As one of the only two foreign language majors in the Languages and Cultures Department, the Chinese major allows midshipmen to develop proficiency in spoken and written Chinese (Mandarin) and in Chinese culture, past and present. The major entails 10 mandatory language courses (30 credit hours), and 4 collateral courses (12 credit hours) selected from a series of electives on Chinese history, politics, society and culture. Midshipmen majoring in Chinese learn how to communicate and interact in culturally appropriate ways with Chinese native speakers. Midshipmen graduating with a Chinese major usually reach a near-intermediate level of language proficiency in the three modalities: speaking, listening, and reading. Midshipmen develop the ability to understand short adapted speeches and conversations on familiar topics and to express ideas with limited vocabulary and acceptable fluency and accuracy. Proficiency in Chinese language and culture serves as a solid foundation for continued language training and development.
The Chinese major opens doors to some very exciting opportunities while here at the Academy. These include the Language Study Abroad Programs (LSAP), for which midshipmen become eligible to apply in their second year of studying the language. Upon entering the Naval Academy, a midshipman with prior background in the language may validate a maximum of 4 language courses and be placed in a higher level language course. Such a high-beginning midshipman is usually advised to fulfill the major requirements by taking more than just another 6 language courses, in order to reach a higher level of language proficiency than the true beginners. During the 8-semester study of Chinese language and culture, a midshipman may apply for a short overseas language and culture immersion program and/or a one-semester language abroad program, subsidized by the International Programs Office (IPO). These enrichment programs greatly improve the participants’ language levels and their cultural understanding and awareness, leading to high-placement in language courses and validation of certain required courses for the major (from the semester). Both programs are selective and competitive. They provide equal opportunities to Chinese majors and other majors taking Chinese courses.
Plebes interested in the Chinese major must take Chinese during their first semester at the Academy. An analytical mind plus an initiative to practice is essential, since adult foreign language learning in the classroom is both a science and an art. Midshipmen learn the language system through its grammar structures, and they make the language their own through acting out excerpts of communication in the form of a performing art. Continued motivation, hard work and time commitment are crucial for the study of Chinese. Mastery of oral and written forms through imitation, repetition and memory must be a part of the student’s daily experience. Practice makes perfect. The faculty looks forward to developing more Chinese majors to meet the needs of the Navy and the nation in their interactions with China and its people.