Related disciplines

The Chinese program includes beginning, intermediate, and advanced courses that teach students to speak, read, write, and comprehend standard Chinese (Mandarin). The first-year class focuses on oral proficiency and grammar structures and culminates in end-of-semester projects that draw on the students’ interests. Reading and writing is emphasized in the second-year class, as students are introduced to short stories, poetry, and film. Student work in class and conference is supplemented by weekly meetings with the language assistant and by the lunchtime Chinese Table. Extracurricular activities include visits to museums and excursions to New York City’s various Chinatown neighborhoods.

Students of Chinese are strongly encouraged to spend a semester or, ideally, a year abroad at one of several programs, such as Global Alliance, Middlebury College, or Associated Colleges in China. These programs offer a range of experiences at different sites, including Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou, and Xian.

Students of Chinese language are encouraged to enhance their curriculum with courses in history, philosophy, and literature taught through Asian studies, as well as through religion and geography. 

Chinese 2021-2022 Courses

Beginning Chinese

Open, Small seminar—Year | 10 credits

Beginning Chinese is designed for students with little or no knowledge of Modern Standard Mandarin Chinese. The course aims to develop students’ communicative competency in listening, speaking, reading, and writing in Mandarin Chinese at the novice-high level on the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACFTL) proficiency scale. Students will learn the basics of the language, including sounds, grammar, vocabulary, and Chinese characters, as well as important cultural aspects. Through authentic materials and meaningful tasks, students will acquire basic communicative skills for essential, daily-life communication.


Intermediate Chinese

Intermediate, Small seminar—Year | 6 credits

This course is designed for students who have finished at least one year of Mandarin Chinese and for students who already have a basic knowledge of Chinese. The goal of this course is to help students to achieve intermediate-low level on the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) proficiency scale in Modern Standard Mandarin Chinese. Students will continue developing their communicative skills upon the foundation acquired. Students will reinforce and expand their language skills by reading, listening, discussing, and writing about topics related to daily-life events. By the end of the year, students will establish the ability to communicate in Mandarin Chinese to satisfy personal needs and basic social demands.


Virtue and the Good Life: Ethics in Classical Chinese Philosophy

Open, Seminar—Fall

This course centers on the close, detailed reading of a small number of foundational texts in classical Confucianism and Taoism. Our focus will be to explore how these texts might fit “virtue ethics,” which emphasizes moral character and the pursuit of a worthwhile life. Some attention will be paid to other forms of ethics, including those that stress either the adherence to duties and obligations or the social consequences of ethical action. Our primary goal, however, will be to examine the ways in which classical Chinese philosphers regarded personal virtues and “good character” as both a prerequisite to and an explanation of appropriate action and its consequences. Among the more specific topics that we will explore are: ideal traits of virtue, the links between moral values and different understandings of human nature, the pyschological structures of virtue, practices leading to the cultivation of virtue, the roles of family and friendship in developing moral values, and what constitutes a good life.