About Us

History of the Chinese Language Program

Penn’s Chinese Language Program (CLP) began under Derk Bodde in 1938, beginning of WW II. In 1959, Bodde’s student Allyn Rickett joined the Department to teach the Chinese language and history till his retirement in 1985. In 1975, A. Ronald Walton, an authority on less commonly taught languages, joined the department to lead the Chinese program. Walton left for the University of Maryland in 1983. In 1984, Jerome Packard came to Penn to teach Chinese language and linguistics; he left in 1987. Then Perry Link introduced Eugene (Hongjun) Liu to Allyn Rickett. Liu led Penn Chinese Language Program from 1987 to 2000. The Chinese Language Program was directed by Mien-hwa Chiang from 2000 to 2021. The current director is Ye Tian.

In the Chinese Language Program, each instructional level has a coordinator. Language Liaison for EALC Prof. Linda Chance and Prof. Hsiao-wen Cheng, offer additional support. Since 2000, the CLP has expanded from 5 instructors and approximately 200 students to 10 full-time lecturers and 300-350 students each semester. It now includes such innovative courses as Medical Chinese, Beginning Business Chinese, and Advanced Conversational Chinese.   

The mission of the Chinese Language Program

The mission of the Chinese Language Program is to provide Chinese learning opportunities for members of the Penn community so that each learner becomes proficient in the Chinese language,  more knowledgeable on Chinese culture, and personally more accepting in the current multilingual and globalized environment.    

The chief goal of the beginning- and intermediate-level courses is to develop learners’ functional skills so that learners are able to communicate with native speakers and comprehend written texts with the help of dictionaries. The chief goal of the advanced language courses is to educate cross-language, cross-cultural, and cross-disciplinary leaders for the business and government sectors, as well as to build modern Chinese and classic Chinese foundations for graduate and professional schools.

Information for Chinese Requirement, SAT, AP Chinese & HSK

Learning a foreign language and culture is considered an important aspect of Penn’s education. The College of Arts and Sciences and The School of Nursing require students to take four semesters of beginning-level foreign language courses in order to fulfill the foreign language requirement. Because of students’ varying backgrounds and experiences, there are five ways to fulfill the Chinese requirement.

(1) Passing the proficiency exam offered in the beginning of the fall semester
(2) Completion of Beginning Chinese (011, 012, 111, 112) 
(3) Completion of Intensive Beginning Chinese (021, 022)
(4) Completion of Beginning Reading and Writing Chinese (031, 032) 
(5) Completion of any Chinese course that is above the 200-level 

Freshmen who have taken SAT II Chinese, AP Chinese and/or HSK are required to take the Penn internal placement/proficiency exam during the new-student orientation week. SAT II Chinese, AP Chinese or HSK scores cannot be automatically converted to Penn credit or standing. The Penn placement exam includes grammar, reading, writing, translation and an oral interview. This exam allows the faculty to assess a student’s four language skills and provide accurate placement advice, helping students to excel in the Chinese language. If the exam results indicate proficiency equivalent to Penn Chinese 112, 032 or 022, the foreign language requirement is fulfilled. Usually, students who learned Chinese well in high school are placed at Chinese 111 and 021. Heritage speakers who learned Chinese at Sunday Chinese schools and use Mandarin at home are usually placed at Chin 031 or 032. But some students who learned Chinese at high schools may be required to take Beginning Chinese I (Chin 011) due to the lack of a solid Chinese foundation.

Department Office:

847 Williams Hall, 255 S.36th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104

Phone: 215-898-7466; Fax: 215-573-9617
Last updated on 7/8/2021 by Chih-jen Lee