Revisiting a Long-Lasting Legacy
Influences of Mandarin Chinese Characters on the Reading Development of English
This review of literature will address the influences of knowledge of Chinese characters on the reading development of English. This question stems from an increasing number of children of Chinese heritage enrolling in school in the U.S. who wish to gain biliteracy in English and Chinese. On the one hand, bilingualism is acknowledged to be beneficial to young readers’ language and cognitive development. However, on the other hand, the logographic nature of Mandarin Chinese makes it difficult for many educators in the country who only know alphabetic languages like English and Spanish to understand how Chinese-English bilingual readers reconcile two different systems and envision what support they may need.
This review will primarily focus on the basics of Mandarin Chinese and developmental models of the two languages to examine how proficiency in Chinese can transfer to and facilitate the reading development of English. Departing from the comparison and contrast between linguistic features and developmental models of the two languages, this review will investigate contributions of Chinee characters to English word reading at the levels of cognition, morphology, and phonology. While Chinese characters as logograms demand predominantly morphological knowledge than phonological awareness from readers, it is phonological awareness that contributes most to reading English words among beginning readers in kindergarten and first grade.