OVERGAARD, Signe: An analysis of various scholarly approaches to the acquisition of Chinese characters by students of Chinese as a foreign language
Among students of Chinese as a foreign language, learning to read and write Chinese characters is usually perceived as the hardest part of learning the language. A number of researchers have for this reason investigated how this task can be made easier by employing various methods. Among these researchers are Wang Bixia et al. (1997) and Jiang Liping (1998). They both choose to investigate which learning strategies students employ when learning Chinese characters. In the light of their analysis they give an account of which pedagogical methods one should apply in order to make the task easier for students. In this study I analyse Wang Bixia et al.’s and Jiang Liping’s research in order to find out whether the methodology of their investigation can provide an exhaustive answer to the question of which pedagogical methods should be applied in teaching Chinese characters. My analysis also involves other studies on the learning of Chinese characters by foreign language students, which can shed some light on this problem. Among these are Ke Chuanren’s (1998) investigation of the effects of strategy use in character learning, Michael E. Everson’s (1998) investigation of the relationship between naming and knowing in the recognition of Chinese characters, Everson and Ke’s (1997) investigation of reading strategies among intermediate and advanced students, Jerome L. Packard’s (1990) investigation of the effects of postponing the character learning in the beginniner’s language curriculum, and Andreas Manitius-Guder’s (1998) analysis of selected character components as an aid for the choice of characters and character components to be included in the Chinese language curriculum. My conclusions are that Wang et al.’s and Jiang’s research does not offer an exhaustive answer to the question of which teaching strategies should be employed to make the learning of Chinese characters easier. It does, however, contribute to a better understanding of the problem.