The first year of the programme consists of intensive language acquisition in China or Taiwan. Applicants whose command of Chinese is assessed by the Department as sufficient for program entry in year 2 are exempt from year 1 and enter the programme in its second year.
During the first year, the focus is on language acquisition. Students take special non-native speaker courses and – if their language skills are sufficient – courses from the regular programme. The Department of Chinese Studies has considerable experience in administering such in situ modules at National Taiwan Normal University, Peking University, Shandong University and other institutions in China and Taiwan.
Course levels in situ range from beginner to near-native. Students sign up for the appropriate level on the basis of recent scores in internationally recognised tests of Chinese as a foreign language, or examinations held at the beginning of the academic year. Courses are conducted entirely in Chinese, with the obvious exception of translation from and into English. In most, if not all courses, group size ranges from small (4 or 5 students) to medium (about 15 students), with up to 20 or 25 contact hours a week. Language pedagogy aims at giving students as much content exposure as possible. Courses may include training in Chinese as it is used in radio and TV bulletins, conversation, writing, Premodern Chinese, short stories, and translation.