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Beginners’ Chinese

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This introductory module is carefully structured and designed to develop the skills you need to speak and understand basic Mandarin Chinese in everyday contexts such as work, family life and travelling. You’ll also learn how to read simplified characters and explore the geography and history of Chinese-speaking cultures. The study resources include printed materials, a free Chinese@OU app and a dedicated website with a variety of activities which support independent learning. Together, they’ll give you not just language-learning skills, but also a real feel for Chinese-speaking cultures.

What you will study

Throughout this module, you'll learn about the concepts, skills and strategies required to learn Chinese successfully. Over six thematic units, you'll learn new language covering levels A1 and working towards A2 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. It covers levels 1 and 2 of the Chinese Proficiency Test Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi (HSK).

The six units centre around the following themes:

  • Greetings and introductions, names and nationalities
  • Family and friends, occupations, age and dates
  • Leisure and learning, daily activities and sports
  • Visiting places, food and weather
  • Travelling, means of transport, telling the time and directions
  • Shopping and technology, bargaining, exchanging money and online shopping

The study materials are carefully structured and graded, and provide ample opportunities to practise the language in realistic contexts. This module teaches Mandarin Chinese pronunciation and Chinese script in simplified characters. In the module’s key vocabulary glossary, traditional characters are provided alongside simplified characters whenever necessary.

In addition to language skills (reading, writing, listening and speaking in Chinese), you'll develop an awareness of cultural diversity in Chinese-speaking countries and regions.

You'll also learn 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. The module will also help you develop your intercultural communication competence, your critical thinking and digital literacy, all of which are considered important employability skills.

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 the module, please speak to an adviser.

Preparatory work

As part of the module, there will be a selection of induction sessions to help you familiarise yourself with the module materials, website and OU terminology. You will receive detailed information after registration.

What's included

You'll be provided with a printed Workbook which focuses on the learning of Chinese characters and you’ll have access to a module website, which includes:

  • a week-by-week study planner
  • course-specific module materials
  • audio and video content (downloadable and with transcripts)
  • assessment details and submission section
  • online tutorial access
  • additional resources in language and culture
  • access to forums where you can communicate with your module team, tutor and fellow students.

Chinese@OU is a free character learning app developed by the OU’s Chinese language team that can be downloaded via the Apple Store and Google Play Store.

Computing requirements

You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11) or macOS Ventura or higher.

Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

Our module websites comply with web standards, and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop, as described above.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

Throughout your module studies, you’ll get help and support from your assigned module tutor. They’ll help you by:

  • Marking your assignments (TMAs) and providing detailed feedback for you to improve.
  • Guiding you to additional learning resources.
  • Providing individual guidance, whether that’s for general study skills or specific module content.
  • Facilitating online discussions between your fellow students, in the dedicated module and tutor group forums.

Module tutors also run face-to-face and online tutorials throughout the module. Where possible, recordings of online tutorials will be made available to students. While these tutorials won’t be compulsory for you to complete the module, you’re strongly encouraged to take part.


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

The tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) will test your writing and speaking skills. Your listening and reading skills will be tested by interactive computer-marked assignments (iCMAs) on the module website.

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying L108 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 starts once a year – in October.

This page describes the module that will start in October 2024.

We expect it to start for the last time in October 2033.

Course work includes:

3 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
3 Interactive computer-marked assignments (iCMAs)
No examination