Course Outline

Chinese Studies as a major course

Chinese Studies is taught by the Chinese Studies Division of the School of Languages, and is supported by the Confucius Institute at Rhodes University (CIRU).

Chinese Studies is a valid major offered by the Chinese Division of the School of Languages, Rhodes University. All Rhodes University students are eligible to register for the course.

Chinese Studies 1 at Rhodes University is a language course for non-mother tongue students who wish to acquire essential communicative skills in both spoken and written Chinese. CHI 1 covers a sizeable repertoire of Chinese characters as used in everyday communicative situations, and develops an awareness of and understanding of the cultural aspects of the unique Chinese writing system. There are no prerequisites for CHI 1.

Chinese Studies 2 expands and refines the skills and content of CHI 1. CHI 2 includes a service learning component in collaboration with a local PBO focusing on literacy. CHI 1 is a prerequisite for CHI 2.

Chinese Studies 3 offers, in addition to an intensive focus on the Chinese language, an introduction to Chinese civilisation, history, philosophy, and literature. CHI 2 is a prerequisite for CHI 3.

Understanding China

Understanding China is fifteen credit HEQSF level 6 course (i.e. formally called a semester long course at second year level) offered during the first semester. Understanding China combines an introduction to elementary Chinese language for practical purposes with an exploration of the key concepts, historical events and social processes for understanding China in the 21st century. This is a non-major course with no prerequisite requirements.  Understanding China may be taken in the second or subsequent academic years (but not the first) provided that it may not be taken in a curriculum which includes any courses in Chinese Studies.

Who should learn Chinese?

  • Students who plan to major in Commerce subjects - China is fast becoming a dominant economic and business influence in Africa and the World.
  • Students who plan to major in Political and International Studies - China is already a major global political force.
  • Students who are doing linguistics - Chinese is a prime example of a non-Indo-European language.
  • Students who plan to teach English as a second language in China - this will give you a head start in this alien environment.
  • Anyone who is interested in Chinese culture, literature and history.

Course Outline

The Chinese language courses, consisting of three year-long courses, each representing a different proficiency level, are the core courses that run through the three entire years of the programme to ensure that the students have sufficient exposure to a foreign language that does not have a linguistic context outside of the classroom. Apart from course examinations and tests, external examinations, such as HSK (Chinese Proficiency Test, levels 1-6, designed by Hanban and implemented internationally as a universal measure of proficiency in Chinese as a second language), are used as a measure of quality control. At the end of the courses, students must demonstrate that they can successfully pass HSK Level 5 or above.

Chinese pinyin, phonetics, and characters are the focus of the initial stage of the courses. Then Chinese grammar, knowledge of character formation, stylistic use of the language and the linguistic and cultural background to the Chinese language become recurrent elements running through the progressive texts that are organised with a coherent theme of the life story of a group of characters who live and learn Chinese in a context which, in some way, are comparable with or contrasting to the learners’ own situations. This seemingly authentic environment of language use increases the learnability of the textbook materials that are intended to enhance students’ comprehensive communicative ability in Chinese in terms of listening, speaking, reading and writing. While a communicative approach is the major methodology adopted for the language learning, students are encouraged to engage in academic research into the cultural and linguistic background of the target language through reading and the Internet. Group learning activities, aided with audiovisual materials accompanying the lectures in the classrooms, combine with tutorials and individualised learning with workbooks, CDs and DVDs; in addition, online interactive language practice materials and references sources are available for students to access as additional aids to their learning and studies.

No prior knowledge of the Chinese language is needed when the students are enrolled into the programme. As expected outcomes upon completion of the courses, students are expected to be able to converse in an everyday situation with native speakers of Chinese with intelligibility. They should be able to read non-technical materials in the target language with relative ease and write functionally to meet normal daily communicative needs. The ability to translate, with the aids of dictionaries and online resources, materials used for basic and everyday communication is also a desirable goal. The intended proficiency in the target language acquired at the end of the programme is expected to conform to the specifications as is reflected in the HSK Level 5 examination or above.

