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Southeast Asian Programs

The University of Michigan’s strength in Southeast Asian studies is based on a long history of U.S. engagement with the region. The Department of Asian Languages and Cultures offers regular language courses in Filipino, Indonesian, Thai, and Vietnamese. Javanese is offered on an as-needed basis.

Southeast Asia is the future of world’s economy. The rapid development in the Southeast Asian region and its economy creates job opportunities for students who master Southeast Asian languages. Comprised of eleven countries: Brunei, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Timor-Leste, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, the region has been recognized as one of the most dynamic and strategic regions in world, in part due to the strong ties of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) with the U.S. and other parts of the world.

Students will be exposed to the unique and diverse cultures of Southeast Asia both inside and outside the classroom, and will have the opportunity to participate in many extra-curricular activities organized by their instructors and the program’s Fulbright teaching assistants. 

Why Study Filipino?

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Tagalog is an Austronesian language originally spoken in the vicinity of the capital of the Philippines, Manila. Among the approximately one hundred languages of the country, it has the oldest and most extensive literature, dating from the sixteenth century. It eventually was taken as the basis of the national language, Filipino, in 1937. Today, if one includes second language speakers and speakers outside the Philippines (including substantial populations in the U.S.), there are almost 60 million people who speak Filipino. Filipino has long been written with alphabets making use of Roman letters and, due to the U.S. involvement in the Philippines, English has had a pervasive influence on Filipino, which contains many loan words.

Filipino Language Courses

ASIANLAN 111: First Year Filipino I

ASIANLAN 112: First Year Filipino II

ASIANLAN 211: Second Year Filipino I

ASIANLAN 212: Second Year Filipino II (Completion of this course with a grade of C- or better meets the LSA Language Requirement)

ASIANLAN 411: Advanced Filipino I

ASIANLAN 412: Advanced Filipino II

Why Study Indonesian?

Indonesian, or “Bahasa Indonesia” is the sixth most widely spoken language in the world. It is spoken by over 240 million inhabitants of Indonesia and over 22 million Malaysians and southern Thais. Indonesian has incorporated many words and terms from other languages, including Sanskrit, Arabic, Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch, and English, and it is spoken by substantial populations in the Netherlands, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and the U.S.  In comparison to European languages, Indonesian grammar is fairly simple, with no conjugations, no tenses, and no declensions.  Bahasa Indonesia uses the Roman alphabet (except for some religious texts, which are written in an Arabic script). Indonesia is home both to the largest Muslim population in the world and to a vast array of vibrant literary, artistic, and cultural traditions.

Indonesian Language Courses

ASIANLAN 121: First Year Indonesian I

ASIANLAN 122: First Year Indonesian II

ASIANLAN 221: Second Year Indonesian I

ASIANLAN 222: Second Year Indonesian II (Completion of this course with a grade of C- or better meets the LSA Language Requirement)

ASIANLAN 419: Advanced Indonesian I

ASIANLAN 420: Advanced Indonesian II 

Javanese courses are taught on an as-needed basis. Please contact the department at um-alc@umich.edu if you have questions regarding courses in Javanese.

Why Study Thai?

Thai is spoken by approximately 63 million people in Thailand and another 20 million people in the countries neighboring Thailand. Thai is both the official and standard language in Thailand.  Fluent speakers and users of English number fewer than one million. Historically, Thailand is the only Southeast Asian country to escape Western colonization, but there is a long and strong history of trade as well as military and cultural contacts with the U.S. There is also a tourist industry that brings hundreds of thousands of Americans to Thailand each year. The University of Michigan was the first American university to offer regular instruction in Thai. The University has a large population of Thai students and the University library has a large collection of books either written in Thai or about Thailand. Students studying Thai at U-M are eligible to receive a $2000 scholarship through the Center for Southeast Asian Studies (CSEAS). For more information about this scholarship, please visit the CSEAS website.

Thai Language Courses

ASIANLAN 161: First Year Thai I

ASIANLAN 162: First Year Thai II

ASIANLAN 261: Second Year Thai I

ASIANLAN 262: Second Year Thai II (Completion of this course with a grade of C- or better meets the LSA Language Requirement)

ASIANLAN 461: Advanced Thai I

ASIANLAN 462: Advanced Thai II

Why Study Vietnamese?

Vietnamese has been strongly influenced by its neighbor, China. The general form of Chinese characters was adapted to transcribe native Vietnamese words until it was abandoned for a Romanized system originally developed by the French. This makes Vietnamese one of the few Asian languages whose present orthography is based on the Latin alphabet.  Even though Chinese characters are no longer central to the language, Chinese words still make up as much as 60% of Vietnamese vocabulary. Vietnamese is the official language of Vietnam, where most of the 70 million speakers of the language live. There are substantial Vietnamese speaking populations in the neighboring countries of Cambodia, Thailand, and Laos. Because of the Vietnam War, many Vietnamese now live in the U.S.

Vietnamese Language Courses

ASIANLAN 175: First Year Vietnamese I

ASIANLAN 176: First Year Vietnamese II

ASIANLAN 275: Second Year Vietnamese I

ASIANLAN 276: Second Year Vietnamese II (Completion of this course with a grade of C- or better meets the LSA Language Requirement)

ASIANLAN 475: Advanced Vietnamese I

ASIANLAN 476: Advanced Vietnamese II

Southeast Asian Language Program Activities

Language Tables

The Southeast Asian Language Program hosts language tables every month to provide opportunities for students to practice the language outside of a classroom setting, learn more about the cultures related to the language that they are studying, and connect with other students and community members who are interested in the language and region.

Cooking Class

Students will be introduced to Southeast Asian cooking through cooking classes. Please contact your instructor for more details.

Movie Screenings

Students will watch movies from Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, or the Philippines, and hold discussions afterward. Details will be shared by your instructor in class.

Center for Southeast Asian Studies (CSEAS) Friday Lectures

The CSEAS lecture series features talks and discussions on current issues in the countries of Southeast Asia. Please visit the CSEAS website for more information.

Language Program Awards

Each year we recognize the best student performances in our language program at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies End of Year Award Ceremony and at the ALC Graduation and Awards Ceremony.