Course Description and Procedures

This course is for those wanting to learn Chinese from scratch and with no prior knowledge of the language. It introduces the fundamentals of Mandarin Chinese, and is structured for attainment of proper pronunciation, learning of the basic grammatical patterns, and the mastery of approximately 200 characters and compounds. The course stresses communication skills more than the static knowledge of grammar.

The goal of this course is to train you to function successfully in Chinese culture. We assume that you understand why you want to learn Chinese and that you are interested in interacting with Chinese people in a way that will permit you to pursue professional goals in some segment of a Chinese society. The importance of studying another language is perhaps best stated by Franz Fanon in his Black Skin, White Masks, “A man who has a language consequently possesses the world expressed and implied by that language.” Some of the Chinese values and attitudes are embedded in the very grammar and syntax of the language that shape the way people conceptualize the world.

After you have become familiar with this course and the basics of the Chinese language, we will introduce you to the writing system. Whether you are speaking, reading, or writing, your daily performance will be the crucial factor in how well you do in this class. When you are accustomed to performing in Chinese in class, we will continue to build on this until you are comfortable using the language in front of strangers. We will pay attention to the way you behave as much as we attend to your use of the language. To do this, you will have to perform and your performance is the focus of this course.

Performance-based learning and assessment require that you are evaluated for your daily performances. There is a quiz nearly everyday on the content of what we introduce the day before, in one or all of the formats below:

  1. filling the blanks, you put words taken from a text back to where they belong;
  2. true or false, you check “F” or “T” according to the text we have studied in class;
  3. sequencing, by numbering the fragments of a full text or paragraph;
  4. unscrambling, by numbering the fragments of one sentence
  5. writing out a character skit that you have memorized
  6. reciting skits and short poems that have been introduced in class