Asian Languages at the Center
From Wikipedia “Languages of Asia”
Asia is home to about 10 distinct language families with rich oral and written traditions. The 4.46 billion inhabitants of Asia speak over 2,000 languages! The Five College Center for World Languages offers courses in a variety of Central Asian, South Asian, Southeast Asian, and East Asian languages.
At the Center, we make a language class available once we have a curriculum and a language mentor or conversation partner available to work with students. We are always looking for ways to add new languages to our list! Below is a list of Asian languages that are generally available each semester. If you have questions about language availability, please contact the Center.
Armenian is the official language of Armenia. It has two main variants, Eastern Armenian and Western Armenian. Written Armenian uses its own writing system, the Armenian alphabet, which dates back to the 5th century AD. The Armenian language is also widely used amongst the worldwide Armenian diaspora, with large populations in Russia, the United States, and France.
Bengali/Bangla is spoken primarily in Bangladesh and the Indian States of West Bengal, Tripura, and the Barak Valley of Assam. There are also large Bengali-speaking communities in the United States, United Kingdom, Pakistan, and the Middle East. Bengali is the fifth most-spoken native language and seventh most spoken language in the world by total number of speakers.
Bengali is offered through the Center's Supervised Independent Language Program.
Burmese is the official language of Myanmar and is spoken by two thirds of the population, about 33 million people. The Burmese alphabet, a Brahmic script characterized by its circular letters, is used for standard Burmese as well as Pali, the liturgical language of Theravada Buddhism.
Burmese is offered through the Center's Supervised Independent Language Program.
Cantonese for Mandarin Speakers
Cantonese is the dominant language of Hong Kong and Macau, and the lingua franca of China’s Guangdong province. It is used in many popular TV shows, movies, and songs. It is widely spoken amongst members of the global Chinese diaspora.
The Center's Cantonese curriculum is designed for Mandarin speakers and is offered through our Supervised Independent Language Program.
Dari (Afghan Persian)
Dari, also known as Afghan Persian, is one of the two official languages of Afghanistan. Dari has a rich tradition of proverbs that are often used in daily conversation.
Dari is offered through the Center's Supervised Independent Language Program.
Filipino is a standardized variety of the Tagalog language, and the national language of the Philippines. It is the first language of about one third of the population, while many more people speak it as a second language.
Filipino is offered through the Center's Supervised Independent Language Program.
Taken together, Hindi and Urdu are some of the most widely spoken languages in the world, with about 544 million total speakers. Hindi has been influenced by Sanskrit as well as by the hundreds of regional languages of the Indian subcontinent, while Urdu is the national language of Pakistan and has been influenced by Persian and Arabic. Hindi and Urdu use different scripts and different literary or specialized vocabulary, but are closely related and mutually intelligible, especially in everyday use.
The Five College Hindi and Urdu program is led by our language mentor, Karla Carruth, and supported by native/fluent conversation partners. Learn more about the Center's Hindi-Urdu program.
Lao is primarily spoken in Laos, where it serves as an important Lingua Franca among a population that speaks about 90 other languages. Spoken Lao is mutually intelligible with Thai even though it is written with a different script.
Lao is offered through the Center's Supervised Independent Language Program.
For over half a millennium, Malay has been a major lingua franca of the Indonesian archipelago. It is widely spoken by almost 300 million people in Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and parts of Thailand. Over time the vocabulary of Malay has expanded to include loanwords from Arabic, Sanskrit, Dutch, Chinese dialects, and English.
Malay is offered through the Center's Supervised Independent Language Program.
Mongolian has about 5 million speakers across Mongolia and the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region of China. It is commonly written in two scripts, Cyrillic and the traditional Mongolian script.
Mongolian is offered through the Center's Supervised Independent Language Program.
Nepali is the official language of Nepal and has a significant number of speakers in India and Bhutan. It is the most widely spoken of the Pahari languages of the Himalayas and Northern India.
Nepali is offered through the Center's Supervised Independent Language Program.
Persian is spoken by over 100 million people in Iran, Tajikistan, and Afghanistan. There is also a large population of Persian speakers in "Tehrangeles" in California. Persian for centuries was the lingua franca from Central Asia to India and Iran. It has strongly influenced Urdu and Turkic languages. Though they belong to different language families, Persian has borrowed thousands of words from Arabic.
Perisan is offered through the Mentored Language Program and is led by a graduate student teaching assistant, Mohsen Jalali, and supported by native/fluent speaker conversation partners.
Sinhala is spoken by about 20 million people in Sri Lanka, where it is one of the two official languages. Historians believe Sinhala has been in use since as far back as 200 BC.
Sinhala is offered through the Center's Supervised Independent Language Program.
Thai is the most spoken of the Tai languages of Southeast Asia. Over 40 million people speak Thai as a first or second language. Spoken Thai is similar to and mutually intelligible with Lao.
Thai is offered through the Center's Supervised Independent Language Program.
Over 6 million people across Tibet, India, and Nepal speak a dialect of Modern Tibetan. The Tibetan language is of particular interest to anyone studying Buddhism.
Tibetan is offered through the Center's Supervised Independent Language Program.
Turkish is the official language of Turkey and is also widely spoken in Bulgaria, Greece, North Macedonia, Albania, Northern Cyprus, and in the European Turkish diaspora. Turkish belongs to the Altay branch of the Ural-Altaic linguistic family. It is considered a critical language by the U.S. government.
Turkish is offered through the Center's Mentored Language Program and led by a Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant from Turkey.
Vietnamese, the official language of Vietnam, is spoken natively by about 76 million people. Significant Vietnamese-speaking communities also exist in North America, Australia, and Europe, particularly in the Czech Republic, where Vietnamese has been officially recognized as a minority language.
Vietnamese is offered through the Center's Supervised Independent Language Program.
Other Asian languages
The Center is sometimes able to offer instruction in other Asian languages. If you are interested in a language not listed here, please contact the Center.