Frequently Asked Questions (Chinese)

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How many years of high school Chinese are equivalent to one year of Chinese at the UW?

There is no simple answer to this question because each program has a different style and pace of instruction. It also depends on how much material each individual has absorbed from the instruction provided at a high school program. It is not rare for students who studied Chinese for a few years at a high school to take ASIALANG 111 Elementary Chinese II, or even ASIALANG 101 First Semester Chinese, to solidify their foundations.

In many cases, the knowledge and skills a student has gained in a few years in a high school program are evaluated as less than one year of our curriculum. Some students may be assessed as having proficiency comparable to students taking Second Semester Chinese. Unfortunately, however, the Second Semester Chinese is offered only in the spring semester. While waiting until the spring semester for the Second Semester Chinese is an option for such a student, we think you may lose the proficiency that you gained during this time. Thus, we tend to recommend ASIALANG 111 or ASIALANG 101 for students who may be ready to take the Second Semester Chinese.

Every year, there are some students who are placed in Second Year Chinese or beyond. They tend to include those who have had experience living in China for an extended period of time along with the regular study of Chinese, or those who have taken college-level courses as a high school student.

When and how can I take the placement test? What kind of test is it?

If you are a student with prior experience in Chinese (e.g., self-taught, learned in elementary, middle or high school, or learned from family, relatives or friends, etc.) please fill out this questionnaire in order to receive appropriate advising or guidance about placement into language classes at UW.

The department requires that students who are new to our program take a placement test before enrolling in a language course beyond the first semester level.

The computer-based placement test includes speaking, listening, grammar, reading, writing and dictation sections. Students have up to 90-minutes to complete the test. You do not have to do any special preparation. Click here for the test time and place.

If you plan to come to campus for SOAR, please contact the department about arranging a placement test before your SOAR session begins. You will not be allowed to take the placement test during SOAR activities. This may require you to visit campus a day beforehand. If you cannot fit it into your schedule before or after SOAR, you can make an appointment during the week before the beginning of the semester.

Which track of Chinese should I be on?

The Chinese program has two tracks in the first two years: the heritage Chinese track and the non-heritage Chinese track.

The heritage Chinese track is designed for heritage Chinese students who possess speaking/listening skills but little or no reading/writing skills in Chinese. These students include those who were born in a non-Chinese-speaking country, but were raised in a home where Mandarin or another Chinese dialect was spoken, and those who were born in a Chinese-speaking country but received zero or limited formal education in that country. Heritage Chinese courses (ASIALANG 211 and ASIALANG 212) introduce functional vocabulary, a systematic review of grammar, various cultural related topics and writing skills.

For other students, they should select the non-heritage Chinese track.

How can I determine which course to take in the fall?

For students who select the non-heritage Chinese track, please review the checklist below and conduct a self-evaluation of your own skills.

Language skills checklist:

To enter ASIALANG 111

  • Can you read and write Pinyin 拼音 and about 200 basic Chinese characters?
  • Can you carry on a conversation about your daily life? (e.g., what time you get up, go to bed, and go to school,what you can and cannot do in class, weekend activities, hobbies, days & dates, self-introduction and introduction of family)
  • Can you describe your town/room (where things are)?
  • Can you make requests, invitations and apologies in various situations?

To enter ASIALANG 201

In addition to what have been mentioned above for ASIALANG 111, you are required to be able to do these, shown as below:

  • Can you read and write Pinyin 拼音 and about 800 basic Chinese characters?
  • Can you compare and contrast things?
  • Can you express gratitude, regret, disagreement or else appropriately?
  • Can you use the dynamic particle 了in different situations correctly?
  • Can you use the ba 把 and bei 被 constructions correctly?
  • Can you use existential structures correctly?
  • Can you conduct everyday conversations around these topics: dorm life, dining, shopping, apartment hunting, dating, sports, travel, holidays, family life or choosing a field of study?

If you think you should take ASIALANG 101 to review the materials from the beginning, you do not have to take the placement test. Just register for ASIALANG 101, selecting one of the sections that you can attend Monday through Friday.

What kinds of materials are covered in each course?

The following chart provides an overview of basic Chinese language courses:

Course No. Course Title Semester Credits Class Hrs /week Textbooks (Lessons)
Elementary Chinese I * Spring 3 3 Integrated Chinese, 4th Edition (Volume 1) (L 1-4)
Elementary Chinese II * Fall 3 3 Integrated Chinese, 4th Edition (Volume 1) (L 5-7)
First Semester Chinese * Fall 4 5
Lecture: 2
Discussion: 3
Integrated Chinese, 4th Edition (Volume 1) (L 1-7)
Second Semester Chinese * Spring 4 5
Lecture: 2
Discussion: 3
Integrated Chinese, 4th Edition (Volume 1) (L 8-10)

Integrated Chinese, 4th Edition (Volume 2) (L 11-14)

