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ERIC Number: EJ945913
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2011-Dec
Pages: 23
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 26
ISSN: ISSN-0023-8333
Learning a Tonal Language by Attending to the Tone: An in Vivo Experiment
Liu, Ying; Wang, Min; Perfetti, Charles A.; Brubaker, Brian; Wu, Sumei; MacWhinney, Brian
Language Learning, v61 n4 p1119-1141 Dec 2011
Learning the Chinese tone system is a major challenge to students of Chinese as a second or foreign language. Part of the problem is that the spoken Chinese syllable presents a complex perceptual input that overlaps tone with segments. This complexity can be addressed through directing attention to the critical features of a component (tone in this case) within a complex perceptual input stimulus. We tested hypotheses based on this feature-focusing assumption in an in vivo classroom setting. First-year students in a Chinese language program at a U.S. university were trained to identify the tones of 228 syllables learned across eight lessons in the first semester. Three learning conditions were designed to support tone learning by presenting (a) visual pitch contours that depict the acoustic shape of the tones, together with pinyin spelling of the spoken syllables (Contour + Pinyin condition); (b) numbers that represent the tones in traditional computer interface, together with pinyin spelling of the spoken syllables (Number + Pinyin condition); and (c) visual pitch contours without pinyin spelling (Contour Only condition). Analyses of student activity logs (learning curves) and pretests and posttests showed significant effects of learning condition. The results suggested that the Contour + Pinyin condition had more error reduction in tone recognition over the activity log than the Contour Only condition and greater improvement from the pretest to posttest than the Number + Pinyin condition. These findings point at the value of separate support for the two major components (tone and segments) of a tonal language.
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A