Retrieving Kanji from Memory by Free Recall: Cues Used by Foreigners

Hiroko Ito, Yuichi Wada

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Using a free recall method, the present study examined characteristics of kanji (Chinese characters) representation in foreign learners of Japanese who had no background in kanji. Foreigners at different levels of knowledge of kanji (beginner, intermediate, advanced) and Japanese natives were asked to write as many kanji as possible in 15 minutes. The participants were then questioned about what cues they had used to retrieve the kanji from their memory. Beginners used graphical cues more than semantic cues. Participants with greater kanji proficiency increasingly used semantic cues more than graphical cues. The results were discussed in terms of the change in the accessibility of the direct links between conceptual representations and related lexical representations in a second language. Furthermore, components of kanji smaller than radicals were used by foreigners more often than by Japanese natives. Only foreigners used graphical cues that were distinct from the orthodox stroke-based units of kanji characters. These findings seem to indicate that graphical representations of kanji by foreigners are different from those of persons for whom Japanese is the first language.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)346-353
Number of pages8
JournalJapanese Journal of Educational Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1999


  • Foreign learners of Japanese without kanji background
  • Free recall method
  • Kanji(Chinese characters)
  • Lexical-conceptual representation
  • Retrieval cues


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