A critical analysis of the various ways of teaching Chinese characters

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This article asks the question: What are the various important ways of teaching learners to read Chinese cha-racters? It will attempt to answer this question by analyzing the most influential approaches proposed and practiced for teaching beginning reading of Chinese characters. The different approaches reveal the debate among educators over the underlying assumption of how Chinese characters should “best” be taught. One side of the debate holds that the recognition of a large number of the characters is a pre-requisite to reading, thus beginning reading instruction should focus centrally on the teaching of the characters (called charac-ter-centered approach). The other side is concerned that reading for meaning is the purpose of teaching learners to read, and learners naturally learn to recognize the characters while reading. Thus, right from the start, meaningful reading should be emphasized (called meaning-centered approach). This review and analy-sis of the various approaches of teaching Chinese characters should be useful to Chinese language teachers for reasoning about their own ways of teaching the characters. More particularly, the implications of these various approaches will be discussed in the context of teaching Chinese as a foreign language. Copyright © 2011 Centre for Language Studies, National University of Singapore.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-70
JournalElectronic Journal of Foreign Language Teaching
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2011


Lam, H. C. (2011). A critical analysis of the various ways of teaching Chinese characters. Electronic Journal of Foreign Language Teaching, 8(1), 57-70.


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