Connecting Kanji Radicals with their Malay Equivalents in Japanese Kanji Instruction to Native Malay-speaking Students

Kazuhito Uni


The current methods to teach Kanji characters in Malaysian Japanese-language textbooks limit students’ understanding of the semantic link between the Kanji characters and their radicals. Therefore, the objective of this study is to examine the effectiveness of teaching Chinese characters (Kanji) using the major components (radicals), along with their Malay equivalents. This study proposed a method to connect the meaning of Kanji radicals with their Malay equivalents when teaching Kanji characters to native Malay speakers. A multiple-choice test was administered to 116 native Malay-speaking university students. They had no previous knowledge of the Japanese or Chinese languages. Participants studied a list of Malay words and their Japanese equivalents comprising 28 Kanji. Each Kanji pair in the list shared a common radical, and each pair of their Malay equivalents shared a common root. The control group was given a list of the spellings and pronunciation of same Japanese and Malay words but without the instructions regarding the semantic similarities between Japanese and Malay. Both groups were given 30 minutes to learn the Kanji and another 30 minutes to take an identical 28-question test. On average, the experimental and control groups scored 17.03 and 10.58, respectively (n = 116); therefore, at a 5% level, a significant difference was found between the scores for the two groups (p < 0.001, t = 8.10). A multiple linear regression indicated that the experimental group had an effect size of 6.4 more correct answers than the control group (df = 114, R2 = 0.3651, p < 0.001). The results imply that the explicit presentation of the Kanji radicals and their Malay equivalents assisted native Malay-speaking students in learning Kanji including characters which consist of more than 10 strokes.


Japanese; Kanji radical; Malay; similarity; vocabulary

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