Research on ChineseCharacter Literacy for CFLLearnersClaudia RossCollege of the Holy Crosscross@holycross.edu
Speak First, Read SecondL1 Learners: Shu, Hua and Richard C. Anderson. “Learning to ReadChinese: The Development of Metalinguistic Awareness.”Reading Chinese Script, A Cognitive Analysis. Ed.Wang, Inhoff, and Chen. New Jersey: Lawrence ErlbaumAssociates, 1999. 1-18. Findings: Children tap into their knowledge of spokenChinese, using the phonetic element of unfamiliarcharacters to guess the pronunciation of characters theyhave not learned. That is, knowing words in their spokenform enhanced the ability of L1 leaerners to identify thecharacters used to write the words.
L2 Learners: advice Dew, James. “Language is Primary, Script is Secondary: TheImportance of Gaining a Strong Foundation in the LanguageBefore Devoting Major Efforts to Character Recognition.” 汉字的认知与教学－西方学习者汉字认知国际研讨会 (Proceedingsfrom the Conference on Cognition, Learning and Teaching ofChinese Characters) Ed. Guder, Jiang, and Wan.Zhao Jinming (赵金铭). “初级汉语教学的有效途径 “先语后文”辩证” (“An effective approach to elementary Chinese teaching: Thedialectic of ‘Starting with Oral Work and Character teaching follows”).Proceedings of the 7th International Conference on Teaching Chineseas a foreign language. 2010.
Stroke Order KnowledgeEnhances Character RecognitionL1 Learners: Huang, Jong-Tsun and Man-Ying Wang. “From Unit to Gestalt:Perceptual Dynamics in Recognizing Chinese Characters.”Language Processing in Chinese. Ed. Chen, Hsuan-Chih and OvidTzeng, Amsterdam: Elsevier Sciences Publishers, 1992. 3-35.This study reports on several studies of character recognition amongnormal-brained adult native speakers.All studies confirmed that when the segments of a character (eitherstrokes, or 部件) were presented in normal sequence, nativereaders easily identified the characters, but when presented out ofnormal sequence, the subjects took longer to identify thecharacter, or had difficulty identifying the character, or couldn’tidentify the character.
L2 Learners:Claudia Ross. “Visual Glueing: The relevance ofstroke order for CFL learners. Presentation atthe Annual Meeting ofCLTA, Philadelphia, November 2012.
Students tested: Students in their 3rd and 7th semesters ofChinese at the College of the Holy Cross. Students in their 7thsemester had all just returned from a semester or a year ofstudy in China. Students in the 3rd semester had not studiedabroad.Both groups tested on strokes shown in conventional orderBoth groups were able to identify characters.7th semester students tested on strokes shown out of order.They could not identify any of the characters.Conclusion: CFL learners appear to incorporate stroke order intheir storage of characters in long-term memory. Either theyhave internalized stroke order rules, or stroke order generallyfollows an innate organizing principle (left to right, top tobottom) that is not specific to Chinese.
Implications1. Attention to stroke order appears toenhance recognition.2. CFL learners should be directed to focus onstroke order when learning characters.3. Stroke order is one of a number of featuresof characters that learners should payattention to in order to most efficientlylearn characters.
First Strokes –HighestInformation LoadL1 learners Huang, Jong-Tsun and Man-Ying Wang. “From Unitto Gestalt: Perceptual Dynamics in RecognizingChinese Characters.” Language Processing in Chinese. Ed.Chen, Hsuan-Chih and Ovid Tzeng, Amsterdam: ElsevierSciences Publishers, 1992. 3-35.They found that fluent native readers retrievecharacters by stroke order; fluent L1 readers rely onthe top left side of characters, and in most cases, thefirst strokes of a character, in their identification ofcharacters.)
Awareness of Component PartsEnhances Character RecognitionL1 Learners Flores d’Arcais, “Graphemic, Phonological, and SemanticActivation Processes during the Recognition of ChineseCharacters.” Language Processing in Chinese. Ed.Chen, Hsuan Chi and Ovid Tzeng. Elsevier SciencesPublishers. 1992. 37-66.The most successful L1 readers rely uponradicals, phonetics, and repeating components to retain andretrieve characters)
Shu, Hua and Richard C. Anderson. “Learning to ReadChinese: The Development of Metalinguistic Awareness.”Reading Chinese Script, A Cognitive Analysis. Ed.Wang, Inhoff, and Chen. New Jersey: Lawrence ErlbaumAssociates, 1999. 1-18.This is a study of reading acquisition by native speaking Chinesechildren in China.They found that elementary school aged children are awarethat certain parts of characters convey phonetic informationand certain parts convey semantic information, and they areable to use that awareness to guess the pronunciation ofunfamiliar characters and to correctly guess the form ofcharacters for words they knew only in spoken form.
L2 Learners Ke, Chuanren. “Effects of strategies on the learning ofChinese characters among foreign language students.”Journal of the Chinese Language Teachers Association 33.2(1998): 93-112.Ke found that CFL learners consider learning radicals to bemore effective than learning phonetic components. They weresplit almost 50-50 as to which they believed to be moreeffective: learning character structure or writing charactersrepetitively.
L2 Learners Shen, Helen. “Analysis of Radical Knowledge DevelopmentAmong Beginning CFL Learners.” Learners of Chinese as aForeign Language. Ed. Everson, Michael and Helen Shen.Honolulu: NFLRC, 2010. 45-65.This study builds on the findings of previous studies thatawareness of the recurring parts of characters aids inrecognition and production. It examines the perceiveddifficulty that students have in identifying and memorizing thesemantic or phonetic role of recurrent parts of characters.
Elaboration vs. RoteMemorizationL1 Research Shen, Helen. “Level of Cognitive Processing: Effects onCharacter Learning Among Non-Native Learners of Chineseas a Foreign Language.” Language and Education 18.2(2004): 167-183.Shen found that instructor guided ‘elaboration’ incorporatedin character instruction, including focus on radicals andphonetics, greatly enhances character retention whencompared with rote memorization without input frominstructor on memorization techniques.
Character Load and RetentionStudies on L2 learners (CFL learners) Jen, Theresa and Ping Xu. “Penless Chinese. “ Sino-PlatonicPapers. Ed. Victor H. Mair. Philadelphia: University ofPennsylvania, 2000. 1-15.The study tested the character retention rate of students at anivy league university who had studied 550 characters in theirfirst year Chinese course. They found that students retained39% (214) of the characters that they had studied. They didnot report whether they were testing the production orrecognition of characters.
Meng, Yeh, Pei-Chia Chen, and Claudia Ross, “Characterretention among CFL learners.” Presentation at the AnnualMeeting of CLTA, Philadelphia, November 2012.This study found that as the number of characters introducedin a first year college-level Chinese program increases, thepercentage of characters that students can identify andproduce declines.Students tested: College students at end of 2nd semester of abeginning level Chinese class at 3 different US colleges.84 students used Integrated Chinese and had learned 448characters at time of testing. (“write-all” approach)47 students used Routledge Course in Modern Mandarin andhad learned 161 characters at time of testing. (“selective”approach)
Pinyin – help or hindrance? It depends Help: Conveys and reinforces pronunciation. Hindrance:When paired with characters, distracts CFLstudents* from characters. Gaze directly to pinyinand remains there.*whose L1 is English and is written with an alphabetMeng Yeh eyetracking study, (presented at CLTA in 2011)