Contributions of meta-linguistic and visual-spatial skills to Chinese character recognition in Hong Kong preschoolers

Xiao ZHANG, Dan LIN

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper

Abstract

Young Chinese children acquire a substantial amount of Chinese characters during their early years. Because Character recognition is foundational to higher level Chinese reading (e.g., text comprehension, it is crucial to identify factors associated with early acquisition of Chinese characters. Chinese is a morpho-syllabic language in which each character corresponds to one morpheme and one syllable. Morphemes can be combined further in specific ways to make up words. In the kindergarten period from ages 3 to 6, Chinese children progress gradually from learning some single-character words to the vast majority of double-character words. In Hong Kong, traditional kindergartens typically start to teach children to read Chinese characters in the second semester of their first kindergarten year, when they are approximately 3.5 years old. Most Hong Kong children learn Chinese in the form of traditional script with Cantonese, which is their native language, as the medium of instruction through a teaching approach of “look and say.” Language impairment often places children at risk for reading difficulties, suggesting that meta-linguistic skills may contribute to the development of Chinese character recognition. Chinese characters contain rich visual-spatial features and relations (e.g., more than 2,000 different graphic patterns to be learned by novice readers). Consequently, some researchers have suggested that visual-spatial skills may support children’s learning of Chinese characters, especially in beginning readers. The present study aims to examine the contributions of meta-linguistic and visualspatial skills to Chinese character recognition in young Chinese children. A longitudinal sample of 106 Hong Kong Chinese children were tested a total of five times from their first to third kindergarten years. Chinese character recognition, meta-linguistic skills (phonological awareness and visual-orthographic awareness), rapid automatized naming (RAN), and visual-spatial skills (spatial perception and spatial visualization) were assessed. The results from structural equation modelling showed that phonological awareness, visual-orthographic awareness, and RAN all predicted later competencies in Chinese character recognition. Moreover, growth curve modelling further indicates that rate of growth in phonological awareness predicted Chinese character recognition over and above overall level. Spatial perception also predicted Chinese character recognition, but only in the initial phase of acquisition. The findings highlight the cognitive underpinnings of Chinese character recognition at a young age. They carry important information for the theory and practice of Chinese character learning.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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Hong Kong
linguistics
kindergarten
language
learning
visualization
semester

Citation

Zhang, X., & Lin, D. (2017, January). Contributions of meta-linguistic and visual-spatial skills to Chinese character recognition in Hong Kong preschoolers. Paper presented at the 「第七屆漢字與漢字教育國際研討會」, National Kaohsiung Normal University, Kaohsiung City, Taiwan.

Keywords

  • Character recognition
  • Meta-linguistic skills
  • Phonological awareness
  • Visual-orthographic awareness
  • Rapid automatized naming
  • Visual-spatial skills
  • 後設語言與視覺空間技能對學前幼兒中文識字的貢獻