Learning to Read Authentic Texts in Chinese as a Foreign Language: An Action Research-Based Investigation of a New Approach towards Raising Students’ Awareness of Literary Function Words

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Understanding the gist of Chinese authentic functional texts is a particular challenge for advanced beginners not only because of the morpho-syllabic writing system, but also due to the particular literary style. A didactic concept based on Stanovich’s (2000) and Gernsbacher’s (1997) reading models was developed for teaching Chinese as a foreign language at the university level. It is aimed at drawing the students’ attention to highly frequent literary function words in everyday texts, facilitating both the formation of relevant units of meaning and the application of higher-level strategic reading skills. The implementation of this new approach was investigated using the framework of action research. The data were analysed with qualitative methods and the results incorporated into the several teaching cycles. Two quasi-experiments were conducted to elicit individual problem solutions by the students. These data were collected in the form of video recordings of group work and student worksheets. Due to the predictability of specific literary structures, a certain automatisation in processing literary structures could indeed be achieved. Further construction of meaning, however, will have to be achieved through attentive-driven strategies, e.g. targeted dictionary use. It is important to train the students’ executive control mechanisms (e.g. comprehension monitoring), since Chinese can easily lead into a ‘dead end’ due to the absence of word segmentation and a high degree of polysemy.

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