Year

2003

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

School of Modern Language

Abstract

Kanji learning is demanding, complicated and time-consuming, but it is fundamental for adult learners of Japanese as a foreign language (JFL) acquiring written communication skills in Japanese. This study examines how learners proceduralise kanji knowledge (graphemic, semantic and phonemic representations) with reference to a skill learning model. It also explores the type of kanji learning strategies drawn on by learners, and how these strategies are used. These learning processes are then examined in relation to participants' performance outcomes.

Following a naturalistic inquiry for the qualitative analysis, empirical data from multiple sources were obtained over two semesters of tertiary level JFL study during which learners interacted with the multimedia C A L L program, KanjiSensee (KS), developed for this study. The 17 participants, falling into three groups, represent a typical distribution for JFL beginner classes in Australia: students without any previous learning experience of Japanese (the "no-J" group), students with some learning experience of Japanese as an L 2 (target language) (the "yes-J" group), and students having a kanji background in their Lis (first language) (the "yes-K" group). Due to the small number of participants, one should be cautious in generalising from the results. Apparently however, while frequent interaction with KS may activate accurate production supported by self-testing and thorough practice of kanji, it may not always be associated with high performance. Learners' negative attitudes toward CALL methods m a y be associated with low outcomes from the viewpoint of strategy use.

The main outcomes of this research suggest that the salient impact of KS is its capacity to promote input enhancement, while text modification on the screen is invaluable for the various needs of individual learners in processing and retaining kanji information. Above all, the study showed that CALL methods and the transferability of strategy and kanji knowledge from Lis affect the choice of strategy use. Irrespective of the learners' backgrounds and CALL methods, however, the "Planning your learning" strategy is essential for managing the whole kanji learning process while the "Frequency" strategy (repetitive writing practice) is indispensable for automatisation, cognitively and strategically.

It was further found that contextual learning could promote the expansion of kanji vocabulary and text processing skills. Further study is recommended to examine contextual learning dealing with the introduction of phonetic radicals from the beginning level by designing a special "help" function in C A L L programs to sensitise learners to the phonological properties of kanji at lexical and sub-lexical levels.

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