Chinese Courses

Curriculum Structure

Required courses at the elementary, intermediate, and advanced levels (Ba, Bb, 120a, 120b, 130a, 130b) meet five hours per week during the first three years. The fourth-year advanced reading courses (140a, 140b) also meet five hours a week, with a stronger emphasis on reading and writing. The fifth-year courses (150a, 150b) focus on formal writing and formal speech.

For heritage learners, we offer specially-designed intensive courses at the elementary (Bx), intermediate (123xb), pre-advanced (130xa, 130xb), and advanced (140xa, 140xb) levels.

Advanced conversation courses (142a and 142b) are offered as Advanced Conversational Chinese, which meet three hours weekly with additional scheduled individual interviews. The level of spoken proficiency required is equivalent to the first semester regular fourth-year course (140a).

We also offer specialized courses at the advanced level. In Business Chinese (163), students will develop their professional communication skills (both spoken and written), as well as gaining a broad business vocabulary. Chinese in the Humanities (166r) and Chinese in the Social Sciences (168r) provide advanced language practice through the reading and analysis of authentic texts in humanities disciplines (e.g. art, literature, cinematic studies) or in social science disciplines (e.g. history, politics, sociology, economics). These courses may be offered independently in Chinese, or linked with an English-language content course, and their specific content varies by year.

Course Contents

The elementary course (Ba) begins with an introduction to the pronunciation of Modern Standard Chinese (Mandarin). Hanyu Pinyin, the internationally recognized system of phonetic spelling for Chinese, is used as an aid to pronunciation in all modern Chinese language classes. Because the elements of pronunciation are taught as a systematic structure of sounds, students can readily adapt that knowledge in order to learn other widely used systems of Chinese phonetic spelling—such as Wade-Giles—when needed for readings in other courses outside the modern language program. For students who have previously learned the Chinese phonetic symbols known as bo, po, mo, fo, a conversion table to Hanyu Pinyin is available.

A similar emphasis on structure underlines the presentation of Chinese grammar at all levels, beginning from an intensive study of sentence patterns in the elementary level (Ba, Bb). The elementary texts are primarily narratives and dialogues located in realistic contemporary campus situations that are readily understood by students.

The traditional, unsimplified forms of Chinese characters are taught in the elementary courses. The principles of character simplification are introduced at the end of the elementary level, and simplified characters are used intensively in the first semester of the intermediate level (120a). Thereafter, the two forms are used concurrently.

From the start of the intermediate level (120a) and beyond, classes are conducted entirely in spoken Chinese. Intermediate level text materials introduce—through lively narratives—the basic core of China's culture, history, legend, geography, ethical values, modern transformation, etc., while gradually exposing students to selected authentic texts of literary interest.

Conversation classes and compositions are also included. Advanced level (130a through 150b) materials consist of readings in 20th century dramatic, fictional, and nonfictional writings, as well as newspaper reading. Emphasis is on close analysis of grammar, diction, and style. Compositions and pronunciation exercises are also employed.