In the first two years of language learning, after students have covered the first four volumes of the textbooks, they should be able to master over 1200 single Chinese characters with a working knowledge of between 2000 and 2500 words. This is measured by the passing of HSK Level 4. This is the designated passage of the elementary stages of Chinese learning. In the third year of language study, students move into the intermediate stage of their Chinese language learning. Depending on students’ interest and the ability in engaging in extended study beyond the textbooks, students’ further achievements in the Chinese language may vary. However, by the end of the third year students must acquire a proficiency level equivalent to HSK Level 5 or above. This will be measured through a compulsory attendance of HSK.

The six volumes of the language textbooks include 70 units, consisting of knowledge of Chinese phonology, orthography, grammar and vocabulary, reading texts, conversations, and listening, speaking and writing topics, as well as notes on cultural knowledge. Each textbook is coupled with a workbook, CDs, and DVDs, which provide audiovisual materials that facilitate the study of the textbooks. Language items are learned in a progressive manner with a high frequency of recurrence of the learned items.


Chinese Studies has been approved by the Rhodes University Academic Planning Unit as well as Quality Assurance and it, hence, is also SAQA approved, as are all courses at the university.

Prescribed and Recommended Readings

Major Textbooks (Sold by the CIRU):

New Practical Chinese Reader, vols. 1 to 6 with textbooks and workbooks, CDs, DVDs., Liu, X (ed.) Beijing Language & Culture University Press, 2002 (1st ed)/2010 (2nd ed).
(For the individual modules offered in the third year, handouts from various sources form the stem of textbook materials in class. They may come from too many books and resources to be listed here.)

Optional Self-Study Set:

  • 2500 Chinese Characters (Software with flash animated demonstration of how they are written and pronounced, with examples of basic uses of them in words and phrases);
  • Online lessons for interactive language practice: Communicative Chinese (Great Wall Chinese Series), Ma, JF (ed.) Beijing Language & Culture University Press, 2005. (online exercises).

Other Recommended References:

  • Quwei Hanyu Pinyin. (Interesting Way of Learning Pinyin), Cai, YL & Liu, DL. Beijing: World Books Publishing House, 2007.
  • Common Knowledge about Chinese History, Wang, K (ed.) Beijing: Higher Education Press. 2006.
  • Common Knowledge about Chinese Geography, Jiao, HF (ed.) Beijing: Higher Education Press. 2006.
  • Common Knowledge about Chinese Culture, Ren, QL (ed.) Beijing: Higher Education Press. 2006.
  • San Zi Jing _ a Guided Reader, Han, C (ed.) Tongliao: Inner Mongolia Children’s Press. 2006.
  • Chinese Idioms and their Stories, Li, ST. China International Radio Press, 1996.
  • 5000 Years of Chinese Culture. Ding, WM (ed.). Beijing: Jiuzhou Books Publisher, 1998.
  • A History of Chinese Philosophy, Feng YL. New York: Macmillan & Free Press (1934; rev. ed., 1952–53, reprinted 1997), 1983: translated by Derk Bodde (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press).
  • Selected Collection of Chinese Classic Poems and Essay, Xu, XL (ed.) Tianjin: Tianjin Classic Works Publisher. 2006.
  • Any other documentation which will indicate your compliance with this criterion.

Expected Outcomes of the Course

Students who have completed the course successfully are expected to be able to understand and speak Chinese in a number of everyday situations and to be familiarised with a basic set of Chinese characters. They are also expected to develop an interest in Chinese from the perspective of intercultural communication.

