Description of Course Goals and Curriculum
This course is created for true beginners, who have no experience in studying Chinese. The course teaches modern Chinese; students learn daily conversations, basic vocabulary, grammar structures, and simplified Chinese characters. CHI101 is comprised of lecture classes, drill classes, individual sessions, and weekly quizzes. It is designed to teach students basic vocabulary, grammar structures, and simplified Chinese characters. Through CHI101, students practice skills in listening, reading, speaking, and writing.
Learning From Classroom Instruction
CHI101 meets for class every weekday, 5 times a week, 50 minutes at a time. In addition to daily class time, there is a 50-minute quiz on Friday and a 15-minute individual session for student to talk one-on-one with the teacher. The class, taught by four teachers, follows the same routine week-to-week. The course follows the text book “First step: an elementary reader for modern Chinese”. Each week covers one lesson from the textbook. Each lesson contains a set of every-day conversations, in addition to vocabulary, characters, and grammar rules that are introduced in the dialogues. Mondays and Wednesdays are lecture classes that introduce the week’s lesson, while Tuesdays and Thursdays are drill classes that review the lesson and provide extra practice. During Friday’s class, there is a lesson review, recitation of the textbook dialogue, a video applying the lesson, and dictation.
Going to class and participating every day is crucial, because class is the best way to practice the material. The small class size (typically 7-12 students) and frequency of class really helps students gain speaking and listening practice. Attendance and participation make up 10% of the grade.
CHI101 has four teachers. The four teachers take turns teaching on different days of the week. This allows students exposure to multiple learning styles. Students are assigned one preceptor, whom the student attends individual sessions with. The weekly individual sessions are a great time to practice speaking and receive more detailed corrections on pronunciation and tones.
Learning For and From Assignments
Each week, students have the following assignments and assessments:
Recording: Students record and submit on Blackboard the textbook dialogue, which is typically 1-2 minutes. 5% of grade. Rather than simply reading and recording the pinyin form of the text, I recommend listening to the recording through SoundCloud, reviewing the translations and vocabulary, and then reading and recording the character form of the text.
Written Homework: The written homework, due on Thursdays, draws from the corresponding workbook “First Step Workbook for Modern Chinese”. This directly applies the vocabulary and grammar structures from the lesson, and includes a character practice portion. 10% of grade.
Recitation: During class on Fridays, students will be asked to recite part of the textbook conversation. 5% of grade. The teachers provide visual aids and guide the students, so students do not have to memorize the entire text. I recommend listening to the SoundCloud recording through out the week and practicing reading the entire conversation prior to Friday’s class.
Dictation: During class on Fridays, the teacher will read aloud a sentence or two. Students will write down the sentence in 1) Pinyin 2) Simplified Characters and 3) English translation. 10% of grade. For memorizing characters, repetition is key. Keep practicing each character until you are certain you know how to write it.
Weekly Quizzes: Every Friday afternoon, students attend a 50-minute test session. The test covers that week’s lesson. In total, there are 12 quizzes, which make up 30% of the total grade. There is a study guide each week outlining the grammar structures. This study guide is crucial to review before the test. Students should also review the textbook vocabulary, textbook dialogue, and characters.
In addition, students will take one midterm and one final.
Midterm and Final: Both the midterm (10% of grade) and final (20% of grade) are comprised of two parts: written exam and oral exam. The oral exam occurs during class on Friday of midterm/finals week. The students will:
(1) Write, memorize, and present a short text on a given topic. The preceptor proofreads and edits the text early in the week to allow time for practice.
(2) Read aloud a sentence/paragraph that is posted on BlackBoard beforehand.
The written exam follows the structure of the weekly quizzes, but is cumulative. The midterm written exam is 50 minutes, and the final written exam is 3 hours.
Chinese table is a great resource for students to improve their speaking. It is held in dining halls and eating clubs. Students will eat dinner with 1-2 Chinese teachers and other Chinese students. This allows for casual conversations in Chinese.
Pleco: An English and Chinese dictionary that is more accurate and reliable than Google Translate.
SoundCloud: The textbook comes with SoundCloud recordings of the dialogue and the vocabulary, which are great to listen to for better pronunciation.
Quizlets: Quizlets are a great way to memorize the meaning and characters of the weekly vocabulary.
What Students Should Know About This Course For Purposes Of Course Selection
I highly recommend the course for anyone wanting to learn Chinese. By the end of the semester, one will be surprised at the amount of Chinese they have learned. However, one should be ready to devote 10+ hours a week for class, studying, and assignments. While the course is excellently taught, Chinese is a difficult language for true beginners to learn. CHI101 students must be dedicated and diligent.
And while the assignments and assessments may sound overwhelming, don’t let the weekly workload keep you away from the course. The workload stays relatively consistent and predictable week-to-week, so that students do not have to struggle to learn everything before the midterm or final. The even distribution of the workload helped me be less stressed about this course compared to some of my other courses, in which the grades are based on one or two exams or papers.
Important things to note:
(1) Credit for CHI101 will not be given unless it is followed by CHI102, which is offered in the spring.
(2) The class meets every day during the first week of reading period, so the CHI101 students must plan to be on campus during reading period.