Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education


Date of this Version



Olmanson, J., & Liu, X. (2017). The Challenge of Chinese Character Acquisition: Leveraging Multimodality in Overcoming a Centuries-Old Problem. Emerging Learning Design Journal, 4(1), 1–9.


This article is being published as a proceeding of the 2015 Emerging Learning Design Conference (ELDc 2015).

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivatives 4.0 International License.


For learners unfamiliar with character-based or logosyllabic writing systems, the process of developing literacy in written Chinese poses significantly more obstacles than learning to read and write in a second language like Portuguese or Cherokee. In this article we describe the linguistic nature of Chinese characters; we outline traditional and new media approaches to Chinese character acquisition; we unpack how multimodal technologies combined with computational linguistics might be used to provide new types of support for Chinese character learning; and we offer a design that incorporates several of these concepts into a digital writing support tool that could work as a scaffold to enable Chinese language students to leverage their Chinese listening and speaking skills as well as their visual literacies in support of producing and learning Chinese characters.