Home > Academics > Modern Languages

Perspectives from First Year Students on Learning Chinese

We asked several former students for their perspectives on starting from scratch learning the Chinese language. Here's what they had to say:

Q:  Why do I learn Chinese? 

A: Congratulations! Apparently you're one of the few souls brave enough to study the Chinese language! Of all the languages offered at Wofford, Chinese is certainly the most challenging, but being able to speak it will make you an extremely valuable asset in the US economy.  (Jeremy) 

A: There was no real debate for me whether or not to take Chinese. It seemed like an obvious answer. Knowing a critical language is highly advantageous and provides an "edge" with job opportunities, especially within the government.  Furthermore, China consists of roughly 1/5 of the world's population, so learning the language puts me one step closer to identifying with the world and its great diversity. One should seriously consider taking Chinese to expand one's horizons and the opportunities available to them. For instance, I plan on traveling to China next summer to study abroad and already knowing the language to some extent makes the trip all the more fulfilling because it expands one's capabilities within the country. (Sarah)

A: I have loved taking Chinese and it will open so many doors when I graduate. It may seem a little scary when you are learning the hardest language in the world, but if you just have to decide that you will succeed then you will. Taking Chinese has taught me to be disciplined and rushed me to new levels of success. It has been a lot of fun and you have a bond with your class mates that no one else has because you see them every day. There is more in the world than just Wofford and Chinese helped me realize that with hard work I can do anything.  (Merry Ellen)

A: The Chinese program at Wofford is awesome. The professors are excited about teaching and are eager to help the students learn.  I would suggest taking the class for at least one semester. I was a little nervous at first, but I have really enjoyed the class. Having class five days a week can seem a little overwhelming, but you would be surprised at how quickly you can adjust. At first the workload seemed very heavy, but you grow accustomed to having Chinese homework every day. At the beginning of first semester it took me hours to learn new characters, but now it takes me half the time it used to. Learning Chinese takes a lot of time and work, but it’s worth it. Plus, you get to have fun Chinese parties and eat good Chinese food! It’s a great class and I would definitely suggest taking it!  (Emily)

Q: Is Chinese hard to learn? 

A:  When I first enrolled in Chinese all of my friends told me that it was the hardest class at Wofford.  I almost believed them until after the first day of class when I found myself thinking of nothing else than the simple characters and words we had learned the first day.  (Elizabeth)

A: The first month is hard, because you still don’t really know how to study for it. Memorizing the characters is hard, and the class requires a lot of work. However, it gets easier. The characters become easy to memorize because you can relate them to previous ones, and the grammar is not that bad.  (Sammy)

A: I came into this class very skeptical, but after two full semesters I can honestly say that Chinese is my favorite class every day because we are literally building our knowledge from nothing. Every class period is so interesting. Don't be intimidated by the unknown and as the Chinese proverb says "it is difficult for those who cannot; it is not difficult for those who can." (Elizabeth)

Q: How does the alphabet work? 

A:  There is no alphabet. Words are symbols, but they are built of different components that help you identify the word. Therefore, each word has to be memorized individually and identified with its sound.   (Sammy)

Q: As a freshman, will I have enough time to study Chinese? 

A:  Freshman year is the best time to start learning Chinese! As you begin your time at Wofford, the challenges of the course will prepare you to take any other course offered here. You must work hard, but you learn so much. The time you spend studying and working is well worth it. (Anna Kayla)

Q: Does the class really meet 5 times per week and should it? 

