Intercultural communication, irrespective of the languages involved, has become an essential part of daily life. Language skills, cross-cultural understanding, and an ability to engage with people from other countries and cultures will give you an enriching global perspective and prepare you for an international career. The School of Humanities & Languages offers a range of language studies including Chinese, Spanish, German, French, Japanese and Korean.

  • Research in Chinese studies at UNSW is interdisciplinary, multifaceted and an integral part of the university’s core research excellence. We have scholars of literary and cultural studies, intellectual history, Chinese and comparative literature, Chinese media, Chinese film experts, anthropologists studying ethnic minorities from gender, class and religious perspectives; textual scholars, translators, educationalists and prominent sinologists.

    We combine expertise on China’s past and present with contemporary media and internet scholarship looking toward the future. We engage in innovative research ranging from ancient Chinese philosophy to China’s most prominent modern writer Lu Xun, and Chinese poetry, both traditional and modern; from Chinese print media, class and taste in contemporary China; as well as cultural and economic interactions between the centre and periphery.

    Research focus

    At UNSW Sydney, we research Chinese literature, ancient and modern: poetry, prose, fiction and philosophy; Chinese cinema, media and communication; China and the internet; Chinese popular culture; ethnonationalism; post-socialist economic behaviour and market; gender and sexuality; China’s ethnic minorities; Islam in China; translation and interpreting; intellectual history; Chinese language pedagogy, rural education and the social impact of ecommerce in rural China; cross-pollination and intellectual exchange between China and Japan; social welfare and micro-philanthropy, social media, and citizenship in China.

    Questions central to our literary studies have been the relationship between tradition and modernity and the entry of modernity into Chinese letters through the vehicle of classical-style poetry, and the relationship between literary texts and historical change. We do scholarship on commentaries and texts, Chinese and comparative literature, comparative aesthetics, orientalism and post-colonial theory. Our research aims to advance scholarship internationally, to further cross-cultural understanding between East and West, between China and its neighbours, and between Australia and China.

    Staff strengths & accomplishments

    In terms of research output, our academic staff members have led the entire School of Humanities & Languages. We have been the centre of an ARC Discovery Project on Lu Xun and his early work written in Japan, co-chief investigator of an ARC Discovery Project on class and aesthetics in contemporary China and partner Chief Investigators in another ARC Discovery Project on the history and social imaginaries of the Internet and mobile communication. We organized and hosted, together with the Confucius Institute (UNSW), an international conference on Chinese literature and intellectual history in the late-Qing and early Republican Periods funded by the Hanban and published a refereed volume as a result.

    Our input has established an Australian voice in Chinese literary studies and intellectual history throughout East Asia and the Chinese-speaking world. A member of staff has been the first Westerner elected to the advisory board of the Chinese-language journal Lu Xun Yanjiu Yuekan, rated one of the top ten scholarly journals in literary studies in China. Another member has been invited as a collaborator of a European Research Council-funded project on ancient text and resources. We represent UNSW in scholarly conferences in the United States and Europe, as well as throughout Asia. Our staff members are invited to give keynotes and masterclasses in world-leading institutions such as Oxford University, University of Gottingen, Peking University, Fudan University, Renmin University, Beijing Normal University and Nanjing University.

    Chinese language journals

    UNSW students and staff have access to the Chinese Periodicals Full-text Database, which provides comprehensive coverage of almost all the periodicals published in China between 1911 and 1949. The database provides the most comprehensive coverage of periodicals from this era and was developed by the Shanghai Library.

    View Chinese Language Journals

  • Research in French language and French-related area studies at UNSW Sydney is unique by our strong involvement in interdisciplinary research clusters involving higher degree students, with an active programme of seminars, workshops, and national and international conferences in the field.

