Elementary Chinese 1 — Open & Free

The first of two semesters on Mandarin Chinese that comprise CMU’s Elementary Chinese course. Click here for Elementary Chinese 2. Learn about Open & Free OLI courses by visiting the “Open & Free features” tab below.


Elementary Chinese 1 is the first half of a two-semester Mandarin Chinese course that aims to help beginners develop communicative competence in the basic four skills (listening, speaking, reading and writing) and culture of Chinese. The course curriculum is organized around the 5 Cs principles of the National Standards for Foreign Language Education for the 21st Century – Communication, Cultures, Comparisons, Connections and Communities. Elementary Chinese 1 covers 8 units. We recommend that students go through the units in order to take advantage of the systematic scope and sequence of the learning materials. However, the curriculum is also flexible for individuals and institutions to adopt and modify to meet their different needs, schedule and emphasis. The current course is available for low-cost use by instructor-led classes of enrolled students.

Note: the Open & Free Chinese 1 course includes just one sample lesson, Unit 2: Greetings.

Topics Covered:

  1. Foundation: pinyin and basic expressions
  2. Greetings
  3. Names
  4. Nationalities and languages
  5. Talking about studies
  6. Talking about yourself and your family
  7. Making phone calls
  8. Daily schedules

Course structure

Elementary Chinese 1 is part of a two-part sequence. The units in both courses have a consistent structure, containing the following main content and activities:

Main Content
  • Objective
  • Main video (+questions)
  • Video preview exercises
  • Text of the video
  • Text translation and pinyin with slower audio (students are strongly encouraged to listen and repeat after the sound files)
  • Text notes
  • Vocabulary tables
  • Video comprehension exercises
II. Listening
  • Pinyin recognition exercise
  • True and false exercise
  • Translation exercise
  • Question answering exercise
III. Grammar
  • Grammar notes
  • Sentence jumble exercise
  • Dialogue jumble exercise
IV. Reading Exercises
  • Reading comprehension
V. Consolidation Exercises
  • Picture description exercise
VI. Culture Link
  • Culture notes
  • Culture info
VII Characters
  • Characters in the character book (both traditional and simplified versions)

What students will learn

By the time they finish this course, students will have:

  • developed communicative competence in the basic four skills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing
  • an introduction to Chinese culture

Learning objectives by module

Not applicable.

Course assessments, activities, and outline

UNIT 1: Foundations

Module 1: Pinyin Intro

Module 2: Palatal, Dental and Retroflex Initials

Module 3: Compound Finals

Module 4: Nasal Finals

Module 5: Special Pinyin Rules

Module 6: Pinyin Review Exercises

Module 7: Basic Chinese Expressions

UNIT 2: Greetings

Module 9: Main Content

Module 10: Listening

Module 11: Grammar

Module 12: Reading Exercises

Module 13: Consolidation Exercises

Module 14: Culture Link

UNIT 3: Names

Module 16: Main Content

Module 17: Listening

Module 18: Grammar

Module 19: Reading Exercises

Module 20: Consolidation Exercises

Module 21: Culture Link

UNIT 4: Nationalities

Module 23: Main Content

Module 24: Listening

Module 25: Grammar

Module 26: Reading Exercises

Module 27: Consolidation Exercises

Module 28: Culture Link

UNIT 5: Studies

Module 30: Main Content

Module 31: Listening

Module 32: Grammar

Module 33: Reading Exercises

Module 34: Consolidation Exercises

Module 35: Culture Link

UNIT 6: Self and Family

Module 37: Main Content

Module 38: Listening

Module 39: Grammar

Module 40: Reading Exercises

Module 41: Consolidation Exercises

Module 42: Culture Link

UNIT 7: Phone Calls

Module 44: Main Content

Module 45: Listening

Module 46: Grammar

Module 47: Reading Exercises

Module 48: Consolidation Exercises

Module 49: Culture Link

UNIT 8: Daily Schedule

Module 51: Main Content

Module 52: Listening

Module 53: Grammar

Module 54: Reading Exercises

Module 55: Consolidation Exercises

Module 56: Culture Link

Other course details

This is a semester-long course, designed to take approximately 15 weeks.

Coming soon.

System requirements

OLI system requirements, regardless of course:

  • internet access
  • an operating system that supports the latest browser update
  • the latest browser update (Chrome recommended; Firefox, Safari supported; Edge and Internet Explorer are supported but not recommended)
  • pop-ups enabled
  • cookies enabled

Some courses include exercises with exceptions to these requirements, such as technology that cannot be used on mobile devices.

This course’s system requirements:

  • Audio recording software


OLI Website:
New look and
New student registration process

OLI’s website has undergone a refresh, and so has the student registration process. Watch the video to see how easily students can register with a Course Key.

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