An Evaluation of Independent Learning of the Japanese Hiragana System Using an Interactive CD
As Japanese uses three writing systems (hiragana, katakana, and the ideograms known as kanji), and as materials in the target language include all three, it is a major challenge to learn to read and write quickly. This paper focuses on interactive multi-media methods of teaching Japanese reading which foster learner autonomy.
As little has been published on interactive multi-media methods of teaching Japanese reading, it seems likely that traditional resources are generally used for this activity. The courseware includes sound files showing the pronunciation of each kana as well as simultaneous animation showing how to write each character. This paper investigates whether interactive courseware, used independently of classroom interaction, results in measurably greater recognition of the hiragana syllabary than more traditional methods. After briefly situating the study in the context of research on the teaching of Japanese reading and learner autonomy, the paper will present the courseware as well as an empirical study comparing the results of the use of the courseware by learners at beginners’ level: one group using the courseware, and the other using paper-based materials. This is followed by an account of learner diaries written by zero-beginner level learners of Japanese using the courseware.
The study indicates that acquisition of a recognition-level knowledge of hiragana is approximately twice as fast using the courseware as using paper-based materials. Learners also learned to write the hiragana without explicit instruction.