At the 100-level, we introduce students to topics on greetings, family, dates and time, hobbies, visiting friends, making appointments, studying Chinese, school life, shopping, transportation, talking about the weather, and dinning. While we emphasize speaking activities in class, all four language skills including listening, speaking, reading and writing are equally important in assignments and tests. Students will learn about 500-550 characters after the completion of the first year. They will master the basic Chinese sentence structure: Subject + Time or Place or Frequency or Manner + Predicate. The grammar covered also includes: markers for past tense, present tense and future tense; markers and sentence structure for comparison sentences; resultative complements; topic-comment sentence; markers for earliness or lateness of action, etc. Whenever possible, students are propelled to recognize cultural differences manifested in the language and encouraged to conduct conversations in a culturally appropriate manner. For instance, they will learn the words used to show politeness or to soften the tone and utilize them in conversation with relative ease. Moreover, by exposing students to emblematic cultural artifacts, simple classical Chinese poems, modern Chinese songs, and videos demonstrating both traditional and modern Chinese cultures, their interest in and knowledge of Chinese language and culture have deepened.
Chinese 215 Intermediate Chinese I class continues to expand students’ vocabulary and build their foundation of Chinese grammar while introducing topics on asking for directions, birthday party, seeing a doctor, dating, renting an apartment, sports and travel. After the completion of Chn 110-215, students will have learned 800-900 characters. They will continue to learn sentence structure for comparison sentences, attributive pattern, sentence structure for an action that is (not) done for a period of time, ba construction, bei construction, potential complements, descriptive complements, directional complements, sentence structure to emphasize such as lian construction and the construction that uses question pronouns to emphasize. While the topics in Chn 215 are still confined to everyday conversations, the Chinese 225 Intermediate II class covers lessons which are in a great length on school life, dormitory experiences, selecting courses, computer and internet. By watching selected contemporary Chinese movies, students integrate what they have learned from Chn 110 to Chn 225 and gain a deeper understanding of Chinese culture. A newspaper article dealing with current events is offered in Chn 225 to help students transition from everyday conversation to topics of public and community interests. Students will learn an additional 250-300 characters in Chn 225. After the completion of Intermediate Chinese I and II classes, students are expected to be at the intermediate high level of the ACTFL guidelines in Chinese. In other words, they should be able to converse with ease on topics of everyday life and be able to learn vocabulary on their own by watching movies or talking to native-speakers or through reading.
Allegheny offers one Advanced Chinese class, Chn 305, which can be repeated for credit. The subject matter includes China’s open policy, economic reform, the changes in Chinese people’s concepts and everyday life after China’s open policy in 1978, China’s one-child policy, notable people in society, and other significant topics. Besides offering vocabulary that deals with current events and matters of public and community interests, the sentence structure of this level is much more complex. For instance, prepositional phrases are usually put before the verb or the noun they modify. The attributive pattern becomes much more complex because there are usually quite a few modifiers before the modified and the modifiers are made from various patterns. At this level, students are required to present twice on topics of matters of public and community interests using the vocabulary they learn in class. They are also required to write three papers on topics such as the changes in China after 1978, the situation of Chinese peasants, the changes on Chinese people’s mindset, the comparison between Chinese parenting and American parenting, different views on adopting children between China and America, and so on. The professor is available in the process of composing for both presentations and papers. After the completion of Chn 305, students should be able to present and write narratives dealing with their observations and comments on Chinese society and culture, usually in a length of 300-500 characters. They are expected to be at the advanced low level of the ACTFL guidelines in Chinese.
In addition to these five language courses, the Chinese Language/culture minor requires students to take one culture course conducted in English, either Chinese Civilization (Chn 200), Modern Chinese Literature (Chn 355) or Contemporary Chinese Cinema (Chn 385). These English courses provide a survey of the respective field so that students engage in the political, societal, cultural or aesthetic issues important to the ancient civilization or modern China. International Studies majors with a Chinese Language/culture minor are required to write one and a half pages of the senior project abstract in Chinese, which is about 1500 characters. Writing for the senior project is considered a continuous effort in improving academic writing. The process propels students to learn more on writing academic Chinese, with the professor’s help.
So far there are two self-designed Chinese Language/culture majors. These majors took one semester abroad studying in intensive advanced Chinese language courses. In addition, they took courses in Chinese literature, Chinese history, Chinese politics, Chinese religions, or Chinese economy, which are available in the respective department of Allegheny. The major requires students to write one chapter of their senior project entirely in Chinese. A wide selection of courses in different fields and an intensive study of Advanced Chinese language prepares majors for further graduate study on China or a career related to China.