    Research focus

    Our research is conducted in a variety of interdisciplinary fields such as French linguistics, 20th and 21st century French literature and philosophy, critical theory, deconstruction, postmodernism, women's writing, non-metropolitan francophone cultures and societies, cultural studies, music, film and visual cultures. Our research in French linguistics and applied linguistics focuses on the teaching of French to native and foreign speakers of French and on the acquisition of French as a foreign language exploring the influence that the native language of the learner might have on their acquisition of French.

    Staff strengths & accomplishments

    French staff members participate in prestigious national and international conferences, publish articles in specialised journals and publish or edit monographs.

  • Research in German Studies at UNSW Sydney engages with the rich history of German-speaking countries, with the literary and intellectual legacies of German culture, and with contemporary Germany. It situates German history, culture and politics both within Europe and the broader world. The major research focus is on the 20th century, but the questions and problems of modern Germany are situated in a long-term perspective. Research in German studies in the School of Humanities & Languages is historically informed and closely engages with developments in the discipline.

    Research focus

    Broadly speaking, the two major research areas in German studies in the School of Humanities & Languages at the University of New South Wales Sydney are the politics of memory culture and transitional justice and modern German literature and intellectual history.

    The first focuses on the public debates and institutions dealing with the legacy of two dictatorships and how Germany’s preoccupation with her past inflects the country’s outlook on the present. It also asks to what extent the German case can be considered paradigmatic for other attempts to come to terms with the past.

    The second is concerned with the intersection of literary modernism, philosophy and religious thought in 20th century Germany. The research in this area explores the role of religion in the formation of the modern age, more specifically its function as both matrix and a blind spot in the humanities, in modern art and modern literature. While the so-called religious turn in the humanities has been largely preoccupied with the entanglement of theology and politics (Political Theology), religion and secularism, the focus here is on the extent to which modernist aesthetics is indebted to theological traditions, in other words, to what extent the religious imaginary must be regarded as an important if often disavowed resource of modern art and literature.

    Staff strengths & accomplishments

    An ARC Discovery project on Allied Internment Camps in postwar Germany will be the first monographic study on the subject. A book on the key concepts in the work of Hans Blumenberg, one of the most important German philosophers of the second half of the twentieth century, came out with Suhrkamp Berlin in 2014.

  • Research in Japanese language, linguistics, pedagogy and Japan-related area studies at UNSW Sydney is firmly grounded in local practices in which the research takes place and is driven by data collected in situ. Our language classrooms are, for example, our research field where we find our research questions and our data on second language acquisition and language pedagogy. A Sydney-based Japanese company is another example of our research field where we examine Japanese intercultural communication practices among multinationals. Australian youngsters, including our students, also offer us a fertile research field where we study their interests in Japanese popular culture such as manga and anime.

    Our research is built upon a collection of data through a variety of methods including interviews, questionnaires, observations, text analysis and experimental tests. We use data to contribute to the advancement of relevant research fields by validating and challenging established and new theories and to move these theories further ahead.

    Research focus

    We engage in research on educational and linguistics practices in Japanese language education. Some are based on a socio-cultural approach, others on cognitive psychology. We ask such questions as what motivates Australian students to take up Japanese and continue learning to reach professional proficiency; how Australian learners of Japanese develop identities as second-language speakers of Japanese; how Communities of Practice work to support learning in classrooms; and why Chinese language background learners of Japanese overuse the noun-modifier particle.

    We research contemporary Japanese popular culture in relation to its Australian consumers/fans’ association with the Japanese language; gender and growing female video gaming culture in Japan.

    Another area of research is on the intercultural workplace of Japanese organisation. It is examined in the field of international management which includes role stress and conflict occurred between non-Japanese host country national and Japanese in Japanese organisation overseas. It also investigates business about language where how Japanese language competence impacts successful people management of Japanese multinational corporation.

