Original Research

South African Grade 5 non-native learners learning Mandarin as a second additional language with a focus on Chinese characters

Norma M. Nel, Soezin Krog, Lazarus Lebeloane
Literator | Vol 40, No 1 | a1557 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v40i1.1557 | © 2019 Norma M. Nel, Soezin Krog, Lazarus Lebeloane | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 28 September 2018 | Published: 16 May 2019

About the author(s)

Norma M. Nel, Department of Psychology of Education, College of Education, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa
Soezin Krog, Department of Early Childhood Education, College of Education, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa
Lazarus Lebeloane, School of Education, College of Education, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa


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Abstract

The South African Department of Basic Education (DBE) listed Mandarin as a second additional language (SAL) (Grades 4–9) in the National Curriculum Statement Grades R to 12 in 2015. We identified a gap in current research regarding the learning of Chinese characters by non-native learners of Mandarin as an SAL. The great number of characters, their complexity and the absence of grapheme–phoneme correspondences put a huge strain on learners’ memory. Rote learning and repetitive exercises lead to boredom and lack of motivation to learn Mandarin. A qualitative research design (case study) was employed in this study. Individual and focus group interviews, questionnaires, classroom observation and a Chinese characters exercise for researchers were used as data collection tools. The data were analysed manually using an inductive process and organised according to categories, themes and conclusions. The study highlights how South African Grade 5 learners learning Mandarin as a SAL learn the Chinese characters and the challenges they encounter. We consider the educational implications for learning Chinese characters and offer recommendations.

Keywords

Mandarin; second additional language; learning Chinese characters; non-native learners; challenges; educational implications.

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