21G.101 | Fall 2014 | Undergraduate

Chinese I (Regular)

Instructor Insights

Course Overview

This page focuses on the course 21G.101 Chinese I (Regular) as it was taught by Haohsiang Liao in Fall 2014.

This subject is the first semester of four that forms an introduction to modern standard Chinese. The course presupposes no prior background in the language. The relationship between Chinese language and culture and the sociolinguistically appropriate use of language is stressed throughout the course. Typical class formats include performance of memorized basic conversations, drills, questions and discussion, and various types of communicative exercises.

Course Outcomes

Course Goals for Students

  • Master Mandarin pronunciation, including the recognition and writing of Pinyin romanization
  • Develop basic reading and writing skills (around 150 characters in the traditional character set or the simplified set)
  • Develop the ability to participate in simple, practical conversations on everyday topics

Meet the Educator

In the following video, Haohsiang Liao describes his role at MIT and shares how he became interested in teaching Chinese.

Meet the Educator

Instructor Interview

"Besides language proficiency, we also extend our attention to [students’] behavioral culture [because] we feel it is a central component of successful communication in a second culture."
—Haohsiang Liao

In the following videos, Haohsiang Liao describes various aspects of how he teaches 21G.101 Chinese I (Regular).

View in English:

View in Chinese:

Curriculum Information



Requirements Satisfied



Every fall semester


The students’ grades were based on the following activities:

  • 60% Daily classroom performance (including performance of basic conversations, participation in class activities, quizzes and/or homework)
  • 5% Oral Report
  • 25% Review Tests
  • 10% Final Oral Interview

Instructor Insights on Assessment

Grades in the course were largely determined by classroom performance. Among the numerous reasons for this emphasis, the main one is that we are convinced that if students follow the course with consistency and persistence, they will develop significant demonstrable skills in Chinese by the end of the semester.

Student Information


About 40 students

Breakdown by Major

Variety of majors, typically including one or two graduate students from the MIT Sloan School of Management.

Typical Student Background

MIT does not have a foreign language requirement. Students who take this course do so because they understand that learning a foreign language has value. Some take the course to fulfill a personal interest. Others are interested in participating in the MIT-China Program and want to develop their language skills in preparation for an internship or study abroad experience. Others are interested in majoring or minoring in Chinese.

Enrollment Cap

There are four sections of the course, with enrollment in each section limited to 16 students.


Daily performance on the activities assigned in the weekly schedule are graded based on the following four-point scale:

4 Performance that promises interaction with a native with no difficulty, discomfort, or misunderstanding; no English hesitation noises in speaking and no “foreignisms” in the written work.
3.5 Performance comprehensible to native speakers, but with some non-patterned errors that would hinder smooth interaction with them.
3 Performance comprehensible to a native, but with evident weakness or patterned errors.
2.5 Communication requires much help from interlocutor.
2 Performance puts burden on interlocutor. To facilitate communication, a Chinese-speaking native would probably avoid using Chinese with you.
1.5 Barely prepared; little competency evident.
1 Evidently unprepared; unable to perform.
0 Absent.

How Student Time Was Spent

During an average week, students were expected to spend 12 hours on the course, roughly divided as follows:

In Class

  • Met 4 times per week for 1 hour per session; 50 sessions total.
  • Class sessions were conducted entirely in Chinese.
  • Typical class sessions included performance of memorized basic conversations, drills, questions and discussions, and various types of communicative exercises.

Out of Class

  • Textbook review
  • Listening to and repeating after audio recordings
  • Written homework
  • Quiz and exam preparation

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2014
Learning Resource Types
Course Introduction
Activity Assignments
Instructor Insights