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Difficulties in Acquisition of Chinese Words for Native Japanese Speakers A study of Japanese Learners' Errors on Chinese-Japanese Homographs
instructional materials for words
The main objective of this research is to study the difficulties that native Japanese speakers have in learning Chinese words and the reasons behind these difficulties. This research also aims to look at the impact native language has on understanding homographs, so that such understanding can be applied to teaching and to help Japanese students overcome the difficulties in learning and using homographs. One hundred twenty-five subjects are surveyed in this research, all of which are native Japanese speakers learning Chinese. Thirteen subjects are beginning learners, 40 are intermediate level learners, and 72 are advanced level learners. Questionnaires are given out to at least 30 students in each level, however, the number of valid questionnaires collected is below the expected return rate of 30 per level. To make up for this difference, interviews are conducted. Result of the study indicates that regardless of the level of Chinese proficiency, the student’s native language of Japanese interferes with their Chinese learning. This is especially true for students in the intermediate level. Students in the intermediate level have a small repertoire of Chinese words, and thus rely heavily on Japanese kanji to communicate in Chinese. Students in advanced level also tend to misuse homographs that exist in Japanese kanji and Chinese characters. As their language ability improves, advanced level learners who are near or have reached second language proficiency are more accurate in using homographs than their intermediate level counterparts. This result is consistent with findings of Taylor (1975) and Brown (1987). According to earlier findings, native language interference appears at the early stage of second language learning. The high discrepancy at the intermediate level is also consistent with Kellerman’s U-shape theory (1983), where discrepancy reaches its highest point at intermediate level. As second language ability improves, discrepancy in the target language is slowly replaced by proper form of the target language. Native Japanese speakers learning Chinese are the subject of this study. Homographs in Chinese characters and Japanese kanji are analyzed from three aspects—parts of speech, semantic and pragmatic. Understanding the differences and similarities in homographs can be useful in helping students learn Chinese words more quickly and effectively, while recognizing such variations can help teachers in designing or writing homograph-related teaching materials for Japanese learners.
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