Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

Early vs. Delayed Introduction of Chinese Characters in Beginning Mandarin Classes: Is the "Early Advantage" Due to More Instructional Hours?

Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

Early vs. Delayed Introduction of Chinese Characters in Beginning Mandarin Classes: Is the "Early Advantage" Due to More Instructional Hours?

Article excerpt

Dear Editor,

Knell and West (2017) concluded that their study supports the early introduction of Chinese characters in Mandarin instruction for middle school beginning students. In their study, one group of students (the "early" group) was taught characters from the beginning, while a "delayed" group began character instruction at the beginning of the second semester. The early group did significantly better on tests of reading comprehension and character writing at the end of the year.

However, the early group had a total of 30 hours of character instruction, while the delayed group had considerably less, about 18 to 20 hours (E. Knell, personal communication). Table 1 presents the final score on the two tests, and the results of a test of efficiency, a procedure introduced by Beniko Mason (e.g., Mason, 2007) that calculates gains per unit time. As presented in Table 1, the gains per hour of instruction for both groups were nearly identical.

It is thus no surprise that the delayed group did better on the reading comprehension and the character reading tests. We must ask what would happen if both groups had the same amount of instructional time. This was the case in Packard (1990), who found no difference in early and delayed character instruction for university students of beginning Mandarin. In other words, what would happen if we increased the number of hours of instruction for the delayed group?

E. Knell (personal communication) has pointed out that adding 10 more hours of instruction in the second semester, enough to give both groups 30 hours at the end of the school year, may overload the students, resulting in a decline in efficiency. …

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