Chinese Language Course and Class Information

Educational programs in Chinese language or Asian studies often offer various levels of Mandarin or Cantonese, history, culture, and calligraphy courses. Read on to learn about each of these common courses.

Essential Information

Some colleges offer Chinese language courses through departments of Asian studies, through which students have the opportunity to take other courses on topics related to China and other Asian countries. Both undergraduate and graduate degree programs are available at many universities. A few schools offer short-term certificates in Chinese language studies or Mandarin.

Here is an outline of common concepts taught in Chinese language courses:

  • Speaking Mandarin
  • Reading in Chinese
  • Grammar rules
  • Themes in literature
  • Conversational skills
  • Cantonese language
  • Chinese history and culture
  • Character calligraphy

List of Common Courses

Elementary Mandarin Course

This course serves as an introduction to Mandarin, which is the focus of most Chinese language programs. It offers preliminary teaching in reading and writing Chinese characters, as well as listening comprehension and speaking. Chinese history and culture, particularly as it relates to the development of the language, is also introduced in this course. Elementary Mandarin is usually presented as two complementary courses.

Intermediate Mandarin Course

The next level of Mandarin education continues from the themes and language structures begun at the elementary level, with an increasing focus on reading and writing Chinese characters. Heavier emphasis on grammar and idiomatic Chinese expressions occurs at the intermediate level. Students are asked to read a great deal from modern texts and literature written in Mandarin. Conversational exercises receive more focus at this level, as well. Like elementary Mandarin, intermediate Mandarin is most often offered in a 2-course format.

Advanced Mandarin Course

At the advanced or conversational stage, oral performances and conversations in Mandarin are at the forefront. Class work at this level is designed to expand student vocabulary and fine-tune speaking and listening skills. Speaking and reading speed, along with increased levels of reading comprehension, are other major goals of this level, which may be split into two courses. In addition to placing increased focus on student conversational skills, this course may take examples from Chinese television, radio and Internet sources to test comprehension.

Cantonese Course

In addition to Mandarin, the other major Chinese language, Cantonese, is taught in a majority of Chinese programs. Some Chinese language programs offer elementary, intermediate and advanced Cantonese courses that mirror the progression of the Mandarin educational tree. Others teach Cantonese as a single class designed to complement a Mandarin program. In either case, the standard 4-discipline curriculum is typically used, focusing on speaking, reading, writing and listening comprehension.

Chinese Civilization Course

This subject is often incorporated very broadly into basic Chinese language curricula; however, most programs offer the subject independently for more in-depth examination. This course explores Chinese history, culture, politics and religion, as well as scientific advancement, industrial progress, literature and philosophy. Some Asian studies departments offer a variety of individual courses in Chinese cultural topics that may include traditional drama, Chinese Buddhism and cinema. Unlike other Chinese language courses, Chinese civilization is taught in English and usually doesn't require in-depth knowledge of the language.

Calligraphy Course

Writing Chinese characters is an art form as much as a language. While the standard Chinese language courses teach students how to properly draw characters for practical linguistic expression, the calligraphy class emphasizes the artistic aspect of written Chinese. Students work with brushes, practicing various styles and techniques in Chinese calligraphy while learning about its history and development.

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