A: Yes and yes! The class meets 5 times per week for 50 minutes each day. Because Chinese is different from any other language you may have studied before, you need to immerse yourself in learning. This includes class every day. This is the only way to keep your mind fresh and your language skills sharp. The extra time in class is needed to learn the tones of the language, and as the semester goes on, you will be glad you meet every day.  (Anna Kayla)

A: The way I imagine it, you had to be at school by 8:00 or 8:15 first grade through senior year of high school anyway… one more year isn’t going to kill you. (Chelsey)

A: Class meets five times a day, but it’s probably best that way. Because of that, it requires daily outside work, and if you start to slip, then you will fall fast. It requires diligence, but the actual work gets easier.  (Sammy)

A: I will be finishing up my first year of Chinese this semester. I have thoroughly enjoyed learning Chinese. Having the class every day may seem like a lot, but its not. It is necessary and beneficial because it keeps the material fresh in your mind and pushes you to excel. (Sarah)

Q: This class must have extra work since it meets 5 times per  week. Does it? 

A: This is a difficult question to answer. Yes, there is extra work since the class meets daily. However, this extra work is necessary to developing the skills needed to learn the language. Character copying, daily quizzes, recitations and oral presentations are just a few of the homework assignments. Every homework assignment given in the class is necessary and beneficial to building your  knowledge of the Chinese language. As long as you keep up with the work day by day, it won’t become overwhelming. You’ll find that spending time in the Chinese language is the best way to learn, and reviewing every day helps you to remember almost everything that you’ve learned. (Anna Kayla)

A: YES!!  You absolutely must study for this class. The daily quizzes and weekly tests require a lot of your study time, however it does teach you good study habits and great time management skills. But, what you put into the course, you will get back threefold.  It’s definitely the most rewarding class I’ve ever taken.  (Chelsey)

Q: What are some of the best study methods for Chinese? 

A:  Practicing and memorizing the characters and their stroke order is highly important because characters are the foundation of the Chinese written language. Listening to the readings helps you with pronunciation, and the CDs are especially important when you’re studying for your reading and recitation. The recordings help you to hear and understand the correct tones. Some other important study tips are to study the grammar sections in the textbook and pay special attention to the translations and exercises in the workbook. (Anna Kayla)

A: The work is not at all overwhelming. If you put the work in, when the test is given you already know everything on it, and you will make good marks.  Memorizing characters may seem hard at first, but the more you learn the more everything makes sense, and you  can even start to use or recognize characters that we haven't learned at all with your knowledge! All of the Chinese teachers are very helpful and useful if you ever need extra help.  (Elizabeth)

A: Make sure you listen to audio recordings as much as possible to help you get used to hearing the language. Going to Chinese table will also help you practice listening and speaking, and give you bonus points for the end of the semester. Be sure to manage your time wisely. Chinese is a 5 hour course, meeting five days a week and assigning more homework than your average 3/4 hour foreign language class. Perhaps the best way to approach studying Chinese is to look at the language like algebra. There are several patterns and constructions completely foreign to the English language. Just keep practicing!  It's also helpful to meet with the other students in study groups before tests, because each person learns the material differently. Good luck in your first year- I'm sure you'll enjoy the new challenge and cultural experience Chinese has to offer. (Jeremy)

A: My advice would be TIME MANAGEMENT! Practice everyday, and do work ahead of time. (Anjum)

Q: Is there anything fun about learning Chinese? 

A:  Learning Chinese has been one of the greatest learning experiences that I’ve ever had! It’s a unique and very interesting language that is clearly very different from English. Throughout the year, there are several activities that the Chinese Department presents, including the Harvest Moon Festival and the Chinese New Year. These events are great for getting people in the Wofford community involved and interested in the Chinese Department.  (Anna Kayla)

A: Learning Chinese has been a lot of fun. Outside of class there are other opportunities such as Chinese Table and Chinese New Year Party to practice the language and experience some aspects of the culture.  (Sarah)

Q:  Will that affect my GPA? 

A: I first decided to take Chinese when I registered for classes in the summer before my freshman year. Upon registering I was concerned that the work load would be too much to handle. I also realized that if I failed I would permanently damage my GPA. When Chinese classes began I was scared because the work load was rather heavy. By managing my time and staying motivated I was able to complete all my assignments without any problems. I ended up doing well the first semester and continued on into the second semester. My memorization skills have increased and learning Chinese is no longer the mile stone it once was. (Matt)