A comparative study on teaching and learning Chinese characters by primary non-native Chinese learners in South Africa and China

Norma Nel, Quan Zhou, Soezin Krog, LDM Oupa Lebeloane


Given China’s fast-growing economy, more people have been motivated to learn Mandarin; however, many encounter challenges in learning the complex characters and consequently abandon it. In view of South Africa’s decision to introduce Mandarin as a second additional language in schools (by choice) and China having to cater for non-native Chinese learners in certain schools, the University of South Africa and the Zhejiang International Studies University agreed to embark on a collaborative research project with an emphasis on the teaching and learning of Chinese characters. Qualitative comparative case studies were employed and multiple data collection tools were used, including interviews, questionnaires, lesson observations, and volunteer participant learners and researchers involved in a Chinese characters exercise. A qualitative comparative case study was conducted in order to narrate a cross-unit comparison, comparing and contrasting the findings. Inductive qualitative content analysis of both sets of data (South Africa and China) was done, and three common themes emerged. The data from South Africa and China are discussed individually under the three themes. Common considerations or factors regarding the teaching and learning of Chinese characters are identified, which makes it possible to incorporate them in an eclectic approach (based on lessons learnt by both research parties) in South Africa and China. This comparative study also informs a facilitative process to implement the introduction of Mandarin as a second additional language in South African schools. 


Chinese characters; non-native Chinese learners; teaching and learning

Full Text:


DOI: https://doi.org/10.5785/35-2-846


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2019 Per Linguam

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

ISSN 2224-0012 (online); ISSN 0259-2312 (print)

Powered by OJS and hosted by since 2011.



This journal is hosted by the SU LIS on request of the journal owner/editor. The SU LIS takes no responsibility for the content published within this journal, and disclaim all liability arising out of the use of or inability to use the information contained herein. We assume no responsibility, and shall not be liable for any breaches of agreement with other publishers/hosts.

SUNJournals Help