    Staff strengths & accomplishments

    Chihiro Thomson is an Australian leader in research in Japanese educational and linguistics practices. One of her edited monographs, New pedagogies for learner agency: Japanese language education research and practice in Australia, was awarded Sir Neil Currie Award from the Australia-Japan Foundation (2009), and the Best Scholarship in Learning and Teaching Award from the Dean of Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, UNSW (2010). She leads a very active group of postgraduate research students and is a winner of the Award for Outstanding Leadership in Higher Degree Supervision by the Dean of UNSW Arts, Design & Architecture (2014), an Outstanding Excellence (2013) and two Excellence in Postgraduate Research Supervision Awards (2012, 2014) from Arc, UNSW Student Life and Graduate Research School.

    UNSW’s Japanese studies team has hosted International Conference on Japanese Language Education in 2009 and 2014, which attracted a large number of participants worldwide, to make UNSW stand out in the world map of Japanese language education and research.

  • Research in Korean language and Korea-related area studies at UNSW Sydney investigates issues with specific reference to Korea under three broad areas: applied and educational linguistics, descriptive linguistics, and literary and intellectual history. Compared to what is undertaken at other Korean studies programs in Australia, it has broader and deeper coverage, including policy and curriculum issues relating to the development of pathways for Korean language education at the national level and topics on pre-modern Korean literary and intellectual history.

    Research focus

    Our research in applied and educational linguistics is focused on error analysis and teaching methodology in L2 and Heritage Korean language, curriculum and educational policy issues in Korean at both secondary and tertiary levels. Within descriptive linguistics, the focus is upon lexico-grammar and sociolinguistic/cultural issues about Korean L2 situations, and politeness and strategic language use in contemporary Korean. Our research in literary and intellectual history has focused on the Buddhist literature of Han Yongun (1879-1944), the classical poetry of Kim Sisup (1435-1493) and Yi Kyubo (1168-1241), and the role of Buddhism in the shift from classical to modern literature in Korea.

    Staff strengths & accomplishments

    Currently, staff members are undertaking various research projects, such as error analysis in L2 and Heritage Korean, issues on language policy and curriculum planning, and translation issues (see publications by Dr Seong-Chul Shin), the role of Buddhism in Korean literature (see publications by Dr Greg Evon), and action research with a Commonwealth grant on strengthening Korean language education at Australian schools and sociolinguistic interpretation of Korean politeness (see publication by Dr Gi-Hyun Shin). Find out more about the Korean at secondary schools project.

  • Research in Spanish and Latin American Studies at UNSW Sydney includes the study of the Spanish language and its teaching and literary, cultural and historical studies of the Iberian Peninsula and of Latin America. Much of this research is comparative, interdisciplinary and transnational and includes indigenous issues, regional studies, political economy, development, the environment and international relations.

    Research focus

    Language research focuses on instructed second language acquisition, in general, and the connection between input processing and comprehension. The major type of processing strategy investigated is Processing Instruction.

    Literary and cultural studies focus on the intrinsic link between literature and film production in Latin America and the social, political and material conditions of Latin American peoples. Of particular interest are studies of the border culture of Mexico and the United States of America, and the Maya peoples of Mexico.

    Historical and political economy studies are mainly focused on a comparative study of the development of Argentina and Australia with particular attention given to the respective states’ production and distribution of social wealth. Other research areas include comparative approaches to environmental issues in the Southern Cone, and recent political and developmental changes in Latin America.

    Staff strengths & accomplishments

    • Associate Professor James Lee is a major researcher of instructed second language acquisition and of Processing Instruction. He also conducts research on the second language acquisition of object pronouns in Spanish. He has published eight books between 2003 and 2013, and ten book chapters.
    • Associate Professor Diana Palaversich has a well-earned international reputation in the areas of literary studies, gender studies, film studies and border studies. She has published two monographs and numerous book chapters and journal articles.
    • Senior Lecturer Dr Peter Ross focuses on historical, political, economic and environmental studies of Latin America, with major attention given to comparisons with Australasia. He has journal articles and book chapters on these themes.