Learners of Mandarin Chinese often find reading and writing Chinese characters extremely challenging. This study proposes a holistic approach that is anchored in the theoretic framework of Cognitive Linguistics to teaching Chinese characters for reading/writing by explicitly heightening learners’ awareness of the cultural knowledge encoded in the radicals and characters. Radicals are keys to learning characters as they are a vital clue to the meaning of a word and help compose compound characters. Traditional ways of organizing and teaching radicals are in accordance with the number of strokes they have. However, the proposed approach organizes radicals by way of concepts that reflect the folk categories speakers of Chinese share. Learners were also taught how conceptual metaphor and metonymy motivate the formation of radicals and compound words. Twenty-nine international students at a university in Taiwan participated in the study. A survey was administered after 6 weeks of treatment yielding results that are favorable to the approach. It was also found that such an approach may not suit all learners depending on their prior knowledge.
International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research 11(1), p.161-179