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A Study of the Kanji Learning Process of Swedish Learners of Japanese Through Error Analyses

Posted By admin On May 21, 2013 @ 2:06 pm In Abstracts for 2013, Linguistics and Language Teaching | Comments Disabled

Fusae Ivarsson, Ph.D. Candidate

Dept. of Languages and Literatures

University of Gothenburg

In the present study, reading and writing errors of kanji were analysed in order to investigate characteristics of the kanji learning process of Swedish learners of Japanese. The present study is to comprise part of an unpublished Ph.D. study with the aim of comparing the kanji learning process of Swedish learners and Japanese school children from a cognitive perspective. The complete study is based on research into kanji skills and cognitive abilities of Swedish and Japanese subjects at two corresponding levels. The present study was restricted to the part dealing with the kanji skills of the Swedish subjects and focused on the comparison of the two level-oriented groups and the differences in error occurrence tendencies between reading and writing. Tests of reading and writing of ca 100 recently learned kanji were given to Swedish university students learning Japanese. The subjects were (i) 49 beginners’ level students who had learned 240 characters (with 250 finished class hours) and (ii) 20 advanced level students, with 800 learned characters and over 700 finished class hours. The tests were marked and the errors were classified into different types.

Hatta, Kawakami, and Tamaoka (1998, 2002) proposed cognitive models explaining the error generation mechanisms and compared kanji writing errors of Australian learners of Japanese and native Japanese speakers, classifying the errors into ten categories. Their classification system has been modified in order to classify errors in the present study. The table below shows samples of writing errors in each category in the present study:

Error Types








Phonological あかるい 赤るい

(「明」るい : homophonous)

ふじんふく 夫人服

(「婦」人服 : homophonous)

Graphic じぶん 白分


むらがる 郡がる


Semantic あき

(「秋」: antonymous)

はかい 建壊

(「破」壊: semi-antonymous)

Circumstantial げん 天気

(〜気: compound )

なれる 通れる

(〜れる: inflectional ending)

Mixed しんせつな 新切な

(G+P: 親)

ふくすう 復数

(G+P: 複)

Non-kanji Deviations from existing kanji (with additional or missing strokes; additional, missing, replaced or switched radicals; wrong forms, etc.)
Others えい星 訳星 あらわす 則す

The results were entered into a database and error type occurrence tendencies were analysed, comparing the results of beginners’ reading vs. advanced reading, beginners’ writing vs. advanced writing, and reading vs. writing. The writing results were compared with the results of Hatta et al. (2002) as well.

The present study found that the development of the learners’ knowledge in their kanji learning process was reflected on the error occurrence tendencies. The beginners’ errors were mostly due to their limited knowledge of kanji and phonological L1 (first language) transfer. The advanced group’s tendencies appeared to be largely based on their greater knowledge of kanji and the development of their analytical ability. The characteristics of Swedish learners’ kanji learning process can be summarised as: (i) inferiority in phonological awareness and kana orthography at the beginners’ level improves at the advanced level; (ii) an increase in the stock of kanji homophones at the advanced level leads to a phonological orientation in the basis for writing and application of an analytical strategy in reading; and (iii) establishing the correct graphic representations of kanji is difficult and regular handwriting practice might play a significant role in this process.

By having two level-oriented subject groups with the same L1 writing system background and a well-controlled source and method of data collection, the present study has essentially confirmed the proficiency-based writing error patterns observed in Hatta et al. (2002) and has provided specific explanations for the different patterns observed. In addition, the reading error analysis conducted under the conditions matched with the writing error analysis has revealed the discrepancy in error occurrence tendencies between reading and writing, providing a more comprehensive understanding of the characteristics of the kanji learning process of Swedish learners of Japanese.



Hatta, T., Kawakami, A., & Tamaoka, K. (2002) Errors in writing Japanese kanji: a comparison of Japanese schoolchildren, college students and second-language learners of Japanese. Asia Pacific Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing, 7, 157-166.

Hatta, T., Kawakami, A., & Tamaoka, K. (1998) Writing errors in Japanese kanji: A study with Japanese students and foreign learners of Japanese. Reading and Writing, 10, 457-470.

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