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Course Description

This course, along with 21F.110 offered in the spring, form the intermediate level of the streamlined curriculum, which is intended for students who, when they began the streamlined sequence at beginning level, had basic conversational skills gained, typically, from growing up in a Chinese speaking environment, but lacked a corresponding level of literacy. The focus of the course is on learning standard usage of more sophisticated expressions than those for everyday use, on reading in both traditional and simplified characters, and on writing.

Required Texts

Amazon logo Shih, Chung-wen. Learn Chinese from Modern Writers: An Interactive Multimedia Language Program (Workbook). Columbia University Press, 2002. ISBN: 0231502362.
The published version of this workbook is in simplified characters. It is available on-line. You will need to hand in the workbook twice through out the fall term, the first time after we have studied the first two units, and the second the other three units. Therefore, you should purchase a copy no matter which form of characters you write.

———. A Reader in Modern Chinese Literature. Interactive Chinese, Inc., 2002.
Both simplified and traditional character versions are available only at the MIT Coop. You may purchase whichever one you prefer.

Additional handouts from the instructor.


To become familiar with, through close reading of texts in Chinese and relevant audio-visual and on-line materials, the fundamental political and social concerns of Chinese living in the first four decades of the 20th century that form the subject matter of the textbooks and other course materials. Exercises and examinations will be designed accordingly.

Characters and Pinyin

Students are expected to be able to read texts written in either the full or simplified sets of Chinese characters, but are free to choose either one in writing.

It is presupposed that students in 21F.109 Chinese III Streamlined have already learned the pinyin system of representing pronunciation sufficiently well to be able to learn new characters by reading pinyin accurately.


Class Performance (Attendance - 5%, Promptness - 3%, Preparedness - 5%, and Participation - 12%) 25%
Written Assignments 35%
Bi-weekly Tests (4 in Total) 20%
Presentations (3 Minute Presentations on Text-related Topics) 10%
End-of-term Paper (A 3 Page Double-spaced Typewritten Paper; 16-point Font) 10%

  • Attendance and promptness is assumed; more than three unexcused absences (a week's worth) lowers your grade one letter; significant lateness will add up to absences. Absences will count as excused ones only if you provide a doctor's note or a note from your academic advisor to the instructor.
  • Other factors may come in to play, eg improvement versus stagnation or deterioration over the course of the semester, and progress relative to starting level.
  • There are no make-ups for quizzes and tests. If you cannot make the quizzes on time, you should talk to the instructor to make arrangements for you to take the quizzes before your classmates do.
  • There is no final examination this term.
  • Homework handed in late will be corrected, but will receive no credit.

Advice On Approaching The Class

Engaging in a language class should not feel like a chore that you resent having to perform. If it does, you should probably do some serious thinking about why you are enrolled. A language, foreign or semi-native, is a discipline to be studied with attention and dedication. It requires a high level of concentration, and a systematic, steady approach. It is in fact a never-ending process, which involves a consistent accumulation of data (vocabulary) to be applied within a complex framework (grammar). As such, learning a language is often frustrating and so it should be dealt with patiently. But the result of understanding of a language provides lifelong satisfaction. If you approach this course by wondering how little work you can do and still get by, or if you approach this course by thinking only about what grade you are getting instead of what you are learning, then you will not succeed. If, however, you approach this class with dedication and a positive attitude, I guarantee that you will be rewarded with the satisfaction that comes from the genuine acquisition of knowledge and skill.