Year One: Beginning Chinese
- Speak excellent Chinese with accurate pronunciation and tones, OK if in slightly lower than natural speed.
- Understand basic grammar rules.
- Be able to engage in communications on topics taught in the textbook orally or in writing. You can express yourself in complex sentences or short paragraphs with limited vocabulary.
- Recognize 600 or more Chinese characters that form 1,000 or more Chinese words.
- By the end of the second semester, your oral proficiency level should be "Novice High."
- Pay attention to pronunciation and tones to lay a solid foundation to future success. You will have greater difficulties to correct if you have got used to wrong pronunciation/tones.
- When you read the lessons, you must read aloud because that will help you memorize better.
- Don't forget the goal is to speak Chinese in a natural speed. It is NOT natural to make too many pauses.
- It is a bad habit to read the pinyin text instead of reading Chinese characters. The best way is to listen to the audio recording while reading a lesson.
- For Chinese characters, hand-writing is NOT so important at this stage. It takes too much time to practice hand-writing and therefore it is not an efficient way to learn Chinese. Use computer to write Chinese (full pinyin input to write Chinese characters). Use larger font (24 or larger) to stimulate your memory. NEVER write pinyin with pen because pinyin is just a tool, NOT a form of Chinese language.
- A very useful exercise is to listen to the audio recording of a lesson and typewrite it in Chinese. Compare the Chinese you created with the textbook if see if there is any mistake.
- Most of the textbooks of the Beginning Chinese teach Standard (idealized) Spoken Chinese that is neutral (neither formal nor informal). Don't be surprised when you hear native speakers say something differently or even contrary to the grammar rules that are often with limits.
Frequently Asked Questions
Although some programs in China offer first year classes, I don't recommend because Chinese teachers in the United States often know the needs of beginners better and the environment is not too important for a beginner. If you can only stay in China for one semester or one summer in your 4 years of college, the ideal time should be for Intermediate or Advanced levels.
Well, you can do that. As I know, however, there is a great chance that you will regret when you want to reach a higher level. To learn Chinese characters is not so difficult although hand-writing is really difficult.
Some experiments show just the contrary. Computerized learning of Chinese characters will enhance students' ability of recognize more Chinese characters. Now in China, most people use computer to write. There is no reason for our students to ban computer input of Chinese characters. However, hand-writing is surely a plus since calligraphy has been a significant part of Chinese cultural heritage. The key point here is on this beginning level, it is not worth spending too much time on hand-writing.
You don't need to learn both in this stage. Knowing both is a goal for advanced learners. You may start with either. Nowadays there are more people to start with simplified characters since there are apparently more people in the world to be using simplified characters. When one reaches advanced level, it is not too hard to learn the other writing system by intensive reading. With computer, to converse one into the other may be as easy as a single click (depending on your computer settings and software). If you are interested in Chinese history and intend to read of many classical writings, to start with traditional character will be a better choice.
Better not at this stage. I would suggest intermediate learners to start doing so because then you will have enough characters/words to make analysis.