Course Objectives

The Chinese Language Program at Amherst College offers an integrated sequence of courses ranging from the elementary first-year level through the advanced fourth-year classes. By the end of each year, our courses are designed to achieve the following goals in terms of the students’ acquired abilities to command the four major linguistic skills.

The First-Year Courses (Chinese 101 and 102)

General

  • Pronunciation and the tones;
  • Emphasis on speaking and listening;
  • To write Chinese characters;
  • Elementary patterns of Chinese grammar

Speaking

  • Command of the pinyin system;
  • Chinese pronunciation and the four tones;
  • To speak simple sentences with correct grammar;
  • To provide answers grammatically consistent with the questions;
  • To conduct elementary communicative exchanges

Listening

  • To follow simple classroom instructions;
  • To understand words, phrases, and short sentences aided by contextand limited to 
  • the learned vocabulary
  • Writing: The fundamental rules of the Chinese script;
  • Basic Chinese radicals;
  • Handwriting and correct stroke orders;
  • To make simple sentences with basic Chinese syntax;
  • Begin to express oneself in short notes, letters, essays, etc.

Reading

  • To understand the elementary textbook materials within the studied vocabulary;
  • To use the Chinese dictionary

The First-Year Heritage Courses (Chinese 103 and 104)

General

  • Command of the pinyin system;
  • To write Chinese characters;
  • To address all the four skills with emphasis on reading, writing, and formal style 
  • of speech;
  • To cover all major sentence patterns of Chinese grammar;
  • Introduction/exposure to Chinese culture/tradition;
  • To prepare the students for moving on to the third-year level in one year

Speaking

  • Proficiency in major sentence patterns;
  • To speak with good grammar and formal style;
  • “Chinese only” in the classroom

Listening

Exposure to Chinese media and popular cultural materials

Writing

  • The fundamental rules of the Chinese script;
  • Basic Chinese radicals;
  • Handwriting and correct stroke orders;
  • Able to choose best syntax patterns in given contexts;
  • To write notes, letters, short essays, etc. on various daily topics

Reading

  • To understand all major sentence patterns;
  • Consistent and full comprehension of textbook materials on familiar topics;
  • To use the Chinese dictionary

The Second-Year Courses (Chinese 201 and 202)

General

  • The four skills to be reinforced with stress still on speaking and listening;
  • Major sentence patterns of Chinese grammar to be emphasized and all addressed by the end of the year

Speaking

  • To be more comfortable with Chinese pronunciation and the tones;
  • Command of all major sentence patterns;
  • To converse in short paragraphs;
  • Begin to explain, compare, describe, narrate, etc.;
  • To perform tasks and solve problems in everyday linguistic situations

Listening

  • To understand all major sentence patterns;
  • Comprehension on studied topics within the second-year vocabulary;
  • Introduction to Chinese media and popular cultural materials

Writing

  • Able to choose best sentence patterns in given contexts;
  • To write effectively and clearly on various immediate topics

Reading

  • To understand all major sentence patterns;
  • Consistent and full comprehension of textbook materials on familiar topics;
  • To use the Chinese dictionary

The Third-Year Courses (Chinese 301 and 302)

General

  • To prepare the students to be independent readers for the fourth-year level;
  • To help the students achieve a more solid command of grammar with regard to all 
  • the four major skills;
  • Exposure to various genres of readings;
  • A switch from textbook materials to highly selective authentic texts for the general Chinese reader

Speaking

  • To sustain conversation in well-structured speech;
  • Begin to make coherent arguments;
  • Begin to express oneself on unfamiliar and abstract topics

Listening

  • To comprehend the main themes and most details of a general speech beyond 
  • everyday situations;
  • Exposure to authentic materials in the Chinese media popular culture

Writing

  • To use complex sentence patterns;
  • To write essays and research findings with more precision, in more detail, on a broader range of topics, and with better control of the syntax structures

Reading

  • Command of a significantly larger vocabulary with the aid of the dictionary;
  • Selective authentic texts of complex structures on a variety of topics ranging from literary works to media and popular cultural materials

The Fourth-Year Courses (Chinese 401 and 402)

General

  • Advanced reading to be the focus of the fourth-year courses;
  • Literary works to make up the mainstay (over 50%) of the fourth-year reading materials

Speaking

  • To speak on a balanced variety of topics with accuracy, confidence, and ease;
  • Begin to communicate subtle meanings and overtones

Listening

  • To comprehend a wide range of speech types and styles;
  • Begin to perceive the unstated messages underlying the speech within given contexts

Writing

  • To write with clear themes, internal structure, fine conveyance, and a 
  • sophisticated vocabulary;
  • Begin to write idiomatically and with one’s own style;
  • Elegant Chinese handwriting

Reading

  • Exposure to both simplified and traditional characters;
  • Near-complete comprehension of selected texts of modern literary Chinese and other genres at a normal speed;
  • To be sensitive to the nuances, understatements, and cultural references in the texts;
  • To appreciate the aesthetic shades of the language;
  • Introduction to classical Chinese language
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