese students have successfully applied for college grants such as the Ruby-Lankford and President’s Summer Fellowship. For more information on these and others, please visit the Fellowships and Awards page.

For summer study opportunities, please consult the Study Abroad Programs and Resources page.

What can I do with a degree in Chinese?

Chinese majors have continued on after graduation to advanced study and/or careers in fields such as business management, law, medicine, government, IT, education, art, literature, and more. For more information, see Life Beyond Reed for Chinese Majors and visit the Center for Life Beyond Reed.

How can I get more information?

Responses to common questions about specific departmental practices and policies can be found on the Chinese department Frequently Asked Questions page. Prospective students who would like to talk to Chinese faculty or students should get in touch with one of the faculty members. Students visiting Reed are highly encouraged to visit a class and to meet with a faculty member.