21G.107 | Fall 2014 | Undergraduate

Chinese I (Streamlined)


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 3 sessions / week, 50 minutes / session

Course Description

This course, along with 21G.108 / 158 offered in the spring, form the elementary level of the streamlined sequence, which is for students who have some basic conversational skills gained, typically, from growing up in a Chinese speaking environment, but lack a corresponding level of literacy. The focus of the course is on learning standard everyday usage, on reading in both full and simplified characters, and on writing.

Characters and Pinyin

Students are expected to be able to read texts written in either the full or simplified sets of Chinese characters, but are free to choose either one in writing. The website of “Hanyu Pinyin for Mandarin Speakers” has a guide to the Pinyin system. You may access it any time to refresh your memory.

Required Learning Materials

  1. Wheatley, Julian. Learning Chinese: A Foundation Course in Mandarin. Yale University Press, 2014. ISBN: 9780300141184. (The Character Text / 漢語基礎教材 / 汉语基础教材).
  2. A Primer for Advanced Beginners of Chinese: There are two versions of this textbook:
    1. A simplified character version:  
      Li, Duanduan. A Primer for Advanced Beginners of Chinese - Simplified Character Version Vol. 1. (Daxue Yuwen). Columbia University Press, 2004. ISBN: 9780231135672.
    2. A traditional character version:  
      Li, Duanduan. A Primer for Advanced Beginners of Chinese Vol. 1. (Daxue Yuwen). Columbia University Press, 2002. ISBN: 9780231125550.  
      You may purchase whichever one you prefer.
  3. Additional handouts in class.
  1. DeFrancis, John, ed. ABC Chinese-English Dictionary. University of Hawaii Press, 1996. ISBN: 9780824817442. (Regular)
  2. ———. ABC Chinese-English Dictionary. University of Hawaii Press, 1998. ISBN: 9780824821548. (Pocket)  
    This is the only Chinese-to-English dictionary ordered by alphabet without reference to the head character of a word. In effect, it allows you to look up a word on the basis of its pronunciation alone; with no knowledge of the characters associated with it (though searching by character is also possible.)
  3. Yuan, Boping, and Sally Church, eds. The Starter Oxford Chinese Dictionary. Oxford University Press, 2000. ISBN: 9780198602583.  
    This is a handy starter’s dictionary, with good definitions and clear format.
  4. Manser, Martin H., ed. Concise English-Chinese Chinese-English Dictionary. 2nd ed. Oxford University Press, 1999. ISBN: 9780195911510.  
    More entries than the previous dictionary, and with English-to-Chinese.
  5. Please check the Tools and Resources section for recommended online dictionary tools.


The first two meetings will be devoted to learning about the Sounds of the language and the ways we represent them in the pinyin system of transcription. We will also introduce the basics of Character Writing. By the fifth week, we will begin the first lesson in your textbook, A Primer for Advanced Beginners of Chinese Vol. 1 (Daxue Yuwen / 大學語文 / 大学语文), and we will be covering approximately one lesson in that book per week.

Classroom activities will include discussing the content of the texts, short reports, and performance based on the texts, practicing some of the relevant grammatical patterns, sight reading of supplementary materials, and almost daily quizzes.

Writing: You will be asked to learn a selection of the characters introduced in the lesson, not all of them (see “Dictations” in “Grading”). And you will be asked to learn to recognize both simplified and full form characters from memory. For writing, you may choose one, full form or simplified, as you prefer.



Class Performance–

  • Attendance 5%
  • Promptness 3%
  • Preparedness 5%
  • Class Report 7%
  • Participation 10%

Written Assignments 20%
Lingt Speaking Assignments 5%
Bi-weekly Tests 30%
Vocabulary Quizzes and Dictations 10%
End-of-term Essay 5%

Grading Rubric

A 100–95
A- 94.9–90
B+ 89.9–86.7
B 86.6–83.3
B- 83.2–80
C+ 79.9–75
C 74.9–70
C- 69.9–60
F below 60

For the Vocabulary Quizzes and Dictations, vocabulary quizzes are done at the beginning of the first of the two periods devoted to each lesson. You will need to transcribe a sentence into Pinyin and translate it into English. Dictations of selected required characters are done after the two periods devoted to each lesson.

For the End-of-term Essay, a 2-page double-space typewritten essay using Microsoft Word with 16-point font. More instructions on how to input Chinese characters using pinyin are available in the Tools and Resources section.

Attendance and promptness is assumed; more than three unexcused absences (a week’s worth) lowers your grade one letter; significant lateness will add up to absences. Twice during the semester, if you are late for class without telling your instructor in advance and miss a quiz, you are allowed to take the quiz at the end of the class.

Absences will count as excused ones only if you provide a doctor’s note or a note from your academic advisor to the instructor.

Other factors may come into play, e.g. improvement versus stagnation or deterioration over the course of the semester, and progress relative to starting level.

There are No Make-ups for quizzes and tests if you do not notify your instructor about your absence first but however, your lowest two quiz grades will be dropped. If you cannot take the quizzes on time, you should talk to the instructor to make arrangements for you to take the quizzes before your classmates do.

There is no final examination this term.

Homework handed in late will not receive full credit. You will lose one point per day of lateness. For example, you will receive 9 out 10 points if you turn it in the next day.

End-of-Term Essay

What: A double-spaced typewritten essay of no less than 2 full pages using Microsoft World (16 point font) with 1 inch margins on all sides Or a single-space handwritten essay using our own Calligraphy Grid of no less than 4 full pages. Do not try to fill up the pages with extra space between characters and / or paragraphs. What weights more is the content. Learn how to input Chinese characters if you do not already know how.

Topic: You may choose from one of the following topics.

Topic 1: Write about a person who has had a great impact on your world outlook, and who you are today.

Topic 2: Write about an event that has had a great impact on your world outlook, and who you are today.

Grading (5% of class grade):

Content: 2.5 points (convincing / enticing)

Degree of sophistication of languages: 1.5 points (when appropriate, incorporate the grammar, sentence patters, and vocabulary we have learned into your essay)

Over-all structure: 1 point (make sure each paragraph has a focus and the paragraphs relate to on another in a logical way)

Advice on Approaching the Class

Engaging in a language class should not feel like a chore that you resent having to perform. If it does, you should probably do some serious thinking about why you are enrolled. A language, foreign or semi-native, is a discipline to be studied with attention and dedication. It requires a high level of concentration, and a systematic, steady approach. It is in fact a never ending process, which involves a consistent accumulation of data (vocabulary) to be applied within a complex framework (grammar). As such, learning a language can be occasionally frustrating and so it should be dealt with patiently. But the result of understanding of a language provides lifelong satisfaction. If you approach this course by wondering how little work you can do and still get by, or if you approach this course by thinking only about what grade you are getting instead of what you are learning, then you will not succeed. If, however, you approach this class with dedication and a positive attitude, you will be rewarded with the satisfaction that comes from the genuine acquisition of knowledge and skill.

Course Info

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