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Cognitive strategies and self-regulation of learning character based scripts as a second language: The learning of kanji and hanzi (Japanese and Chinese characters) by alphabetic first language users (KANJI HANZI LEARNING)
Start date: Apr 1, 2013, End date: Jul 1, 2017 PROJECT  FINISHED 

The proposed study investigates the kanji and hanzi learning (the learning of Japanese and Chinese written characters) of native-English speaking learners of the Chinese and Japanese languages. The purpose of the study is to investigate cognitive strategies and self-regulation of kanji and hanzi learning using in-depth qualitative methods to broaden the understanding of how learners approach this difficult writing system. Previous studies into Japanese and Chinese language learning suggest that the learning of a meaning-based script such as hanzi and kanji are a major obstacle for learners to progress in the Japanese and Chinese languages, and are also a major contributing factor to the high attrition rate in Japanese and Chinese language courses at universities. Studies have shown it takes European language background students 3 to 4 times longer to acquire Japanese and Chinese than other alphabet-based languages and that the root of this difficulty is the writing system. Therefore, the study makes a significant contribution to the field in broadening our understanding of how learners cope with the memorization of these scripts. The study is also significant in its application of relatively new theories of strategic learning and self-regulation to the task of learning character-based languages, as much of what we know of second language acquisition is based on an over-representation of research into the learning of English as a second or foreign language. Data will be collected over the duration of three years in the form of interviews, stimulated recall sessions (utilizing eye-tracking technology), and questionnaires. The study will examine Japanese and Chinese language in three separate case study contexts: Introductory language courses offered by Trinity College Dublin (the host institution), advanced language courses offered at the University of Sheffield; and immersion style courses offered at Sophia University in Tokyo, Japan.
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