The effects of online katakana word recognition training among novice learners of Japanese as a foreign language

Yumiko Tashiro, Purdue University


Because word recognition processes differ depending on orthographic systems, second language learners with different orthographic backgrounds need to acquire new word recognition strategies suitable to the orthography in their second language. Japanese is a multi-script language and one of the scripts, katakana, is mainly used to transcribe Western loanwords. Due to the sound alternations resulting from the process of borrowing, learners of Japanese often experience difficulties in reading and writing katakana loanwords. Thus, this study investigates the effectiveness of online katakana word recognition training among novice learners of Japanese. Thirty-one students from a first-semester Japanese course at a large research university in the Midwest were randomly divided into three groups and assigned different online training programs outside of the class for four weeks designed to establish sound-letter correspondences of katakana . The first experimental group (Scrambler Group) put the randomly scrambled letters in the right order to form a target katakana loanword by listening to the vocalized word, while the second experimental group (Reading Group) practiced with the same set of the words solely by enunciating and listening to the model reading. The participants took pre- and post-tests before and after the training so that the improvement resulting from the training was observed. The test was composed of two tasks, naming and providing the English meanings of katakana words. The number of correct answers was counted and the response time for a participant to process each word was measured. The test included words practiced in the training and unpracticed words in order to test whether the training effects was transferred to processing unpracticed words. The results demonstrated that each exercise yielded different effects on the katakana recognition process, although no significant difference between the groups was observed. The Scrambler Group showed positive improvement on the speed of processing of both practiced and unpracticed words, while the Reading Group demonstrated significantly better accuracy in reading of practiced words. Both the experimental groups showed significantly better performance in retrieving English meanings of both practiced and unpracticed words after the training. Moreover, the Scrambler Group partly exhibited the acquisition of new word recognition strategies; however, further investigation is necessary due to the limited data set. In conclusion, it is better to provide a variety of online katakana word recognition exercises at the early stage of learning for the purpose of cultivating efficient katakana word recognition skills of language learners of Japanese.




Hatasa, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Foreign language education|Language

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