Effects of learner background on the development of writing skills in Japanese as a second language

2017-06-13T02:33:18Z (GMT) by Iwashita, Noriko Sekiguchi, Sachiyo
The paper presents preliminary findings of a project which investigated whether learner background, in terms of instruction mode (i.e., school or intensive first-year course at university) and first language (i.e., character based or non-character based), has an impact on the development of writing skills in Japanese as a second language (JSL). Many students in second-year Japanese at university are post-secondary (i.e., they completed Year 12 Japanese at school). They are in class with students who started Japanese at university (i.e., are post-beginners). The intensity of instruction that the two groups have received is very different. A large number of the students learning Japanese at tertiary institutions in Australia are also native speakers of character-based languages (e.g., Chinese). Although there is a substantial volume of studies comparing the effects of instruction mode on L2 development, little is known of how instruction mode and L1 background together may affect L2 development in adult L2 learning settings. The data for the present study include writing samples collected on two occasions from 34 students from a variety of backgrounds. The samples were analysed in terms of length, grammatical complexity and schematic structures, use of kanji (Chinese characters), and vocabulary. The results were compared in terms of study experience and first language. In general, the performance of post-beginner learners from character-based language backgrounds was higher on kanji use and a few other areas, but their superior performance was derived from the interaction of two background factors (L1 and study background). The results show complexity in how different backgrounds affect L2 writing task performance. The study has strong pedagogical implications for teaching a character-based language to students from diverse study backgrounds. Copyright 2009 Noriko Iwashita and Sachiyo Sekiguchi. No part of this article may be reproduced by any means without the written consent of the publisher.