Type JournalArticle
Date 2003-01-01
Volume 26
Number 2
Tags kanji, language learning
Journal Australian Review of Applied Linguistics
Pages 17--30

Perceptions of kanji learning strategies: Do they differ among Chinese character and alphabetic background learners?

Toyoda (1998) indicates that it is during the intermediate stages that most learners from alphabetic backgrounds lose their interest and motivation for studying kanji, although they were interested during the initial stages.

Psycholinguistic studies in Chinese character processing describe three types of informational content when processing kanji (Kaiho & Saito, 1989; Shimizu & Green, 2002), namely, the shape, pronunciation and the meaning of kanji.

Shimizu and Green (2002) categorize the conventional strategies used for teaching and learning kanji into three types; i.e. rote, contextual and mnemonic or memory strategies. Their questionnaire indicates that rote-writing strategies are most commonly used in kanji instruction in the United States. Rote writing is widely used as a strategy in learning kanji also by Japanese children (Naka & Naoi, 1995; Onose, 1988).

Research in kanji learning has not yet addressed the issue of repeated writing vs. other cognitive strategies, although Naka & Naoi (1995) have explored the effect of repeated writing on memory.


This study investigates three important issues in kanji learning strategies; namely, strategy use, effectiveness of strategy and orthographic background. A questionnaire on kanji learning strategy use and perceived effectiveness was administered to 116 beginner level, undergraduate students of Japanese from alphabetic and character backgrounds in Australia. Both descriptive and statistical analyses of the questionnaire responses revealed that the strategies used most often are the most helpful. Repeated writing was reported as the most used strategy type although alphabetic background learners reported using repeated writing strategies significantly more often than character background learners. The importance of strategy training and explicit instruction of fundamental differences between character and alphabetic background learners of Japanese is discussed in relation to teaching strategies.

Name Role
Gayathri Haththotuwa Gamage Author