Graphemic Awareness Development of Polish Learners of Chinese as a Foreign Language

Zuzanna Wnuk


Metalinguistic orthographic awareness plays a crucial role in the development of Chinese language proficiency: writing, reading, and learning new words. However, few studies have explored the topic using qualitative methods. The aim of this work is to explore how the perception of Chinese characters of Chinese foreign language learners changes along with their proficiency. The responses were collected from 43 Polish university students of Chinese with the use of a graphemic awareness test during which participants were to decide on correctness of presented pseudo-characters. The results of this study show that beginners focus first and foremost on correctness of the strokes, the intermediate learners’ attention shifts to character elements and their correct position, and the advanced learners analyze the characters taking into consideration both character elements and structure of characters. It is suggested that the overall rapid development of graphemic awareness in the study group might be due to the explicit instruction. The conclusion can be drawn that the described shift in learners’ perception is a result of them learning to direct their attention towards the critical orthographic aspects of the characters.


Chinese as foreign language; Chinese characters learning; metalinguistic awareness; graphemic awareness

Anderson, R. C., Ku, Y.‑M., Li, W., Chen, X., Wu, X., & Shu, H. (2013). Learning to see the patterns in Chinese characters. Scientific Studies of Reading, 17(1), 41–56.

Chuang, H.‑Y., & Ku, H.‑Y. (2011). The effect of computer‐based multimedia instruction with Chinese character recognition. Educational Media International, 48(1), 27–41.

Cook, V., & Bassetti, B. (2005). Chapter 1: An introduction to researching second language writing systems. In V. Cook & B. Bassetti (Eds.), Second language writing systems (pp. 1–68). Multilingual Matters.

Everson, M. E. (1998). Word recognition among learners of Chinese as a foreign language: Investigating the relationship between naming and knowing. The Modern Language Journal, 82(2), 194–204.

Jurgiel-Aleksander, A. (2016). Fenomenografia i jej poznawcze konsekwencje w świetle projektu na temat doświadczeń edukacyjnych dorosłych. Refleksja badacza. Rocznik Andragogiczny, 23, 267–282.

Kuo, L., & Anderson, R. C. (2008). Conceptual and methodological issues in comparing metalinguistic awareness across languages. In K. Koda & A. M. Zehler (Eds.), Learning to read across languages (pp. 51–79). Routledge.

Lam, H. C. (2006). Orthographic awareness in learning Chinese characters. The University of Hong Kong. [PhD dissertation].

Lam, H. C. (2010). Orthographic awareness. In F. Marton, S. K. Tse, & W. M. Cheung (Eds.), On the learning of Chinese (pp. 53–73). Sense Publishers.

Loh, E. K. Y., Liao, X., & Leung, S. O. (2018). Acquisition of orthographic knowledge: Developmental difference among learners with Chinese as a second language (CSL). System, 74, 206–216.

McBride, C. (2018). Foreword. In H. K. Pae (Ed.), Bilingual processing and acquisition: Vol. 7. Writing systems, reading processes, and cross-linguistic influences: Reflections from the Chinese, Japanese and Korean languages (Vol. 7, pp. ix–xii). John Benjamins Publishing Company.

McBride, C. A. (2016). Is Chinese special? Four aspects of Chinese literacy acquisition that might distinguish learning Chinese from learning alphabetic orthographies. Educational Psychology Review, 28(3), 523–549.

Moroz, J. (2013). Fenomenografia jako metoda badania treści świadomościowych. Pedagogika Szkoły Wyższej, 1, 33–44.

Orgill, M. (2012). Variation theory. In N. Seel, Encyclopedia of the sciences of learning (pp. 2608–2611). Springer.

Ornek, F. (2008). An overview of a theoretical framework of phenomenography in qualitative education: An example from physics education research. Asia-Pacific Form on Science Learning Teaching, 9(2), 1–14.

