Examining Character Recognition and Recall Skills of CFL beginner Learners under Four different Approaches
The following paper presents an action research project investigating four approaches to teaching Chinese as a foreign language (henceforth CFL) to beginner learners in an Irish secondary school over a period of 16 weeks. Around 85 participants were divided into four groups and were taught Chinese via one method of rote memorisation, delayed character introduction, character colour-coding, or a unity curriculum approach respectively. The fourth group acted as a comparative group, and focused on all four skills of reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Participants were taught for two one-hour classes per week and each group covered the same material, including learning 107 Chinese words and their characters. Upon completion of the 16 weeks of teaching, participants were presented with identical recognition and recall tests, whereby higher results in each group reveal effectiveness in a given teaching approach, and provided written feedback detailing their learning experience in the form of a questionnaire. It was found from the questionnaires that all participants felt that learning Chinese was challenging, particularly the characters. While all groups struggled to provide correct answers in the recognition and recall tests, the character colour-coding group coped best in providing the highest percentage of correct answers in both tests. At the same time, all groups agreed that more time spent learning would have allowed for more favourable outcomes. It is hoped that the current study will encourage further research relating to character-teaching methods, with particular reference to using colour, as well as providing some possible guidelines for a future Irish secondary school Chinese language course that is currently in the planning stage. These may include guidelines not only relating to the use of colour when teaching characters, but also in relation to the amount of time spent learning Chinese both inside and outside the classroom.