The Process and Challenges of Speaking and Writing Chinese for Nonnative
Dr. Hui-Chin Yang
Associate Professor of Education
The purpose of this study is to explore the process and challenges of
speaking and writing Chinese for nonnative speakers. The participants are 15 high school
students who take the Chinese language course, which meets 80 minutes for every
other school day.
Data are collected in the classroom setting during the 2007-2008 school year. Both the
students’ written tasks and their oral reading samples are collected. Their attitudes and feelings about the
challenges of learning Chinese are also elicited. The challenges and process of reading
and writing Chinese are analyzed accordingly. A theory of Chinese language
learning and teaching may be derived to enlighten the Chinese language teaching
Key words: Chinese as a Second/Foreign Language (CSL/CFL), Nonnative Speakers of Chinese
Chinese and English are different at either the writing system level or their orthographies (Perfetti & Liu, 2005). A writing system reflects the principles in the writing-language relationships (Perfetti & Liu, 2005). The logographic system of Chinese is different from the alphabetic or syllabic systems of English (Perfetti & Liu, 2005). In the Chinese writing system, characters maps onto morphemes, and therefore its metalinguistic awareness depends on morphological awareness (Li, Gaffney, & Packard, 2002). As compared to English, Chinese has deeper orthographies, which are characterized by arbitrary spelling correspondence (Tzeng, 2002). Phonetic awareness is closely associated with English vocabulary knowledge while morphological awareness explains variance in syllable awareness in Chinese vocabulary (McBride-Chang, Cheung, Chow, Chow, & Choi, 2006).
This study reveals that the pinyin system can help students to pronounce the character correctly. However, it is very difficult to differentiate the four tone marks in speaking or writing. The nonnative speakers can’t hear the variation of tones, which sounds the same to them. On the other hand, Chinese characters are much easier to learn than the phonics because characters are much more easier to understand. Learners try to break the characters into smaller parts and into the brush strokes. They memorize the character by imagining it as a picture not a word. The learner believes the best way to memorize the characters and pinyin is to practice writing and sounding out repeatedly.
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W. Y., Chow, C. S. L., & Choi, L. (2006). Metalinguistic skills and vocabulary knowledge in Chinese (L1) and English (L2).
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Tzeng, O. L. (2002). Current issues in
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W. Li, J. S. Gaffney, & J. L. Packard (Eds.), Chinese
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