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Title: How to learn Chinese characters? Exploring the effectiveness of different learning methods in young Singaporean children
Authors: Toh, Wendy Hwee Bin
Keywords: Humanities::Linguistics::Psycholinguistics
Social sciences::Education::Chinese
Issue Date: 2019
Publisher: Nanyang Technological University
Source: Toh, W. H. B. (2019). How to learn Chinese characters? Exploring the effectiveness of different learning methods in young Singaporean children. Master's thesis, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
Abstract: Biscriptal literacy development can be challenging if the two writing systems are starkly different. Past research on early Chinese word reading and instruction has mainly focused on children in Mandarin-speaking societies or adult foreign/second language learners. Recently, the number of studies on biscriptal literacy development in children has been growing. In Singapore where majority of the children are learning both English and Chinese in early childhood, it is particularly important to study the methods of Chinese word instruction to understand how we can effectively support young bilinguals’ reading development in Chinese. Using several training paradigms, this study examined the immediate, retention and transfer effects after different modes of Chinese character learning among Primary One students in Singapore. The character learning experiments used the same sets of Chinese characters to study three different modalities (viewing, free writing and structured writing) and several different encoding methods (Pinyin – romanised phonetic coding system of the Chinese script, whole character, stroke sequence and radical knowledge) in six learning conditions. To compare the differences in the learning outcomes, various aspects of character recognition were assessed for each learning condition. In addition, the study also investigated whether children’s level of radical awareness (RA), which refers to the perception of radicals and components that make up compound characters, would mediate the effectiveness of specific learning conditions. Findings of Experiment 1 revealed that the presence of Pinyin during character learning affected character recognition (CR) accuracy by interfering with the orthographic form recognition (OR) and sound retrieval among the low RA children. For the high RA children, however, the interference effects of Pinyin seemed to be limited to meaning retrieval only as the absence of Pinyin helped them to remember meanings better. In Experiment 2, it was revealed that generally, the repeated practice of character writing was more effective compared to repeatedly writing its Pinyin, especially among the low RA children. The findings of Experiment 3 demonstrated that the structured writing modality was effective for character learning and retention, be it focusing on radical/component or stroke sequence. In particular, it helped children remember the orthographic forms of characters learnt better for a sustained period of time. The structured writing modality, regardless of its v focus, was found to be particularly effective for the low RA children in character learning as it allowed them to improve their learning outcomes. The transfer effects of the trained characters on children’s visual analysis skills and orthographic awareness were also assessed for each learning modality. The results suggest that both writing modalities were able to mitigate the adverse effect of low RA on children’s visual analysis skills, regardless of their learning outcomes. The viewing only modality, on the other hand, was deemed less effective, as the adverse effect of low RA on children’s visual analysis skills could be mitigated only if the learning outcomes were good. Through this research, evidence regarding the differential effects of the learning modes has been gathered to help us understand which methods better cater to the learning needs of different groups of learners.
DOI: 10.32657/10356/137108
Rights: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).
Fulltext Permission: open
Fulltext Availability: With Fulltext
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