Shall we delay teaching characters in teaching Chinese as a foreign language?



The study explored when characters were introduced as part of first-year Chinese as a foreign language courses as well as students' and instructors' beliefs and rationales within the context of postsecondary programs in the United States. Data were collected through a large-scale online survey of 914 students and 192 instructors. Results indicated that the majority of Chinese programs did not delay teaching characters. Most instructors and students believed that the best time point to introduce characters was near the beginning of the first semester. However, after they were presented with reasons for and against delaying the introduction of characters, both instructors and students showed a significant increase in support for delaying character introduction. Native and nonnative Chinese instructors expressed similar preferences for an ideal time point to teach Chinese characters, but students at different instructional levels expressed significantly different beliefs regarding the ideal time point at which to begin learning Chinese characters.