The 21st century has been called the “Asian Century”: indeed, many of the world's most pressing issues cannot be understood without a grasp of the histories, cultures, and languages of Asia. Asia is home to over half of the world's population. China, Japan, and India are three of the world’s top economies. For decades, Asian countries have been leaders in global manufacturing, and Asian universities are renowned centers for literary studies and scientific innovation. Fifty percent of the declared nuclear-weapon states are also in the region. Simply put, Asia matters a great deal.

The Department of Asian Languages and Cultures (ALC) offers a wide variety of courses on East, South, and Southeast Asia taught by faculty who are specialists in their regions and disciplines. Whether you are taking your first step toward learning about Asia or you bring some background experience, an ALC major will expand your ability to think and work across cultural and linguistic boundaries. Majors may opt to study Asia in a transnational and transhistorical perspective or in a more focused course of study by choosing one of our named options in East Asia, South Asia, and Southeast Asia.

To take advantage of the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures’ many relationships with other departments and program units across campus, students may choose to double major or enhance their studies in ALC with one of the certificates offered at the university, such as the Certificate in Global Health, the Certificate in Health and the Humanities, or those offered by the area studies centers.

This major is interdisciplinary and offers a wealth of options. Careful planning and consultation with the ALC undergraduate advisor is especially important.


Students may declare the Asian Languages and Cultures major at any time. Before declaring the major, students may begin coursework to explore the language and fields of interest. Those students who have studied an Asian language prior to coming to UW–Madison will have to take a placement test for a language offered during the academic year to determine the best class to enroll in on campus. 

The courses noted below are open to freshman and have no prerequisites:
ASIAN 100 Gateway to Asia: Special Topics3-4
ASIAN/​HISTORY  103 Introduction to East Asian History: China3-4
ASIAN/​HISTORY  104 Introduction to East Asian History: Japan3-4
ASIAN/​HISTORY  108 Introduction to East Asian History - Korea3-4
ASIAN 203 Lost in Translation: Western Experience in Asia3
ASIAN/​RELIG ST  206 The Qur'an: Religious Scripture & Literature3
ASIAN/​RELIG ST  218 Health and Healing in South Asia3-4
ASIAN/​RELIG ST  236 Asia Enchanted: Ghosts, Gods, and Monsters3
ASIAN/​GEOG/​HISTORY/​POLI SCI/​SOC  244 Introduction to Southeast Asia: Vietnam to the Philippines4
ASIAN/​ASIAN AM/​HISTORY  246 Southeast Asian Refugees of the "Cold" War4
ASIAN 252 Contemporary Indian Society4
ASIAN 253 Japanese Popular Culture3
ASIAN/​HISTORY/​POLI SCI  255 Introduction to East Asian Civilizations3-4
ASIAN/​HISTORY/​RELIG ST  267 Asian Religions in Global Perspective3-4
ASIAN 268 Tibetan Cultures and Traditions3
ASIAN/​RELIG ST  274 Religion in South Asia3
ASIAN 277 Kendo: Integration of Martial Arts and Liberal Arts2
The language courses below are open to freshman and have no prerequisites:
ASIALANG 101 First Semester Chinese4
ASIALANG 103 First Semester Japanese4
ASIALANG 105 First Semester Korean4
ASIALANG 110 Elementary Chinese I2
ASIALANG 113 First Semester Elementary Japanese2
ASIALANG 123 First Semester Filipino4
ASIALANG 125 First Semester Hmong4
ASIALANG 127 First Semester Indonesian4
ASIALANG 129 First Semester Thai4
ASIALANG 131 First Semester Vietnamese4
ASIALANG 133 First Semester Hindi4
ASIALANG 135 First Semester Modern Tibetan4
ASIALANG 137 First Semester Persian4
ASIALANG 139 First Semester Urdu4
ASIALANG 141 First Semester Sanskrit3-4
ASIALANG 143 First Semester Burmese4
ASIALANG 145 First Semester Khmer4


The University of Wisconsin–Madison is ranked #2 for semester-long study abroad participation among all US institutions, and #16 among all US universities and colleges for total students studying abroad, according to the 2018 Open Doors Report.

Currently there are 60 study abroad programs across Asia. Students who participate in approved programs will receive residence credit for study abroad.  More information about study abroad, application process, and costs is available through International Academic Programs. With pre-planning, students may fulfill major requirements during study abroad. It is important to meet with the undergraduate advisor to create a study plan.

