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Achievement in the Chinese Language Program

Chinese Instruction in the Department of Asian & Middle Eastern Studies

Communicative Approach

For more than 60 years, the University of Minnesota has offered Chinese language instruction. In 2000, the Department of Asian & Middle Eastern Studies (formerly ALL) adopted a more communicative approach to Chinese language study. Our students build their language proficiency using natural strategies of learning, while speaking and listening in realistic communicative interactions. Natural language acquisition through the communicative approach is later supplemented with reading and writing exercises during higher levels of Chinese language instruction.

Academic Achievement

Our approach to language instruction has guided undergraduates to superior levels of proficiency in a relatively short time. We offer courses that allow you to develop the full set of skills that are expected of you by the Chinese Flagship program.

Building excellence into your language instruction, we offer:

  • exposure to both simplified and full-form characters, which are taught for recognition purposes.
  • five years of Mandarin Chinese and one year of literary Chinese.
  • an optional sixth level of Mandarin Chinese for advanced proficiency levels related to your major of study.
  • courses in literature, film, and popular culture that focus on a sophisticated understanding and analysis of Chinese cultural phenomena.

Superior Chinese Language Proficiency at UMN

Our undergraduates reach award-winning levels of proficiency in a relatively short time. We are proud of our students and encourage them to compete with the most advanced Chinese language scholars in the world. Our students are often victorious at the "Chinese Bridge" proficiency competition for foreign college students.

Chinese Bridge: Chinese Proficiency Competition for Foreign College Students

First, at the regional pre-contest, our students compete in a tense competition with US students at the same proficiency level (from first-year to heritage-level). Second, the large-scale international Chinese Bridge contest is held in China. Both events showcase University of Minnesota students' advanced levels of:

  • language proficiency
  • performing talents
  • knowledge of topics about Chinese society, culture, and economy

The "Chinese Bridge" competition encourages international college students to learn and teach Chinese, strengthening the world's understanding of Chinese language and culture. This nationally-televised competition builds a communication bridge between young people of China and other countries across the globe.

University of Minnesota Takes First Place

At the 2013 “Chinese Bridge" competition held in China, Anthony Dodge, a recent graduate from Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota, won one of the first prizes after competing against 123 students from 78 countries. Anthony began learning Chinese in the Department of Asian Languages and Literatures as a college freshman—without any foundation in Chinese.

Anthony's Rewarding Experience

Anthony Dodge with cello
Anthony playing the cello, Chinese Bridge: Chinese Proficiency Competition for Foreign College Students, 2013

"In the fall of 2009, I started my first Chinese class at the University of Minnesota. With help of Dr. Ling Wang and the other wonderful Chinese teachers in the Department of Asian & Middle Eastern Studies, I was able to win two first prizes at the Midwest Regional Chinese Speaking Competition and won the chance to compete in the 2013 Chinese Global Chinese Proficiency Competition for College Students.

"I competed against more than 120 different competitors from 78 different countries around the world. The competition was aired as a national TV show in China, and I gave speeches, acted, danced, sung, played the cello, and played the erhu in 8 episodes. In the end, I won first place in the United States and placed in the top 10 in the world.

"After the Chinese Bridge competition, I studied abroad at Nanjing University on a generous scholarship from the University of Minnesota Confucius Institute. Through connections made during the competition, I was invited to participate in various TV shows and competitions, including:《直通春晚》,《HELLO中国》, and《走读江南》.

"My most rewarding experience in China was teaching English at elementary schools in the countryside of Henan and Anhui. I will never forget the smiles on their faces and excitement that would fill their eyes every time I walked into a room.

"I currently live in New York City and work at PricewaterhouseCoopers. I plan to return to China where I would like to earn a MBA at Peking University and start a business career in China. Without the teaching and support from the Department of Asian Languages & Literature's Chinese program, the Confucius Institute, and the U of M, I would never have had these amazing opportunities. I am so grateful for all of the help that they have given me!"

History of Chinese Instruction in the Department of Asian & Middle Eastern Studies (formerly ALL)

Our history reflects our department's journey and how we've been working to promote outreach in Chinese language, literature, culture, and partnership:

  • 1949: Richard Mather, the renowned Sinologist, initiated the Chinese language program at the University and established the program’s national prestige.
  • 1979: University of Minnesota set up the first American-based study abroad program with Nankai University in the People’s Republic of China. Meanwhile, the China Center at the University of Minnesota was founded.
  • 2000: University of Minnesota set up the new Department of Asian Languages and Literatures. Dr. Joseph R. Allen, also the director of Chinese Flagship, was hired to chair this department. 
  • 2008: Confucius Institute was founded at the University of Minnesota.
  • 2009: University of Minnesota opened its Beijing office.
  • 2013: University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler took his first trip to China.
  • 2014: Department of Asian Languages and Literatures received a grant from the National Security Education Program to establish the Chinese Flagship program at the University of Minnesota.
  • 2016: Chinese Flagship Program is renewed for four more years at the University of Minnesota.