Frequently Asked Questions

Question 1: Is Chinese difficult to learn?

Question 2: What can be difficult in learning Chinese?

Question 3: Why should I study Chinese?

Question 4: What Chinese courses are offered at UVM?

Question 5: Who are the Chinese instructors?

Question 6: Can I major in Chinese at UVM?

Q1: Is Chinese difficult to learn?

A1: Here are some facts about Chinese to help you judge whether it is difficult to learn:

Chinese never changes its word endings. Chinese words do not change to account for different gender, number, case, and tense. Instead, Chinese uses adverbs, adjectives, and numerals to indicate those notions.

Chinese also uses Roman letters for writing. Chinese has two writing systems: one is logographic (Chinese characters), and the other is alphabetic (Romanized Chinese). All students in China learn both, and both are used in China.

Chinese has only four sounds that English does not have. There are 21 initials (i.e., consonants), which always appear at the beginning of syllables in Chinese. Only three initials ("j, q, and x") need to be learned by English speakers. Except the sound "," all the 38 finals (i.e., vowels and the combinations of vowels and nasals), which always appear at the end of syllables in Chinese are not new to English speakers.

Q2: What can be difficult?

A2: Chinese tones and Chinese characters usually present challenges to English speaking learners.

Each syllable in a Chinese word has a tone. When the tone is changed, the meaning of the word is also changed. Learning to speak Chinese is somewhat like learning to sing. Singers usually learn to speak Chinese quite well. Those who are "tone deaf" may have a hard time mastering the four Chinese tones in speaking. However, the Chinese in the way they speak can still be understood from the context by native Chinese speakers.

Chinese, a non-alphabetical language, has about 60,000 Chinese characters that are words or are used to form words. One can hardly remember a character without seeing it and using it frequently. The good news is that only 3,500 characters are commonly used nowadays. For students learning Chinese as a foreign language, mastering 1,000 to 1,500 characters would enable them to socialize, work, and study without much difficulty in China. If one has no problem recognizing and using icons on the computer screen, one can learn Chinese characters.

Q3: Why should I study Chinese?

A3: Here are some of the good reasons:

1. Chinese is a melodious and artistic language, pleasant to listen to and nice to look at.
2. Chinese sounds and grammar, in comparison with those of other languages, are easy to learn.
3. Writing Chinese characters help to develop better coordination of the right and left hemispheres of one’s brains.
4. China has a recorded history of more than 5,000 years. Knowing Chinese is the key to access the wealth of human knowledge recorded in Chinese.
5. China has the biggest and fastest growing economy and will continue to grow in many years to come. People who possess Chinese language skills will have more opportunities open to them.

Q4: What Chinese courses are offered at UVM?

A4: Here is a list of the Chinese courses offered at UVM:

CHN 001/002 Elementary Chinese (1st-Year Chinese)

CHN 051/052 Intermediate Chinese (2nd-Year Chinese)

CHN 101/102 Advanced Chinese (3rd-Year Chinese)

CHN 201/202 Advanced Conversation & Composition (4th-Year Chinese)

CHN 020 Chinese Characters

CHN 095/096 Conversational Chinese for Beginners

WLIT 110/111 Chinese Literature in Translation (English)

Q5: Who are the Chinese instructors?

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John Jing-hua Yin (印京华), Associate Professor of Chinese. He got his Ph.D. in Foreign Language Education from the State University of New York at Buffalo.  He began to teach at the University of Vermont in the fall of 1997. Before then, he had taught at University of Oregon, the College of William & Mary, and Chinese Summer School at Middlebury College.  He teaches these courses at UVM:

Chinese Characters (CHIN 020)
Intermediate Chinese Language
(CHIN 051/052)
Advanced Conversation & Composition (CHIN 201/202)
Glimpses of Chinese Culture (
AIS 005/006)
Chinese Literature in Translation (WLIT 110)

To get contact with him, write to





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Diana Yiqing Sun (孙怡清), Senior Lecturer of Chinese. She got her Master Degree in Education from St. Louis University.  She has been teaching at the University of Vermont since the fall of 2000.  Before then, she had taught at Washington University in St. Louis and the Chinese Summer School at Middlebury College.  She is a recipient of Kroepsch-Maurice Excellence in Teaching Award of 2006. She teaches these courses at UVM:

Elementary Chinese  (CHIN 001/002)
Advanced Chinese (CHIN101/102)
Advanced Conversation $ Composition (CHIN 201/202)
Conversational Chinese for adult learners  (CHIN 095/096)

To get contact with her, write to

Q6: Can I major in Chinese at UVM?

A6: Right now the Chinese Language Program does not offer a major in Chinese.   You may choose to have a minor in Chinese.  To get a minor in Chinese, you are required to take at least 15 credit hours of Chinese with at least 9 of those at or above 100-level, including CHIN 102.  3 credit hours at or above 100-level in Chinese literature may be substituted for three credits of language study beyond CHIN 102.

Comments and suggestions are welcome.
Copyright 1997 Chinese Language Program. All rights reserved.
November 14, 1997
Last revised:
September 3, 2007