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Frequently Asked Questions

CIRU: Confucius Institute at Rhodes University

Q: Is Chinese Studies a credit-bearing course?

A: Yes. Chinese Studies 1; 2 and 3 are all offered as full year credit courses. Please note that they are not semesterised; i.e. they are taken as year-long courses.

Q: Is Chinese Studies offered as a major?

A: Yes. Chinese Studies 3 is offered as a major.

Q: Which dialect is taught during the Chinese Studies courses?

A: You will be learning Mandarin, also known as Putonghua, which means ‘the common language.’ Putonghua is spoken and understood by the majority of the Chinese population. China is rich in dialects, but the majority of the population is able to converse in Putonghua.

Q: Do we learn to write Chinese characters as well as speak the language?

A: Yes. You will be introduced to the Roman phonetic system of writing and reading called Pinyin, which means ‘spelling sound.’ Once you have mastered this system, Chinese characters will be introduced. By the time you commence Chinese Studies 2, you will be reading and writing in characters entirely, using pinyin as a point of reference only.

Q: Does Chinese Studies encompass Chinese culture as well?

A: Elements of Chinese culture are incorporated into the curriculum, but only marginally; the main focus of the course is the language itself. The CIRU does, however, offer students the opportunity to visit the newly established Chinese Cultural Centre on 36 Somerset Street in order to immerse themselves in Chinese media, books, and the language, with native speakers available for conversation and interaction.

Q: Why is it called the ‘Confucius Institute’ as opposed to the ‘Chinese Department’?

A: While the CIRU offers courses that fall under Rhodes University’s degree programmes, the CIRU itself is partially externally funded. As one of roughly 300 Confucius Institutes around the world, the CIRU receives its funding from Hanban, the executive body of the Chinese Language Council International, which is a non-governmental and non-profit public institution affiliated with the Chinese Ministry of Education. Hanban is committed to developing the Chinese language and cultural teaching resources, as well as making its services available worldwide.

Q: Is Chinese (Mandarin) a challenging language to learn?

A: Although learning Chinese is no more challenging than learning any other language, it requires constant practice and revision. It would be a mistake to consider Chinese Studies as an arbitrary subject or a mere credit-earner, since it is considered one of the most time-consuming subjects by current students. The course is, however, greatly rewarding, and students are introduced to the language at a comfortable and reasonable pace.

Q: Are there additional costs involved in taking Chinese Studies as a subject?

A: There is a fee charged at the beginning of each year which covers textbooks, digital media, and handouts. Besides this fee, almost all activities offered by the CIRU are done so at no additional cost to its students.

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Last Modified: Thu, 30 Mar 2017 17:21:37 SAST