Course: CHI 405/406
Instructor: Shutan Dong & Qifan Ding
F 2016

Description of Course Goals and Curriculum

  1. As the highest level Chinese language classes offered at Princeton, the overall goal of these courses is to raise your proficiency in spoken and written Chinese to a higher advanced level. There is an emphasis placed on learning advanced vocabulary/grammar and formal expressions/structures. This class is not meant to improve your daily conversational skills in Chinese; instead, content spans a wide range of advanced topics from Chinese politics, economics, culture, society, and history.
  2. Course content covers a lot of topics that are not necessarily divided into sections/units. Often each lesson has some specialized vocabulary. The weekly tests on Friday are cumulative over that week's lessons. The final is cumulative over the second half of the semester's content.
  3. The biggest challenge for most students is the amount of vocab and grammar learned each week. When studying for the weekly test, it can feel overwhelming some times. Many students use online flashcards for remembering vocab words. Definitions are important but more important is knowing how to use new vocab words and grammar structures correctly. This comes over time with more exposure to advanced language in different contexts.
  4. There are no specific background knowledge and skills assumed for learning in this course besides a high enough proficiency level. However, each student's proficiency level varies slightly, especially for freshman who place into the class, so the difficulty level of the course can vary. Some knowledge in any topics related about China can be helpful in discussion in class, but this is not required as class discussion is primarily focused around the readings.

Learning From Classroom Instruction

  • Class meets Monday through Thursday. The format of class is a mixture of discussion about the reading and review/reciting of new vocab/grammar. The instructor leads the discussion by asking the questions and directly calling on students, although students can freely respond to other students' responses. Participation is required for every class as the instructors want students to practice speaking and forming complex ideas. Instructors will help students' responses by correcting grammar/pronunciation. Always be prepared to contribute something, no matter how strange/wrong it might be. The instructors love it when students disagree with each other or expand on another student's response.
  • To prepare for class, students are only required to have read the reading for class that day. Memorizing all the vocab for that day's class is not required as they will be reviewed in class. Listening to the audio recordings of the readings is helpful to quickly understand the general ideas of the reading without getting bogged down by all the new vocab.
Assigned readings/texts
  • For each reading there is a study guide with vocab and grammar structures you are expected to know for the weekly test. The list of words will seem long, but depending on each student's proficiency level, part of the list will include words the student already knows. If you have time, it is highly recommended to reread the textbook readings which will help reinforce the proper usage of new vocab/grammar. However, the later readings do get quite long, so highlighting unknown words and just rereading the sentences with those words will save time.
Individual Sessions
  • These sessions are primarily to practice your oral skills and pronunciation. You should come prepared to discuss a topic of your choice. The format of these sessions is relaxed. Take advantage of these sessions to share things about yourself to the instructor that you might not be able to in class.

Learning For and From Assignments

Exercises (Weekly homework and essays)
  • These are the best way to practice using new vocab/grammar. These are completion grades and will always be returned to students with corrections. Reviewing these will help prevent you from making the same language mistakes the next time.
  • Weekly 5 minute quizzes given at the beginning of class on Wednesday. The format is a short answer question about that day's reading where you are required to use 4 out of 5 given vocab words in your answer. To prepare for these, reviewing the study guide carefully should be enough (looking up sample sentences with the words you don't know instead of just the English definition helps a lot).
  • The first part of tests are fill in the blank multiple choice questions. Be aware that the choices may not all be from the study guide, but are words you should know. These questions require using context skills from the sentence to choose the most appropriate choice.
  • The second part of tests are short answer response questions. The questions are usually multi-part and require using a number of given vocab/grammar structures all from the study guide.
  • For some weekly tests and the midterm/final, there is a essay question with minimum character limit of 400. For these essays, there is no vocab use requirement, so focus on correct grammar and completely answering the prompt.
  • In terms of grading, points are not deducted if you use pinyin for characters you don't know how to write, but using a new vocab word or grammar structure incorrectly can cost you a lot of points.

External Resources

  • Baidu Translate - gives good sample sentences for vocab words to learn proper usage
  • Quizlet or Anki - online flashcards
  • Pleco - best mobile Chinese-English dictionary app
  • MDBG or Youdao Dict - online Chinese-English dictionary
  • Weibo - Chinese Twitter/Facebook where you can read news articles and follow what's trending in China
  • Chinese Tables - practice your oral Chinese with other students and instructors
  • Ask the instructor for movie/TV show/book recommendations - exposing yourself to different sources of Chinese besides the textbook is a great way to improve your Chinese

What Students Should Know About This Course For Purposes Of Course Selection

  • Not only will your Chinese language skills have improved greatly after taking this class, but you will also have thought about a lot of China-related issues and events that will expand your general knowledge and world view. You will be proficient enough to live and work in China.
  • The work load is average but constant and daily. Expect to spend 1 to 2 hours of preparation/study per day for this class.
  • This class made me appreciate the Chinese language and sparked my interest in possibly working in China in the future. The opportunities available to you once you become proficient in Chinese are countless.
  • For BSE students, I highly recommend taking any level Chinese class to fulfill your distribution requirements. For AB students, even though you've fulfilled your foreign language requirement take this class because if you don't, your Chinese skills will deteriorate quickly. Freshman heritage speakers considering taking this class, do not be intimidated if you are placed into 4th year, the teachers are amazing, the whole Chinese department is welcoming and extremely helpful, and your Chinese will improve dramatically. This is not your middle school weekend Chinese class, the topics are interesting and the teaching method/material is one of the best in the nation.
Intensive Fourth-Year Modern Chinese

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