World languages website Ethnologue states that Chinese is the most widely spoken language in world, with nearly 2 billion people in 33 countries speaking it. Furthermore, as of 2013, China is the second largest trading partner for the United States after Canada according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and American investors continue to identify opportunities in China. Online courses in Chinese tend to have some common characteristics. These can include video lectures, audio pronunciation guides and interactive lessons that allow students to get audio, video and textual feedback on their written work. Such activities are very similar to self-guided on-campus language lab components for traditional language courses. Like standard language courses, online courses often emphasize interactivity and assessment based upon proper usage and pronunciation.

Studying Chinese online

While Chinese vocabulary can be spelled out using the English alphabet, Chinese language courses will very typically place a major emphasis on the Chinese alphabet. There are a variety of reasons for the emphasis, one being that Chinese characters tend to provide indicators for the tone in which a word or phrase is meant to be pronounced. This can be highly important in learning Chinese since, being a tonal language, the meaning of a word can change based on the tone used by the speaker.

Though there are various dialects of Chinese, Mandarin being the most prevalent according to Ethnologue, many of them share the same Chinese alphabet. There are a variety of methods of using the English alphabet for the Chinese language. Major examples include:

  • Wade-Giles
  • Hanyu Pinyin

Online Chinese course structure

Individual language courses will vary from school to school, but reviewing the syllabi for several courses there are a few typical aspects that classes will focus on, especially at the introductory level:

  • Mandarin characters and pronunciation
  • Mandarin grammar and vocabulary
  • Language skits and dialogs
  • Chinese culture


"Chinese Computer Lab Instructions." Purdue University. July 21, 2014. http://www.cla.purdue.edu/slc/chinese/labs/

"Online Chinese - Elementary Chinese." Georgia Tech Professional Education. July 21, 2014. http://www.pe.gatech.edu/courses/online-chinese-elementary-chinese-i

"Summary by language size." Ethnologue: Languages of the World. July 23, 2014. http://www.ethnologue.com/statistics/size

"Top Trading Partners." United States Census. July 23, 2014. https://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/statistics/highlights/top/top1312yr.html

"School of Languages and Cultures." Purdue University. July 21, 2014. http://www.cla.purdue.edu/slc/chinese/

"World Languages, Cultures & Communications: Chinese." Dallas County Community College District. July 22, 2001. http://www.richlandcollege.edu/languages/chinese.php

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