Students can also gain professional experience through various internship opportunities abroad. More information about internship opportunities is available through International Internship Programs.


Asian Languages and Cultures is home to nearly twenty faculty whose research and teaching specialities cover a wide range of subject areas, including: medical humanities in India; the Hindu roots of yoga; inflecting contemporary mindfulness practice with insights from Tibetan buddhism; human rights in Thailand; Chinese ghost stories, traditional Sinology, and mathematically inflected Chinese philology; sociolinguistics, discourse analysis, and pragmatics in Mandarin, Japanese, Korean, and Indonesian; critical reading of late-Heian tale fiction, early modern Japanese comedic narratives, and haiku; and manga, anime, and Japanese counterculture.

East Asia

Jaerin Ahn (Faculty Associate). Area: Korean Language

Charo D'Etcheverry (Professor). Area: Classical Japanese Literature

Anatoly Detwyler (Assistant Professor). Area: Modern Chinese Literature and History, Comparative New Media, Information Studies

Naomi Geyer (Associate Professor). Area: Japanese Language

Rania Huntington (Professor). Area: Ming and Qing Narrative and Drama, Chinese Literature of the weird and supernatural

Adam L. Kern (Professor). Area: Popular Literature, Culture, Poetry, Theater, and Visual Culture of early modern-modern Japan

Hieyoon Kim  (Assistant Professor). Area: dissident culture; postcolonial archive and historiography; Korean and East Asian cinema and popular culture

Byung-jin Lim (Associate Professor). Area: Korean Language and Linguistics, Second / Foreign Language Acquisition, Korean Language Textbook Development

Junko Mori  (Professor). Area: Japanese Linguistics, Applied Linguistics, Sociolinguistics

Takako Nakakubo (Faculty Associate). Area: Second Language Acquisition of Japanese, Japanese Pedagogy

Steve Ridgely (Associate Professor). Area: Modern Japanese Literature, Pop culture, TransAsian studies

Hongming Zhang (Professor). Area: Chinese Linguistics; History of Chinese Language; Teaching Chinese as a Second Language

Tianlu Zhang (Faculty Associate). Area: Chinese Language

Weihua Zhu (Associate Professor). Area: Chinese Language, Pedagogy and Second Language Acquisition

South Asia

Gudrun Bühnemann  (Professor). Area: Sanskrit Language and Literature; Buddhism in India and Nepal; Hinduism; Tantrism; Yoga Studies

Anthony Cerulli  (Associate Professor). Area: Theory and Method in the Study of Religion in South Asia; History of Medicine in India; Sanskrit Language and Literature; Kerala History and Culture; Malayalam Language

John D. Dunne  (Professor). Area: Buddhist Philosophy and Contemplative Practice; Religious Studies; Cognitive Science of Religion

Jamal Jones (Assistant Professor). Area: Sanskrit and Telugu Literature in pre Modern south India.

Southeast asia

Erlin Barnard  (Faculty Associate). Area: Indonesian Language, Language Pedagogy; Materials Development; Second Language Acquisition

Tyrell Haberkorn (Professor). Area: Violence, Human Rights, Sovereignty, Arbitrary Detention, Land Rights, Agrarian Struggle, Historiographies of Repression, Gender Studies, Socialism, Dissident Literature, Southeast Asia (Thailand) 

Language instructors

Language instructors are an integral part of our department, teaching more than 14 languages during the academic year from East (Chinese, Japanese, Korean), South (Hindi, Persian, Sanskrit, Tibetan, Urdu), and Southeast (Burmese, Filipino, Hmong, Indonesian, Thai, Vietnamese) Asian Languages.

undergraduate advisor

Undergraduate Advisor:
email Rachel Weiss
1244 Van Hise Hall


Department Administrator:
email Jenn Hekman
1240 Van Hise Hall

Financial Specialist:
email Haiyan Wei
1238 Van Hise Hall

campus resources

Foreign Language & Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowships
FLAS fellowships are funded by the US Department of Education and administered by UW–Madison's National Resource Centers to assist students in acquiring foreign language and either area or international studies competencies. FLAS awards are only available for specific languages and are contingent on federal funding. Please direct any questions to the FLAS Coordinator of your chosen language.

Applicants must be US citizens or permanent residents of the United States. Applications by students in professional fields are encouraged. Preference will be given to applicants with a high level of academic ability and with previous language training. Academic Year and Summer FLAS awards are two separate competitions requiring two separate and complete applications.

