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Beginners' Chinese

Qualification dates
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第一步 Dì yī bù: beginners’ Chinese will give you the skills you need to speak and understand simple Chinese (Mandarin) in everyday contexts. No previous knowledge of Chinese is required. This key introductory OU level 1 module will take you through a wide range of practical situations such as socialising, shopping and getting around. Study resources include printed materials and a dedicated website with a variety of online activities - which support independent learning. And while you’re learning the language you’ll explore aspects of Chinese society and culture, which will give you a real feel for the Chinese way of life.

What you will study

This module has at its core the following elements:

  • a step-by-step introduction to the Mandarin Chinese speech sounds and the formation of Chinese characters
  • user-friendly, concise instruction dealing with the Chinese grammar and language use, and useful information on relevant cultural aspects
  • gradual introduction of basic vocabulary, set phrases and sentence patterns
  • audio materials, featuring recordings by native speakers of Chinese
  • regular online listening, speaking, reading and grammar exercises with immediate feedback to monitor your progress
  • gradual development of study and language skills.

The study materials are carefully structured and graded, and provide ample opportunities to practise the language in realistic contexts. This module presents Mandarin Chinese in simplified characters accompanied by pinyin throughout the first part of print and online materials (note: pinyin is used less in the second half of the materials). There are notes on significant regional variations in the language whenever relevant.

This module is designed to enable you to achieve a level of language proficiency equivalent to level A2 of the Council of Europe Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. You will have developed your knowledge and understanding of the language as well as an awareness of cultural diversity in Chinese speaking countries which form a key part of the learning outcomes for studying at this level. By the end of the module you will have developed key OU level 1 undergraduate study skills such as learning to work independently and using strategies which enable you to solve problems and analyse data.

Please note that no further Chinese modules are currently planned.

Entry requirements

This is a key introductory OU level 1 module. OU level 1 modules provide core subject knowledge and study skills needed for both higher education and distance learning. 

No prior knowledge of Chinese is required to study this module.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of this module, please speak to an adviser.

What's included

Books, audio CDs, and a dedicated website with additional online resources and activities. As a registered language student you have access to an online forum where you can communicate with fellow students.

You will need

You will need a CD player, and a device to play mp3 files.

You may wish to check that your computer set up allows you to access the Chinese Simplified font, or whether you will need to purchase an additional language pack. You should check your specific operating system and software for guidance.

We recommend that you purchase a bilingual dictionary as well as a grammar book, such as:

  • Collins Easy Learning Mandarin Chinese Dictionary (ISBN 9780007261130), HarperCollins Publishers, and
  • Modern Mandarin Chinese Grammar A Practical Guide by Ross, Claudia & Jing-Heng Sheng Ma (ISBN 9780415700108), Routledge.

Computing requirements

A computing device with a browser and broadband internet access is required for this module. Any modern browser will be suitable for most computer activities. Functionality may be limited on mobile devices.

Any additional software will be provided, or is generally freely available. However, some activities may have more specific requirements. For this reason, you will need to be able to install and run additional software on a device that meets the requirements below.

A desktop or laptop computer with either:

  • Windows 7 or higher
  • Mac OS X 10.7 or higher

The screen of the device must have a resolution of at least 1024 pixels horizontally and 768 pixels vertically.

To join in the spoken conversation in our online rooms we recommend a headset (headphones or earphones with an integrated microphone).

Our Skills for OU study website has further information including computing skills for study, computer security, acquiring a computer and Microsoft software offers for students.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You’ll have a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment on your written and spoken tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. If you’re new to the OU, you’ll find that your tutor is particularly concerned to help you with your study methods. This module includes a programme of tutorial events, all of which are offered online, and some of which are also offered face-to-face. You therefore have the option of attending all events online or a mixture of online and face-to-face. Where face-to-face events are held will depend on the geographical distribution of students taking the module. All of these tutorial events, whether online or face-to-face, will provide plenty of opportunities to speak and listen to (Mandarin) Chinese.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You must use the online eTMA system to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs).

TMAs assess your writing and speaking skills. Your listening and reading skills will be tested by computer-marked assignments (iCMAs) presented on the website. You will be given more detailed information when you begin the module.

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying L197 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

Future availability

Beginners' Chinese (L197) starts once a year – in October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2019. It will start for the last time in October 2019 – there's no planned replacement.

Course work includes:

4 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
4 Interactive computer-marked assignments (iCMAs)
No examination
No residential school

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