Skip to main content

Chinese I

Course Overview

This course will introduce students to Standard Mandarin Chinese through the development of four language skills (i.e., listening, speaking, reading, and writing) and cultural knowledge. This course focuses on teaching students the skills to communicate with Chinese people across ethnic, cultural, ideological and national boundaries, and help students develop an understanding of Chinese interpersonal behavioral culture and related thought patterns. The ultimate goal is to train students to function successfully in Chinese culture with both linguistic accuracy and cultural appropriateness.


Upon successful completion of the course, students will attain approximately the Novice-High level on the ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages) Proficiency Scale. They will have mastery of Chinese phonetics, be able to recognize and comprehend approximately 350 of the most frequently used Chinese characters presented in authentic reading materials, and use Chinese to exchange greetings, to talk about families, hobbies, school life, to tell time and dates, to go shopping, and to navigate in a Chinese city using different transportation means.

Course Content

Unit 0: Basics-Romanization system, Chinese Writing system, Classroom Instructional Expressions

For our introductory unit, students will learn about the Chinese Romanization system, and Chinese writing system. By practicing classroom instructional expressions, students get familiar with pronunciation and tones. For lessons on Chinese writing system, students will learn about the brief history of Chinese characters, different types of Chinese characters, radicals, strokes, and stroke orders. They will learn 20 most commonly used Chinese radicals to build foundation for reading skills.

Unit 1: Greetings

In this unit, students will learn to do basic greetings, ask/introduce one’s last names and full names, and ask/state one’s nationalities. They will discuss the difference between Chinese and American greeting customs and naming culture, and learn to have good awareness of the different cultural context. In terms of grammar structure, this lesson will teach students how to ask a yes or no questios using sentence final particle ma, how to ask “what” questions, and how to give positive and negative statements.

Unit 2: Family

In this unit, students will learn to talk about how many people there are in their family, and to use basic kinship terms, including dad, mom, older and younger siblings, son and daughter. They will be encouraged to compare how a family tree is described differently in Chinese culture from American culture, and to use the observation to help them establish a new mode of thinking. They will also learn to name some common professions, including doctor, lawyer, teacher, businessperson, worker, nurse, farmer, soldier, and so on. In terms of grammar, this lesson will teach students how to ask “who” questions, and “how many” questions, and “what does … do for work.”

Unit 3: Time and Date

Students will learn to express time, dates, days of the week, months, and years in Chinese in this unit. The unit will focus on the word order in telling time in Chinese, as it is different from English. Students will be encouraged to think about why Chinese tell time in this order, and increase cultural awareness. They will learn to use dates to talk about ages and birthdays, and arranging dates to invite friends out to have dinner. They will also be introduced to the Chinese lunar calendar system and encouraged to compare the differences between the solar and lunar calendar. The target grammar structures include “what time,” “which day,” “which month,” “which year,” “what’s the date,” and “how old.” Students will also learn sentences with adjective as the predicate, and A not A structure for yes or no questions.

Unit 4: Hobbies

In this unit students will learn to discuss some common personal hobbies. They will practice making plans for the weekend with friends. They are given the options of playing ball, watching TV, watching movies, singing, dancing, watching dances, listening to music, and reading. For watching TV, movies, and dances, country names are also added in the phrases for reviewing purpose. Students will be asked to pick three classmates, initiate the conversation, and ask them what their personal hobbies are, what they would like to do on the coming weekend, and write down the information in Chinese Characters. The target grammar structures include “when” questions, “what do you like to do,” and “what would you like to do.”

Unit 5: Visit Friends

In this unit, students will learn to welcome visitors, and introduce people to each other, ask for or offer beverages, including water, tea, coffee, and soda. They will also be introduced to adding location phrases to sentences, and focus on the differences between English and Chinese word orders when there are time phrases and location phrases involved in sentences. They will be encouraged to think about the corresponding relationship between the word order in telling time and the one in telling location in Chinese language, and the mode of thinking behind it. In terms of grammar, they will learn to use “where” question structure, “zai (preposition) + location” phrase, A or B alternative question structure, “may I …” question structure, and use “verb + le particle” to indicate completed action.

Unit 6: Make Appointments

In this unit, students learn to set up an appointment with someone on the phone. They also learn to initiate/answer a phone call and leave a message on the phone. In terms of the speech pattern, the difference between this lesson and the previous lessons is that it introduces polite speech. Cultural context will play an important role. The dialogue happens between a student and a teacher. Students are encouraged to pay attention to the difference in usage of vocabulary and sentence structures between speaking to peers and speaking to a superior. The target expressions in this lesson include time phrases such as “next week/month/year” and “last week/month/year,” directional complements, “after + time/verb phrase,” “if” clause, and “yao+verb” for planned/scheduled future event/action. Students will also be introduced to more time phrases.

Unit 7: Study Chinese

For Unit 7, students will learn to discuss their Chinese language learning experience, exam performance, and talk about their study habits. The vocabulary and grammar structures in this lesson will be very useful for students to discuss different aspects of their learning, including listening, speaking, reading and writing, and for their self-reflection on learning progress. They will also be introduced to the vocabulary for school supplies, including notebooks, workbook, pens, pencils, Chinese calligraphy brushes, dictionary, and paper. In terms of grammar, this lesson will teach the students double objects structures, ordinal numbers, verb + descriptive complement (adverb), topic + comment sentence structure.

Unit 8: School Life

In Unit 8 students will learn to use time phrases and “before”/“after” phrases to describe the routine of a typical school day, and focus on continuity of actions, simultaneity of two ongoing actions, and transition of actions. Vocabulary include daily activities, such as getting up, eating a meal, going to school, attending different class, listening to audio files, practicing speaking Chinese, surfing the Internet, playing basketball, chatting with friends, doing homework. In terms of grammar, students will learn structures that indicate a progressive action, and simultaneity of two ongoing actions.

Unit 9: Go Shopping

Unit 9 teaches students the Chinese monetary system. They learn to use Chinese currency units, such as penny, dime, dollar. They also learn vocabulary of different clothing items, including clothes, pants, shirts, shoes, etc., and vocabulary for colors, including red, yellow, white, black, brown, and so on. Students practice asking about price, color, and size of a merchandise, and ask to exchange merchandise. Instructor will show students real Chinese money to help them learn to recognize Chinese currency, and will also explain the various features of Chinese money. In terms of grammar, students will learn to use “how much…,” “what size…,” “how about…,” and “A is the same with B + adj” structures.

Unit 10: Transportation

Unit 10 teaches students how to get around in China by different means of transportation, including airplane, bus, subway, and taxi. They will learn to explain how to transfer from one subway or bus line to another, and navigate Chinese public transit. They will be encouraged to discuss the difference between public transportation in China and in the United States, and gain cultural and global awareness. In terms of target expressions, students will learn to talk about actions in sequence using “first,” “then,” “and then,” “and last.” In this lesson, students will also learn the format of an email/letter in Chinese.