IICS Held the 51tst Confucius PhD Student Forum


On March 30, 2023, the UCD Irish Institute for Chinese Studies (IICS) held a public lecture and the 51st Confucius PhD Student Forum was successfully held. An expert in language education, Andrew Scrimgeour, Adjunct Research Fellow at the University of South Australia, gave a lecture entitled "Demystifying the Chinese Writing System: What is it that Learners Need to Know?". The lecture was hosted by Caitríona Osborne, Assistant Professor at IICS, and was held simultaneously via hybrid methods, where nearly 100 students and teachers attended.

The lecture focused on teaching Chinese characters, a difficult and important aspect of international Chinese language teaching. First, Prof. Andrews emphasized the importance of writing Chinese characters from the perspective of cognitive development and visual processing, and pointed out that the teaching of Chinese characters should take advantage of learners' existing knowledge and experience. For example, educators can provide learners with meta-linguistic explanations of the letters that make up English vocabulary, and help them use their existing knowledge to develop their perception and literacy of the Chinese writing system, thus promoting their self-motivated learning and assisting them in gradually building up long-term language learning habits and awareness.

Second, focusing on the Chinese character system itself, Prof. Andrews introduced the rationale for Chinese character system starting with the strokes, stroke order, monograms, and syncretic characters. He also showed the reliability of the larger proportion of semantic components in syncretic characters and their participation in ideograms with data. Based on this, Prof. Andrews argued that the current structure of the Chinese teaching, a second language curriculum, fails to address the specificity of the Chinese character system itself. Besides, teaching materials and activities does not consider Chinese character literacy as a unique learning task, resulting in an incongruous relationship between literacy as a starting point and the ultimate communicative goal.

Afterwards, through some examples of Chinese characters, such as 青 and 馨, Prof. Andrews and the audience analyzed the composition of individual characters and the interactions between different parts. He stated that it is necessary to help learners build up a perceptual understanding of Chinese characters through independent graphic units, and that learners need to consciously "spell" the sequence and meaning of Chinese characters in order to convert them into long-term memory for language learning. Therefore, he emphasized that Chinese character education should focus on developing learners' perceptions of the character system and the necessary comparisons with the English writing system to guide students' transfer of relevant experiences, thus facilitating learners' conscious exploration and understanding of the Chinese character stroke system and construction system with meta-linguistic monitoring.

Finally, Prof. Andrews pointed out the problems in Chinese character teaching and had a heated discussion with the audience. After the lecture, President Liming Wang presented Prof. Andrews with an honorary certificate and a souvenir on behalf of the college.