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Curriculum

Introduction

Core courses at IUP include listening comprehension (colloquial dialogues; radio news, radio discussion, TV reportage), colloquial language classes, reading, Classical Chinese. In all classes the principal classroom activity is speech. Similarly, while the emphasis in the spoken language classes is very much on oral/aural training, all texts from which students work are in Chinese characters. All spoken language materials, as well as most reading materials, are also on tape, and students are expected to make extensive use of these taped materials in preparation for their classes.

While we don't argue that the spoken language is more important than the written, and we do recognize varying balances of importance of these two aspects of the language in students' long range goals, there are several considerations that cause us to place special emphasis on spoken language instruction, especially in the earlier stages of a student's training. The most immediate and practical of these considerations is the fact that all Program classes are conducted entirely in Chinese. English is not used in the classrooms. Thus no matter how well you read, you cannot make effective use of classroom time if you don't speak well enough to ask questions about what you have read and to discuss it in sufficient depth to demonstrate to your teacher that you have indeed understood it.

Other important considerations are the belief that real competence must be built on a solid foundation, that good pronunciation and tones are essential to full and easy oral communication, and that while most character learning and reading practice are solitary activities, the use of classroom time for practice and correction of oral skills is crucial.

Class assignments for the first two modules (first four months) are made on the basis of each student's language background and performance on placement tests taken after arrival in Beijing. Students are given increasing freedom in the third and fourth modules to select materials directed at achieving professional, academic or personal goals - always, however, subject to the principle that generalized training in basic language skills (listening, speaking and reading) is prerequisite to work in advanced or specialized materials.