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.

We’ll assure you that if you do what we ask of you on a daily basis, you will learn Chinese. Therefore, our evaluation (i.e., your grades) will be based on your daily performances. The following section should be thoroughly read and understood.

Participation is mandatory, including oral practice every Friday afternoon; Final exam: 20%; Homework: 40%; Midterm exam: 15%; Tests and Quizzes: 25%. 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, where I randomly take out words from a text and you put them back into the text;
  2. True or false, where you read a sentence or statement and let me know by “F” or “T” if it is false or true;
  3. sequencing, where you number the fragments of a full text or paragraph; and
  4. unscrambling, where you number the fragments of one sentence such as subjects, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, and so forth; and
  5. writing out a character skit that you have memorized. In addition, you can also opt out of a quiz by
  6. memorizing the whole dialog or narrative being tested on with me outside the classroom; one more way to succeed; sometimes you can also score bonus points by
  7. translating some t/f questions.