Third Semester Chinese Fall 4 5
Lecture: 2
Discussion: 3
Integrated Chinese, 4th Edition (Volume 2) (L 15-20)
Fourth Semester Chinese Spring 4 5
Lecture: 2
Discussion: 3
Integrated Chinese, 4th Edition (Volume 3) (L 1-7)
First Semester Heritage Chinese Fall 3 3 A Primer for Advanced Beginners of Chinese (Volume 1)
Second Semester Heritage Chinese Spring 3 3 A Primer for Advanced Beginners of Chinese (Volume 2)
Fifth Semester Chinese Fall 4 5
Lecture: 2
Discussion: 3
Integrated Chinese, 4th Edition (Volume 3) (L 8-10)

Integrated Chinese, 4th Edition (Volume 4) (L 11-14)

Sixth Semester Chinese Spring 4 5
Lecture: 2
Discussion: 3
Integrated Chinese, 4th Edition (Volume 4) (L 15-20)
Advanced Readings in Chinese I Fall 3 3 Reading into a New China (Volume 1)
Advanced Readings in Chinese II Spring 3 3 Reading into a New China (Volume 2)

*NOTE on the first year Chinese sequences:

There are two ways to complete the first year Chinese sequence:

  • Take First Semester Chinese in the fall and Second Semester Chinese in the spring (it takes 2 semesters).
  • Take Elementary Chinese I in the spring, Elementary Chinese II in the fall, and Second Semester Chinese in the following spring (it takes 3 semesters).

All the textbooks are available at the University Bookstore.

What are the pros and cons of taking ASIALANG 101 versus ASIALANG 111 after studying some Chinese at a high school?

As mentioned above, the majority of students who have a few years of high school Chinese will be recommended to take ASIALANG 111 or ASIALANG 101 in their first semester here.

Differences between the two courses include the followings:

ASIALANG 101 First Semester Chinese

  • 4 credit course that meets 5 hours a week (2 hours of lectures and 3 hours of discussions)
  • Team-taught by a faculty member (lectures) and teaching assistants (discussions)

ASIALANG 111 Elementary Chinese II

  • 3 credit course that meets 3 hours a week
  • Taught by one instructor

In the spring semester, students from both of these courses will get together in ASIALANG 102 Second Semester Chinese (4 credit course that meets 5 hours a week).

The benefits of taking ASIALANG 101 in the fall is that you can practice Chinese every day and get used to the pace of 5 hours a week instruction. The information provided in lectures would solidify your knowledge of the language. Your past experience will help you feel comfortable in the course. But please keep in mind that you must establish good study habits during the first semester, or by the end of the semester, you may end up falling behind students who struggle at the beginning but nonetheless adapt to the pace of instruction. So, it is important to keep reminding yourself that you should approach the course with fresh attitude.

ASIALANG 111, on the other hand, meets only three hours a week. This means that you will have less time for in-class practice, but it might be easier to fit this course into your schedule. The elements of lectures and discussions in ASIALANG 101 are combined in one class period. In the spring semester, however, you will not have this option of 3-hour slow track course. So, at the beginning of the spring semester, you have to get used to a different structure and pace of the course. As mentioned earlier, in order to register for ASIALANG 111, you need to take the placement test.

What are the differences between lectures and discussions? Do I have to attend both of them?

Yes, you need to attend both lectures and discussions. Lectures are taught by a professor in charge of the course while discussions are taught by graduate teaching assistants (TA), who are native or near-native speakers of Chinese. Lecture sessions introduce new grammatical structures, expressions, orthography, cultural notes, etc. and aim to have students understand key concepts. On the other hand, discussion sessions are devoted to practice using the language through drills, role-plays, topic conversations, etc. rather than talking about the language. Discussion sessions also have you practice reading and writing as well. The use of English in discussion sessions will be at a minimum from the beginning because we want to have you learn the language in a semi-immersion environment. Even in the lecture sessions, the use of English will decrease gradually with your proficiency improving.

When and how can I declare a major or certificate in Chinese?

If you have questions about our programs and are exploring your options; or you are ready to declare a major please make an appointment to meet with Rachel Weiss, Undergraduate Advisor:

Rachel Weiss
Office: 1244 Van Hise Hall
Schedule: advising appointment!
Phone: (608) 890-0138

Do I have to participate in a study abroad if I decide to major in Chinese?

It is not a requirement of the Chinese Major. However, students are encouraged to explore opportunities to use the language outside of the classroom, especially in internships or study abroad programs. Credits earned while on an approved UW-Madison program may count towards the major requirements.

Can I receive a minor in Chinese?

The University of Wisconsin-Madison does not offer any minor, but what we call a certificate is something similar to a minor in other schools. For students who are interested in combining the study of Chinese language with another major, our department offers a Certificate in Chinese Professional Communication.

Are there many people who double major in Chinese and something else?

Yes. We have had students who double majored in Chinese and Anthropology, Biochemistry, Business, Chemistry, Computer Science, East Asian Studies, English, Engineering, Japanese, Spanish, International Relations, Linguistics, Physics, Political Science, among others. It is challenging to satisfy requirements for more than one major in a timely fashion, but it is doable. And it is advantageous for your future career to have some areas of specialty along with your Chinese language skills. In order to consider the possibility of double majors, you need to consult with advisors in both departments.