Amazon logo When you click the Amazon logo to the left of any citation and purchase the book (or other media) from, MIT OpenCourseWare will receive up to 10% of this purchase and any other purchases you make during that visit. This will not increase the cost of your purchase. Links provided are to the US Amazon site, but you can also support OCW through Amazon sites in other regions. Learn more.

Course Description

This subject follows 21F.102/21F.152 (Chinese II) in MIT's curriculum in modern standard Chinese (Mandarin). Together with 21F.104, taught in the Spring, Chinese III forms the intermediate level of what constitutes a four-term foundation in Mandarin. The foundation (Chinese I through IV) covers the core grammar of the language; it develops a sensitivity to linguistically appropriate behavior; it introduces extensive vocabulary and usage as a basis for conversational development; and it provides a step-by-step guide to the principles and practice of reading and writing Chinese characters.

In Chinese III, students will complete the basic grammatical survey of the language begun in the first year courses and consolidate and improve conversational skills; in reading, there will be a transition from the short texts of the sort encountered in Chinese I and II to stories adapted from traditional Chinese tales.


Chinese III continues where Chinese II left off, at the end of Part 2 of J. K. Wheatley's Learning Chinese: A Foundation Course in Mandarin (Unit 7), and will continue with all of Part 3 (Characters 7 and Units 8, 9, and 10) of the same book. Learning Chinese will be supplemented over the course of the term with material from two other texts, one focused on listening (which will be completed in Chinese IV), and the other on reading. These are listed below. Character reading will be mostly in the simplified set (jiantizì), but there will be occasional excerpts written in the traditional set (fántizì) as well. As before, you will be allowed to write either character set. For composition in characters, we hope that, with some instruction, you will be able to use the word processing software that is already bundled with the operating system of most computers.

The flashCube program (developed by Jordan Gilliland, a former student) is available for download on OpenCourseWare at the 21F.101/21F.151 site. It allows you to review all vocabulary (in phrases) and characters (in compounds and phrases) from Chinese I and II (Units 1-7, Characters 1-6). Its database also contains - or will contain - words and phrases for most Chinese III material. FlashCube functions include pinyin toning, dictionary lookup, and word-by-word translation. See the flashCube draft manual on OpenCourseWare at the 21F.101/21F.151 site for details.

Textbooks Required from the Start of the Course

Wheatley, Julian K. Learning Chinese: A Foundation Course in Mandarin (Part 3).
Parts 1 and 2 form the basis of 21F.101/21F.151 and 21F.102/21F.152, respectively, which are also published on OpenCourseWare.

Textbooks Required Later in the Course

Amazon logo Spring, Madeline K. Making Connections: Enhance Your Listening Comprehension in Chinese. Simplified character ed. Boston, MA: Cheng and Tsui Company, 2002. ISBN: 0887273661.
Comes with two CDs; used sparingly in Chinese III, more extensively in Chinese IV. The simplified character version (the one with the turquoise cover) is recommended.

Amazon logo Wang, Fred Fan-yü. The Lady in the Painting. Mirror Series A. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1983. ISBN: 0887100430.

Recommended Dictionaries

DeFrancis, John, ed. ABC Chinese-English Dictionary. Regular or pocket ed. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawaii Press, 1996.
This is the only Chinese-to-English dictionary ordered by alphabet without reference to the head character of a word. In effect, this allows you to look up a word on the basis of its pronunciation alone, with no knowledge of the characters that represent it (though searching by character is also possible).

Yuan, Boping, and Sally Church, eds. The Oxford Starter Chinese Dictionary. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2000.
A handy starter's dictionary, with good definitions and clear format.

Manswer, Martin H., ed. Concise English-Chinese / Chinese-English Dictionary. 2nd ed. New York, NY: The Commerical Press and Oxford University Press, 2004.
More entries than the previous dictionary, plus an English-to-Chinese section.

Grading and Assignments

The course grade will be based on class performance, on tests, assignments (including a final presentation), with the relative weighting of each as shown below:

There will be five tests, fairly evenly spaced through the term; though each will be focused on new material, all will be cumulative, so there will not be an additional midterm or final. 50%
Class performance will be evaluated on the basis of attendance (including promptness), preparedness, homework, and participation. 35%
A final oral presentation delivered before the class with appropriate visuals and other props on one of the subjects that you encounter in the textbook or in the readings (e.g. getting around in China, regional languages, advertising, Chinese meals). 15%

Other factors may come in to play in assigning a final grade, eg improvement versus stagnation over the course of the semester, and progress relative to starting level. Quizzes or tests missed without written excuse cannot be made up. Attendance and promptness is assumed; more than 4 unexcused absences (a week's worth) lowers your grade one letter; persistent tardiness will also add up to absences.


For the first few weeks, the focus moves back and forth from conversation to characters, which allows consolidation of one while the spotlight is on the other. While individual styles of instruction vary, most teachers, when dealing with the conversational units (review of Unit 7 followed by Units 8-10), work towards a crescendo, from simple, short exchanges as patterns are being introduced, to complicated, longer material as patterns, vocabulary and usage become more familiar. Units, or segments within units, culminate in relatively long dialogues or narratives that incorporate many of the new points of grammar and usage. Similarly, characters are introduced one set at a time, or a few pages at a time, with repetition and overlap, and frequent review until reading can proceed with accuracy and fluency.

How to succeed

  • Don't miss any classes at all - unless you are really ill.
  • Prepare ahead of each class (following the detailed schedule of assignments).
  • Read the material, then produce it from cues until you can; visualize; review old material (with flashCube) while you learn new.
  • Keep a running list of questions and notes as you work through the material.
  • Work with classmates; consult with teachers - earlier rather than later.
  • Stay playful!

MISTI China (For MIT students)

Interested in working or teaching abroad? Check out the MISTI program (MIT Science and Technology Initiatives). The MIT China Program (one of the MISTI programs) sponsors students working or teaching in China over the summer or a school year.


Part 1
1-9 Review of Units 7 and 6

Begin Characters Lesson 7
Test 1 on day #9
Part 2
10-20 Complete Characters Lesson 7

Unit 8 up to (not including) 8.10

Begin Reading Lady in the Painting
Test 2 on day #20
Part 3
21-32 Complete Unit 8

Lady in the Painting (cont.)

Begin Unit 9
Test 3 on day #32
Part 4
33-40 Complete Unit 9

Lady in the Painting (cont.)
Test 4 on day #40
Part 5
41-53 Unit 10

Lady in the Painting (to the end)
Test 5 on day #49

Presentations on days #51-53