This is the primary campus-wide portal for applicants, current students, and everyone looking for scholarship opportunities on campus.

Undergraduate Academic Awards Office
We help UW–Madison undergraduates and recent graduates pursue nationally competitive scholarships and campus-wide awards for research, service, and leadership—activities at the heart of the Wisconsin Experience. We can help you:

  • Find scholarship opportunities that match your goals and interests
  • Navigate the scholarship application process
  • Review scholarship essays
  • Prepare for national scholarship interviews

Contact us to schedule an appointment​ to discuss which opportunities are right for you.

National scholarships

Boren Scholarships 
Campus Representative: Matt Geisler, Associate Director, International Academic Programs
These scholarships provide up to $20,000 to US undergraduate students to study abroad in areas of the world that are critical to US interests and underrepresented in study abroad, including Africa, Asia, Central & Eastern Europe, Eurasia, Latin America, and the Middle East. The countries of Western Europe, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand are excluded. (Full list of preferred countries) Additionally, all programs must include formal study of an appropriate foreign language. (Full list of preferred languages). 

Critical Language Scholarship Program
Campus Representative: Mark Lilleleht, Assistant Director, IRIS
The Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program is part of the US Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. It is a fully-funded overseas intensive language and cultural immersion program for American undergraduate and graduate students. With the goal of broadening the base of Americans studying and mastering critical languages and to build relationships between the people of the United States and other countries, CLS provides opportunities to a diverse range of students from across the United States at every level of language learning.

The fourteen CLS languages are: Arabic, Azerbaijani, Bangla, Chinese, Hindi, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Punjabi, Russian, Swahili, Turkish, and Urdu.

The CLS Program seeks participants with diverse interests, from a wide variety of fields of study, backgrounds, and career paths, with the purpose of representing the full diversity of the United States. Thus, students from all academic disciplines, including business, engineering, law, medicine, science, social sciences, arts and humanities, are encouraged to apply.

Gilman Scholarship Program
Campus Representative: Andy Quackenbush, Advisor, International Academic Programs

The Gilman Scholarship Program is an undergraduate grant program for US citizens of limited financial means to enable them to study abroad, thereby internationalizing their outlook and better preparing them to assume significant roles in the increasingly global economy. 

Department Scholarships

The Department of Asian Languages and Cultures has various scholarships to support meritorious students in our Chinese and Japanese programs.


This award is given annually to two undergraduate students studying Japanese. This award is announced during the fall semester, and eligible students may apply. The criteria are: Japanese major, junior or senior standing, cumulative GPA of 3.5 or above, currently taking Japanese, and plan to go into a Japanese related profession.

Cameron G. Keith was an East Asian Studies and Economics studies major at UW–Madison who studied abroad in Japan, and later in Nepal. In his memory, the Keith family established these funds in honor of his interest in the region.


Several awards will be given each year to undergraduate students who are studying and will continue to study Chinese during the following semester. This award is made possible through a donation by Professor Emerita Chou Kuo-p’ing, the founder of the Chinese program here at UW–Madison. Professor Chou, a dedicated teacher, devoted her entire career to teaching, promoting, and developing Chinese studies in Wisconsin.

Professor Chou was very active during her teaching career, and often helped financially disadvantaged students, especially those who excelled in their academic careers despite economic difficulties. Although this award is based mainly on the applicant’s academic performance, special consideration is given to those who are financially disadvantaged in order to carry on this tradition.


Ellen and William E. Fisher have provided funding for an annual scholarship to be awarded to an undergraduate student at UW-Madison who is studying the Chinese language. According to the terms of the gift agreement, the award is based on merit, therefore there is no application, but faculty will make a determination based on students progressing in the program. Mr. Fisher stipulated that the award must be made in the Fall semester, so that the recipient can use it in the Spring semester.


Professor Sabina Knight established this scholarship in honor of Gwang-Tsai (Arthur) Chen, Emeritus Professor of East Asian Languages and Literature at UW–Madison. The scholarship recognizes a rising undergraduate Chinese major. Student eligibility: must be a non-heritage language learner, freshman or sophomore standing, with a GPA above 3.5.


The Lawrence Louey Merit Scholarship is an annual competition recognizing an undergraduate Chinese major in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures. Eligibility: You must be a graduating senior with a GPA above 3.5 and have taken at least three years of Chinese. An application is required for consideration, including a brief career plan, as well as a research paper from one of your major field courses.