PhD Completion Talk by Yuka Kikuchi: 'Writing Development of L2 tertiary learners of Japanese in Australia'
Although interest in L2 writing development has increased in recent years, researchers who have investigated this area (e.g. Knoch, Macqueen & O’Hagan, 2015; Storch, 2009) have done so mostly in an ESL/EFL context. To date, very little research has been done on L2 Japanese writing development.
The objective of this study was to examine the writing development of L2 tertiary learners of Japanese in Australia. This study was divided into two studies: a cross-sectional study (Study 1) and a longitudinal classroom-based study (Study 2). In Study 1, the main aim was to examine which measures distinguished between five different proficiency levels. Study 2 aimed to investigate the writing development of lower-level intermediate learners of Japanese, using the measures that were successful in Study 1 as well as other global measures. Qualitative data in the form of interviews was also collected to find out the perspectives of participants (both the students and teachers) on writing development.
Findings from Study 1 revealed that the discourse analytic measures that best distinguished the writing tests at five different proficiency levels were: lexical complexity (root type-token ratio and corrected type-token ratio for kanji characters and kanji words), syntactic complexity (ratio of te-forms, ratio of complex sentences, ratio of clause conjunctions and various sentence-ending forms), accuracy (ratio of error-free sentences, ratio of error-free clauses and words per error-free sentence) and fluency (number of words, sentences, clauses, kanji characters and kanji words). Study 2 results showed that overall development in writing was evident as most of the measures investigated showed improvement. In both the short term and long term, most measures showed improvement other than a few measures in accuracy and syntactic complexity. The findings also revealed that the difference in development between the character-based learners and non-character-based learners were only in kanji related measures.
Various activities (assignments, readings, weekly kanji tests and answering text book questions) as well as instruction (weekly grammar instruction and instruction on structuring an essay) have led to students’ writing development. Syntactic complexity and accuracy may be measures that are more difficult to improve compared to other measures especially with insufficient feedback. The findings suggest that instruction is critical for writing improvement.
Miss Yuka Kikuchi, School of Languages and Linguistics, The University of Melbourne