In China, most universities have a school of foreign languages, where students majoring in English, German, French, Japanese, and other languages study the language for the first two years, and take introductory courses in the linguistics and literature of the language concerned, and then progress to higher-level linguistic and literary courses, as well as translation studies. English is the most popular foreign language in China, and, with the improvement of English teaching in high schools, the average student entering university now has a higher level of English proficiency than previous generations of students. However, students with high scores in English often choose to study ‘practical’ subjects other than English, such as business studies, computer science, economics, medicine, etc. Increasingly, a number of programs at universities in China are even being taught through the medium of English. Consequently, English majors have less and less advantage over non-English majors, and departments of English have had to restructure their syllabi to cope with the situation. Courses in translation studies, intercultural communication and applied linguistics have thus gained greater recognition because of their functional importance in the real world (see Qu, this issue).