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Scoobyqueen

Academic research on methodologies for learning Hanzi

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Scoobyqueen

Does anyone know of a good list of research carried out in the above area? There seems to be a number of approaches for learning hanzi and it would be interesting to learn about the results of some empirical research if any exist.

Thanks in advance.

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mitcho

A quick search yields a couple studies on beginners' learning of Chinese characters...

Wang, 2003: Alphabetic Readers Quickly Acquire Orthographic Structure in Learning to Read Chinese basically tells you what you already knew: that students break characters down into parts, have an easier time with simpler characters, and there is a "frequency effect" (psych speech for "the more repetitions the better").

A more interesting study I stumbled on, albeit not with second language learners, was Ho 1997: Learning to Read Chinese Beyond the Logographic Phase. Ho notes that, looking at some elementary school students, they use not just analytical clues to break characters down into meaningful parts, but also phonetic parts. If we are to follow in the footsteps of native speakers (not necessarily a winning strategy in SLA, but an option) learning both common logographic and phonetic components will help build confidence and "guessing power," though you will of course still often be wrong. :)

Having grown up speaking (and reading and writing) Japanese, I can't add any good personal anecdotes, except from teaching Japanese: I always recommended that students put printouts of recent characters on their bathroom mirrors so they always stare at them while brushing their teeth... there is a certain lack of characters in daily life, unless you live in China, Taiwan, or some other places—the lack of literary immersion—that you can try to make up for slightly using such tricks.

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renzhe
A more interesting study I stumbled on, albeit not with second language learners, was Ho 1997: Learning to Read Chinese Beyond the Logographic Phase. Ho notes that, looking at some elementary school students, they use not just analytical clues to break characters down into meaningful parts, but also phonetic parts. If we are to follow in the footsteps of native speakers (not necessarily a winning strategy in SLA, but an option) learning both common logographic and phonetic components will help build confidence and "guessing power," though you will of course still often be wrong.

With many characters, I find that I can memorise the pronunciation/pinyin much more easily than the meaning. This is especially true for characters with complex, nuanced meanings.

So I will see the character, know instantly it's a "you" (for example), but then start to guess roughly at the meaning. When learning new characters nowadays, the pronunciation often settles in long before the meaning. Today's example: 稠. I've memorised almost instantly that it's a "chou2", but I still don't think "thick, dense" when I see it. I see a "chou2", and then I try to remember what on earth this means and could have this radical. Another character I've learnt today: 拇. The "mu3" part was the first thing that stuck in my mind. Only a few repetitions later did I associate this with a thumb.

The more characters I learn, the more I'm starting to lean towards the mostly phonetic understanding of them, as argued by John DeFrancis and others.

And this is the main reason why I'm skeptical about learning ONLY meaning before learning pronunciation, the way Heisig does with kanji. So, while this doesn't constitute research, only my personal experience, learning common phonetic parts early can be really helpful.

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