Confusion and Chinese character learning

Jon Chao Hong, Chien hung Lin*, Ya hsun Tsai, Kai Hsin Tai

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study explores the relationship between the experience of confusion and the outcomes of Chinese character learning by learners of Chinese as a heritage language (CHL). Based on the claim that impasses triggering confusion can lead to deeper learning of conceptually difficult material, the study employed three impasse-driven tasks. The tasks were designed to trigger a state of cognitive disequilibrium in the participants. After first encountering the tasks in Session 1, the 117 CHL learners were given 1 week to resolve their impasse-driven tasks in their own time for 30 min (limited by the computer system). Afterwards, we announced the correct answer for them to look at for 3 days, and then Session 2 was administered 1 week after the feedback. The results of this study showed considerable improvement in differentiating near-homographs and homophones presented in a sentence, and correcting wrong Chinese characters. The study’s results suggest that incorporating well-designed confusing content into Chinese learning may help CHL learners deepen their learning of Chinese characters.

Original languageEnglish
JournalLanguage Learning Journal
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021


  • Chinese characters
  • Confusion
  • homophone
  • impasse-driven learning
  • near-homograph

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language


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