Year Three: Advanced Chinese I

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Frequently Asked Questions

My oral Chinese still needs improvement so I don't understand why we should pay such a great attention to written Chinese.

The Chinese language has four sub-systems and they are all very important: Colloquial Chinese, Standard Spoken Chinese, Written or formal Chinese, and Classical Chinese. If you don't know colloquial Chinese, you will not be able to understand contemporary movies; if you don't know formal Chinese, you will not be able to understand Chinese newspapers, magazines, business documents, and almost all kinds of authentic materials in writing; if you don't understand classical Chinese, you will not be able to fully understand academic papers. After learning 2nd year Chinese, you already have a quite good command of the standard spoken Chinese. It is high time for you to widen your Chinese skills except for Classical Chinese which will be an important part of your 5th year Chinese. To decode the written Chinese is your current task but you will also learn colloquial (informal) Chinese and improve your standard spoken Chinese you have been learning since the very beginning.

Why don't we start learning written Chinese with short stories?

Two reasons: First, short stories are not written in typical Written (Formal) Chinese. A common practice is to use a special written style for the narrative parts but spoken (usually very informal) style for the conversations. Second, authors of the short stories have strong personal styles that differentiate from each other. On the contrary, the social/political comments share largely the identical style. So are the news reports. But we shall learn some short stories to use them as models to improve your narrating skills.

Shall we use idiomatic phrases in formal writing only?

There are two kinds of idiomatic phrases, classical ones and colloquial ones. The colloquial ones are mainly used in everyday life conversation while the classical ones can be used in many occasions, either in writing or in speech. Even in everyday life conversations, you may use classical idiomatic phrases that may create humorous effects.