Chinese Learning Strategies for Ethnic Minority (EM) Children | 非華語學童的中文學習策略

Generally speaking, Chinese is widely considered one of the hardest languages to learn and to teach. What about children who are ethnic minorities (EM) in Chinese societies, those whose first language is very different from Chinese but must learn Chinese in school? How do they learn? What are the issues for them?


EM children, whose native languages are typically written using some type of alphabetic or alphabetic-like system, likely rely heavily on letter-name knowledge and phonological processing skills in learning to read. In addition, EM children and their families often encounter various barriers in becoming literate in Chinese. For example, EM children have difficulties with homework and often feel frustrated in their Chinese classes, which in many cases seem not to match well with their skills. Often, their parents are not proficient in reading and writing in Chinese and are unable to help their children with basic Chinese literacy acquisition. Therefore, it is not surprising that the EM children consistently encounter difficulties in learning Chinese.  One of our studies suggested that EM children might rely more on phonological knowledge in learning Chinese as compared to native-Chinese speaking children.


In that research, we also conducted an experiment that included 34 EM children whose native languages were Nepalese, Urdu and Hindi, and 29 native Chinese (Cantonese-speaking—from Hong Kong) children from second and third grades. By comparing four methods to learn Chinese characters (copying, radical awareness, phonological coding and look–say), we found that copying practice is the most helpful method for Chinese writing for both the EM and native Chinese children. In addition, radical knowledge facilitated Chinese reading only for native Chinese children, but not for the EM children. However, phonological knowledge best facilitated Chinese reading only for the EM children.


Practically, school teachers could assist EM children in practicing copying extensively and also in using phonological knowledge, such as the Cantonese pinyin system, in learning to read and write in Chinese. Immigrant parents can also understand the importance of copying practice and can easily learn how to use a phonological system, if advocated/taught by the government, to help their children. Additionally, our findings may be helpful in developing more effective learning and teaching materials for second-language learners, even adults (e.g., EM children’s parents), to learn Chinese during the beginning stages.


References:

Chung, K. K. H., & McBride-Chang, C. (2011). Executive functioning skills uniquely

predict Chinese reading. Journal of Educational Psychology, 103, 909-921.  

Wang, Y., McBride, C., Zhou, Y., Malatesha Joshi, R., & Farver, J. A. M. (2017). Becoming literate in Chinese: a comparison of native-speaking and non-native-speaking children. Journal of Research in Reading.

Zhang, Q., Tsung, L., Cruickshank, K., Ki, W.W. & Shum, M. (2011). South Asian students’ educational experience and attainment: Learning Chinese as a second/additional language in Hong Kong. In L. Tsung & K. Cruickshank (Eds.), Teaching and learning Chinese in global contexts: Multimodality and literacy in the new media age, (pp. 63–80). London, UK: Continuum International Publishing Group.

Zhou, Y., McBride, C., Leung, J. S. M., Wang, Y., Joshi, M., & Farver, J. (2017). Chinese and English reading-related skills in L1 and L2 Chinese-speaking children in Hong Kong. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 1-13. 


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This article was written by our guest blogger Dr. WANG, Ying. Dr. Wang is currently a post-doctoral fellow of the Department of Psychology in University of Michigan. Her areas of expertise are early childhood development and education; early literacy development; development of executive functions and the impact of home and school experience.

Dr. WANG, Ying

M.Phil. (BNU), Ph.D (CUHK)

Post-doctoral Fellow

Department of Psychology

University of Michigan

Email: yingwan@umich.edu


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中文經常被視為其中一種最難學習與教授的語言。不少於香港生活的非華語學童母語雖非中文,卻必須於主流學校和華語學生一起學習中文。他們到底如何學習?他們學習中文的路上又正面對著甚麼難關? 語言學上,非華語學童的母語通常使用字母系統(alphabetical system)。他們主要以字母命名知識(letter-name knowledge)及運用語音的能力以學習閱讀,這與學習中文時所用到的技巧及知識截然不同。另外,非華語家庭亦會經常遇到學習中文的不同障礙。例如,由於母語相異,學童的中文知識較同儕貧乏,面對功課時更易受到遇到挫折。同時,因多數家長未能讀寫中文,故難以及時協助學童功課上的問題。不少學童因而未能打好中文學習的根基,嚴重影響日後的學習能力與動機。我們近日的一項研究亦印證:非華語學童比華語學童更需要以語音知識去輔助學習。 共有六十三名小學二至三年級生參與了該項研究。其中有三十四名為非華語學童(母語包括尼泊爾語、烏都語及印度語),另外廿九名是母語為粵語的學童。研究期間,我們共以四種不同的方法教導中文字詞,包括直接抄寫、部首知識、輔助拼音及看讀字詞。直接抄寫的教學方法能顯著地輔助兩類學生學習。值得留意的是,主流學校採用的部首知識教學法在是次研究中未能有效輔助非華語學生學習中文,而較少採用的拼音教學法則只對非華語學生起較顯著作用。 在實際教學上,學校教師能夠協助非華語學童有系統地練習抄寫中文字詞,同時利用他們的在語音知識的優勢輔以教學。例如,老師可以在讀寫中文的教材內加上粵語拼音。由於粵語拼音採用字母系統,非華語學童的家長經過基本訓練就能掌握,並能在家中協助孩子學習。若這些教學策略能由政府推廣,將會更為有效。最後,是次研究成果亦有助編寫更有效的中文為第二語言學習教材,日後或能為成人(如非華語學童家長)打下一個更好的根基。 參考文獻: Chung, K. K. H., & McBride-Chang, C. (2011). Executive functioning skills uniquely predict Chinese reading. Journal of Educational Psychology, 103, 909-921.  Wang, Y., McBride, C., Zhou, Y., Malatesha Joshi, R., & Farver, J. A. M. (2017). Becoming literate in Chinese: a comparison of native-speaking and non-native-speaking children. Journal of Research in Reading. Zhang, Q., Tsung, L., Cruickshank, K., Ki, W.W. & Shum, M. (2011). South Asian students’ educational experience and attainment: Learning Chinese as a second/additional language in Hong Kong. In L. Tsung & K. Cruickshank (Eds.), Teaching and learning Chinese in global contexts: Multimodality and literacy in the new media age, (pp. 63–80). London, UK: Continuum International Publishing Group. Zhou, Y., McBride, C., Leung, J. S. M., Wang, Y., Joshi, M., & Farver, J. (2017). Chinese and English reading-related skills in L1 and L2 Chinese-speaking children in Hong Kong. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 1-13.

______________________________________________________________________________________ 此文章由我們的客席博客王瑩博士撰寫。王博士現為美國密歇根大學心理學系的博士後研究生。她的專業範圍是幼兒發展及教育﹑兒童早期讀寫能力發展和執行技巧的發展及家庭與學校經驗的影響。 王瑩博士 M.Phil. (北京師範大學), Ph.D (香港中文大學) 博士後研究生 美國密歇根大學心理學系 ​電郵: yingwan@umich.edu​

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