Shen, H. H. (2004). Level of cognitive processing: Effects on character learning among non-native learners of Chinese as a foreign language. Language and Education, 18(2), 167–182.

Shen, H. H. (2005). An investigation of Chinese-character learning strategies among non-native speakers of Chinese. System, 33(1), 49–68.

Shen, H. H., & Ke, C. (2007). Radical awareness and word acquisition among nonnative learners of Chinese. The Modern Language Journal, 91(1), 97–111.

Tong, X., & Yip, J. H. Y. (2015). Cracking the Chinese character: Radical sensitivity in learners of Chinese as a foreign language and its relationship to Chinese word reading. Reading and Writing, 28(2), 159–181.

Toyoda, E. (1998). Issues in the teaching and learning of Japanese. Australian Review of Applied Linguistics. Series S, 15, 155–168.

Tse, S. K., Marton, F., Ki, W. W., & Loh, E. K. Y. (2010). Learning characters. In F. Marton, S. K. Tse, & W. M. Cheung (Eds.), On the learning of Chinese (pp. 75–102). Sense Publishers.

Wang, M., Liu, Y., & Perfetti, C. A. (2004). The implicit and explicit learning of orthographic structure and function of a new writing System. Scientific Studies of Reading, 8(4), 357–379.

Williams, C. (2013). Emerging development of semantic and phonological routes to character decoding in Chinese as a foreign language learners. Reading and Writing, 26(2), 293–315.

Xu, X., & Padilla, A. M. (2013). Using meaningful interpretation and chunking to enhance memory: The case of Chinese character learning. Foreign Language Annals, 46(3), 402–422.


Published : 2024-03-29

WnukZ. (2024). Graphemic Awareness Development of Polish Learners of Chinese as a Foreign Language. Theory and Practice of Second Language Acquisition, 10(1), 1-27.

Zuzanna Wnuk
Adam Mickiewicz University  Poland

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

The Copyright Holders of the submitted texts are the Authors. The Reader is granted the rights to use the material available in the TAPSLA websites and pdf documents under the provisions of the Creative Commons 4.0 International License: Attribution - Share Alike  (CC BY-SA 4.0). The user is free to copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format, and to remix, transform, and build upon the material for any purpose, even commercially.

1. License

The University of Silesia Press provides immediate open access to journal’s content under the Creative Commons BY-SA 4.0 license ( Authors who publish with this journal retain all copyrights and agree to the terms of the above-mentioned CC BY-SA 4.0 license.

2. Author’s Warranties

The author warrants that the article is original, written by stated author/s, has not been published before, contains no unlawful statements, does not infringe the rights of others, is subject to copyright that is vested exclusively in the author and free of any third party rights, and that any necessary written permissions to quote from other sources have been obtained by the author/s.

If the article contains illustrative material (drawings, photos, graphs, maps), the author declares that the said works are of his authorship, they do not infringe the rights of the third party (including personal rights, i.a. the authorization to reproduce physical likeness) and the author holds exclusive proprietary copyrights. The author publishes the above works as part of the article under the licence "Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International".

ATTENTION! When the legal situation of the illustrative material has not been determined and the necessary consent has not been granted by the proprietary copyrights holders, the submitted material will not be accepted for editorial process. At the same time the author takes full responsibility for providing false data (this also regards covering the costs incurred by the University of Silesia Press and financial claims of the third party).

3. User Rights

Under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license, the users are free to share (copy, distribute and transmit the contribution) and adapt (remix, transform, and build upon the material) the article for any purpose, provided they attribute the contribution in the manner specified by the author or licensor.

4. Co-Authorship

If the article was prepared jointly with other authors, the signatory of this form warrants that he/she has been authorized by all co-authors to sign this agreement on their behalf, and agrees to inform his/her co-authors of the terms of this agreement.

I hereby declare that in the event of withdrawal of the text from the publishing process or submitting it to another publisher without agreement from the editorial office, I agree to cover all costs incurred by the University of Silesia in connection with my application.