The course is designed to achieve the following specific outcomes. Upon successfully completing the course, a student should be able to:

  • engage in topic related conversations like greetings, talking about weather, time, likes and dislikes and other basic concerns in fairly appropriate Chinese
  • read Chinese texts with intelligible pronunciation and acceptable tones with the help of pinyin guide
  • understand and respond culturally appropriate in certain situations in Chinese
  • command, in spoken and written form, a fair set of commonly used Chinese characters with an understanding of their cultural interests, matching roughly the requirements corresponding to the Objectives in International Curriculum for Chinese Language Education by The Office of Chinese Language Council International in 2008
  • demonstrate some essential knowledge of Chinese customs and culture
  • pursue certain relevant issues in a particular academic area

Teaching and Learning Methods

Learner-centred communicative approach to Chinese learning is encouraged. Textbooks, handouts, video or audio clips, reference materials in print or online forms are used in lectures, tutorials and practice sessions of the class. Role-plays, group and pair works, task-based activities of various kinds are used as aids to practice and means to create a necessary linguistic environment in class. Cultural aspects may be demonstrated in Chinese and explained in English.

Students are expected to take an active part in the class and activities associated with the class assignments. It is not intended to be a course of learning about Chinese language and culture; instead, it is intended to be a course of using Chinese and understanding Chinese culture through language learning and experience. Extracurricular online learning and practice may be required as an additional effort to help create a Chinese learning environment by students themselves. To some extent, the outcomes at the end of the course will in part depend on the effort students may have put into the course. Language learning is largely a personal experience. An encouraging learning environment and friendly community of learners are indispensable assets to learners. The purpose of the lecture in language learning context is merely to help students to understand the background linguistic and cultural information and serve as demonstrations of language use. To the entire process of language learning, lectures are only peripheral. Effective language learning comes not from theory but practice. Learners are encouraged to learn from trials and errors, a phenomenon common to all language learning and necessary for developing practical skills. Interaction with peers is equally important as with the instructor. Self-assessment of the progress in learning is also an important element of learning.

Course Components

Lectures: Comprehensive lessons in which students are trained in all round language skills; background information and essential knowledge of grammar are explained and defined.

Apart from formal and informal lectures and learning sessions, other forms of classes may help achieving the intended goals through exercises in developing language skills so that students may achieve certain levels of communicative fluency.

Practice class: It is a lesson with a focus to train students to develop specific skills like Chinese characters, pinyin and so on. Additional practice is provided to supplement the lectures to offer students more authentic opportunities to be exposed to the language.

Tutorials: It is a question and answers session and may include a component for students to do online exercises in class (or at home).

All of the material will be provided.

Student Assessment and Evaluation

The assessment of the students’ performance is based on a scheme of “continuous evaluation”, including daily class participation and performance, homework assignments and extracurricular activities, as well as quizzes and tests. All marks from all written and oral assignments will be taken account of in the calculation of the final mark at the end of the year. As it is a practical language learning course, there will be no major examination at the end of the year. This assessment scheme leaves little room for those who have performed poorly during the year expect to rely on the final exam to significantly improve his/her mark towards the end of the year. Informal assessment such as self-assessment, peer-assessment and lecturer feedback will occur throughout the course. After each major exercise and at the end of each session students will be given an opportunity to reflect on what they have learnt during the course of that session through the compilation of a portfolio on their own. Students are required to attend all classes and to participate in all activities and tests. Absence from a test will result in 0% to your final unless a compensation test is given if a student can provide a valid medical certificate. In order to pass the module it is essential to fullfil all the assignments and homework and to attend all classes and required practice sessions. Formal assessment will take the following forms, with the percentage composition of the final mark indicated alongside each assesment:

End-of-term examination (180 minutes) - 40%

Written assignments and homework - 20%

Class tests - 10%

Oral test in May (15 minutes) - 10%

Oral test in October (15 minutes) - 10%

Class participation and attendance - 10%

DP Requirements:

In addition to the general university DP Requirements applicable in the School of Languages, except where otherwise stated, students doing Chinese Studies are required to abide by the following rules:

1) Attendance at lectures and tutorials is compulsory, except for those registered as occasional students. A student may miss no more than ten lectures and tutorials per semester, unless properly excused.

2) Students are required to do all classwork assignments, including those in both the textbooks and workbooks, as well as those assigned by the lecturers as homework. The written work includes tests, dictations, tutorial assignments, essays, and oral work scheduled during the year.

Last Modified: Tue, 14 Jan 2020 12:50:06 SAST