The classes are there

Re: “For better language classes” (Sept. 24): Many readers will sympathize with Angela Ramirez ’12’s advocacy of “study of a language … not simply for its practical applications,” but she is too hasty in concluding that Yale offers no such options for advanced language study — at least in the case of Chinese, one of the languages she decided not to pursue because she got the impression from the Blue Book that Yale offers no courses “past basic language learning.” In fact, the 2010-’11 edition of “Yale College Programs of Study” lists several such courses: CHNS 156a, “Chinese through Film,” CHNS 158a, “Readings in Contemporary Chinese Texts I,” CHNS 160a, “Readings in Modern Chinese Texts” and CHNS 170a, “Introduction to Literary Chinese I,” just to name those offered this term. Plenty of Yale students are taking them. All are L5 courses, and all entail study of authentic literary texts in various genres in their cultural context.

Advanced students can also enroll in graduate courses in Chinese literature and culture, just as they can in any field of study for which their prior coursework qualifies them. Also, as the Blue Book notes, any student who has completed one year of the study of Chinese at Yale, or the equivalent, can apply for a Richard U. Light Fellowship to study the language further in an approved program in China or Taiwan — “in-country,” as Ramirez puts it — for a summer, a term, or an entire academic year (at no cost to the student), and by doing so can accelerate his or her progress toward advanced courses such as those named above. Dozens of Yale students do so every year (in Japanese and Korean, too).

I can only assume that Ramirez didn’t read the brief course descriptions of this department’s offerings very carefully or with much understanding of what they say, which may also be part of the reason that she drew similarly negative and, I believe, inaccurate conclusions about the advanced course offerings in some of the language programs that she dismisses so hastily.

Edward Kamens

Sept. 24

The writer is the Sumitomo Professor of Japanese Studies and the chair of the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures.