EVERSON, Michael E.: Developing Orthographic Awareness Among CFL Learners: What the Research Tells Us
Recent research among Chinese children learning Chinese as their first language (L1) indicates that they develop an awareness of the orthographic principles operating in Chinese characters throughout their elementary school years, with this ability predicting later reading proficiency. This “orthographic awareness” is the ability of learners to use the components of Chinese characters to infer meaning or pronunciation. Shu and Anderson (1999) describe that learning to read requires “becoming aware of the basic units of spoken language, the basic units of the writing system, and the mapping between the two,” so the development of this awareness seems paramount for Chinese children in their literacy development.
The importance of this developing orthographic awareness has also attracted the attention of researchers who are interested in how this ability develops among adult learners of Chinese as a foreign language (CFL), especially those whose L1 employs an alphabetic system (Ke, 1998; McGinnis, 1999; Jackson, Everson, and Ke, 2003, among others). In fact, much of the empirical research dealing with developing literacy among this population has focused on some aspect of this very problem (Everson, 2002). This paper will focus on this research to accomplish three objectives. First, it will present the findings of empirical research conducted among adult Chinese language students who have learned Chinese in mostly United States academic settings. Secondly, it will scrutinize the widely divergent research methodologies that have been employed to answer a variety of research questions investigating how learners use, value, and process the orthographic components of Chinese characters. Thirdly, it will present a tentative research agenda that can build upon this empirical base. It is hoped that this paper will serve to introduce this research to an international audience that may not have access to these studies, as well as begin a dialogue for formulating a focused research agenda for the future.
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