In this article, the author explores the idea that reading proficiency in a second language involves comprehending the second culture and using it to interpret the world view of the second language. Using cognitive theory, the author examined the relevance of prior knowledge of Chinese language and idioms to understanding text written in Chinese. The nature of Chinese as a second language (CSL) students’ and Chinese as a foreign language students’(CFL) surface and deep knowledge of Chinese idioms as reflected in their responses to journal questions were examined. The author also looked at how the levels of students’ prior knowledge and reading achievement related to the generation of surface and deep knowledge of Chinese idioms stories. Two groups of 5th- and 6th-grade students totaling thirty participated in this study. The median score on the composite SAT II Chinese Subject Test with Listening was used to classify students as low or high prior knowledge students. Findings from content analysis of students’ journal responses showed that students tended to attain a deep level of knowledge when interpreting and personalizing the Chinese idioms. A t test indicated a significant difference in level of deep over surface knowledge between the low and high prior knowledge groups of students, favoring the high knowledge group. Parallel to previous studies performed in reading English and Spanish as a first language (L1), as well as English as a second language (L2), my investigation supported that prior knowledge also plays an important role comprehending text in Chinese as a heritage language.
"Teaching Language and Culture: The Importance of Prior Knowledge when Reading Chinese as a Second Language,"
Journal of Multilingual Education Research:
Vol. 3, Article 6.
Available at: http://fordham.bepress.com/jmer/vol3/iss1/6