The Association for Reading and Writing in Asia (ARWA) organised its 4th annual conference in 2020. The conference is held yearly from 2016 and provides a platform for worldwide scholars and educators to share on literacy development, literacy impairment, expert linguistic processing in Asia, from any related fields such as psychology, education, linguistics and neuroscience.
The Chinese team has attended the ARWA conference in 2018. This year is the second time the Chinese team is attending and presenting at this international conference. It was initially scheduled face-to-face at Beijing but was conducted online due to the Covid-19 situation. The conference was held on 24th and 25th September 2020.
This year we have presented on two research topics on the conference: “A Curriculum-Based Approach: Bridging the Secondary School Chinese Learning Gap” by Chien Ling and Li Dong and “The Impact of a Structured Chinese Literacy Programme for Dyslexics: Character Reading and Writing” by Li Dong and Lee Mei Yu.
This is the first time the conference goes online, though there could be many uncertainties, the organizers assured us by answering our queries patiently and updated us on the presentation guidelines and programme flow. We are quite impressed that the programme flow is very structured and clear, and there are quite a variety of topics as presenters from all over the world presented their findings on different topics and languages. For example, on the topic of dyslexia, challenges and interventions for Korean, Japanese, Chinese and English dyslexic readers were explored. The topic on dyslexic learners learning another language is also quite popular, for example, there are presentations on “The Japanese dyslexic boy learns to write Chinese characters by cognitive intervention” and “Children with Chinese dyslexia acquiring English literacy”.
Our presentation was conducted live, hence we have to be familiar with the Zoom functions. We also have to keep to a time limit of 20 minutes for each presentation. We were excited yet nervous as it is the first time that we have to present live online with many international participants from all over the world. We rehearsed a few times before the actual presentation to ensure that everything is organized and in order. We entered the zoom webinar as one of the panelists 15 minutes before our session and we were able to test out the presentation functions. We were glad that everything went well as planned.
During the Question and Answer session, there was discussion on the profiles of our students, we highlighted that most of our students attend mainstream school and come to our learning centres for remediation after school. The participants were also curious if we have our testing tools in Mandarin to diagnose our students. We highlighted that there are only test tools in English now and research has showed that dyslexic affects all language learning.
Overall, the presentations from the conference are very insightful on how children and adults learn and master literacy in different languages and scripts. In the presentation session of “Early Literacy and Chinese language”, it is observed that many research pointed out the importance of orthographic awareness and radical knowledge to help young children acquire the language. Although these research are done in China and is based on learning Chinese as first language, we believe that we can reference some of the knowledge to our dyslexic learners. Some of our learners have poor visual spatial memory and poor retention of characters, hence introducing orthographic awareness and radical knowledge is part of our word recognition strategies introduced.
Lee Mei Yu, Loo Chien Ling
DAS Chinese Team