First-year Mandarin Chinese is designed for students who have no previous experience with the Chinese language.  Students will learn several hundred basic Chinese characters from the modern system used in the PRC today, and will also learn basic rules of reading and writing sentences and short paragraphs.  The primary emphasis of the course, though, will be on practical speaking and listening skills using dialogs and in-class interaction.  Students will also learn basic cultural knowledge such as formal and informal greetings, family structure, major holidays and other aspects of Chinese culture, history and geography.