Date of Award

Fall 12-21-2011

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Applied Linguistics and English as a Second Language

First Advisor

John Murphy

Second Advisor

Sara Weigle

Third Advisor

Stephanie Lindemann

Fourth Advisor

Diane Belcher

Fifth Advisor

Xiaoliang Li


The study explored whether or not to delay introducing Chinese characters as part of first year Chinese as a Foreign Language (CFL) courses in post-secondary institutions in the U.S. Topics investigated: a) timing structures of current CFL programs in the U.S.; b) CFL teachers’ and students’ beliefs and rationales of an appropriate timing to introduce characters; c) CFL teachers’ and students’ beliefs about the importance and difficulty of different Chinese language skills; and d) CFL teachers’ and students’ beliefs about the requirement of handwriting in beginning-level CFL courses. Data were collected through a large-scale online student survey with 914 students and a large-scale online teacher survey with 192 teachers. At the same time, a total of 21 students and five teachers from a delayed character introduction (DCI) program and an immediate character introduction (ICI) program were interviewed. Both quantitative and qualitative methods were used to analyze the data. Results indicate that the majority of CFL programs did not delay teaching characters; most of teachers and students believed that speaking and listening were the most important skills and reading and especially writing characters were the most difficult skills; and most of teachers and students did not favor alternative methods to replace the handwriting of characters even though they considered handwriting to be the most difficult skill. With few studies carried out to investigate the timing issue of character teaching, results from the study provided foundational knowledge for CFL educators to better understand CFL teaching and learning in general, along with the teaching and learning of written Chinese characters, in particular.