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Frequently Asked Questions about Chinese at Tulane

How much work is involved in taking Chinese?

The work required to succeed in Chinese is comparable to other rigorous language programs at Tulane. Taking Chinese involves three main time commitments: attending class, attending office and tutoring hours, and doing homework and reviewing material individually. First year Chinese courses meet five days a week for 50 minutes. Upper-level courses meet four days a week for 50 minutes. First year courses generally require that students spend at least half an hour per week outside of class meeting with the instructor in office hours or practicing with a conversation partner. Classes vary in the frequency and length of assignments, but generally students should expect to spend half an hour to an hour per day on Chinese homework and review.

Is it true that Chinese is harder than other languages?

As a spoken language, there is no evidence that Mandarin Chinese is more difficult than any other language – in fact, some scholars believe that it is a comparatively simple language, due to certain historical factors. Unlike European languages you may have studied, Chinese does not involve verb conjugations, gender, or endless exceptions that you have to memorize. Many grammatical structures in Chinese are easy to learn and similar to those in English.

As a written language, Chinese is slightly more challenging because it uses characters instead of an alphabet. However, you should keep in mind that Chinese characters follow certain patterns and contain many repeated elements. As you learn more characters, you will become familiar with these elements and find that learning new characters gets easier and easier.

I know how to speak Mandarin but I don't know how to read or write. Can I still take Chinese?

If you are a fluent speaker of Mandarin, we do not recommend that you take Chinese at Tulane. However, if your Chinese skills are mostly in listening, and you are not comfortable speaking except for daily conversational phrases, you are welcome to take Chinese to improve your speaking, reading, and writing skills. Please be aware, however, that the majority of students taking Chinese at Tulane have no prior background, and you may find that the courses here are not completely tailored to your learning needs. If you are unsure about what level of Chinese you should take, please speak to the Chinese program coordinator.

Is there a placement test?

Chinese does not currently hold a regularly-scheduled placement test. If you have studied Chinese in the past or are unsure about what level of Chinese you should take, please contact the Chinese program coordinator for a placement assessment.

Does Tulane teach simplified or traditional characters?

The Chinese courses at Tulane focus on teaching simplified characters, which are the type of Chinese characters used in Mainland China and Singapore. If you wish to learn traditional characters, certain instructors may accept work done using traditional characters, but you will be expected to be able to read simplified characters.

Also, please be aware that our course materials do not use bopomofo (Taiwanese romanization). All students are expected to learn to write and read pinyin (Mainland Chinese romanization).

Does Tulane offer Cantonese?

Unfortunately, we do not offer Cantonese at this time. If you are interested in learning Cantonese, or another Chinese variety, please let the Chinese program coordinator know, so that we can remain aware of student interests when planning future course offerings.

What happens if I do study abroad?

The Chinese program strongly encourages students with an interest in Chinese to study abroad. We are happy to accept study abroad language credits in place of Tulane Chinese language credits for the purpose of the China Studies major. We are willing to grant credit for Chinese programs that are not affiliated with Tulane, assuming that students provide the Chinese program coordinator with sample materials and evidence of the quality of the program. Students returning from study abroad should meet with the Chinese program coordinator to determine what level of Chinese at Tulane is appropriate for them.

Who can I talk to about Chinese program questions?

Students may contact the Chinese program coordinator, Lin Zhu (, with any questions about the Chinese language program at Tulane.