Wh-questions in Japanese: Challenges for Vietnamese L2 learners


Trang Phan and Giang Vu

Acta Linguistica Asiatica, 14(1), 87-109 (2024)

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Abstract: The study explored how Vietnamese learners of Japanese handle structural differences in wh-questions. Despite both being wh-in-situ languages, the divergent word order poses challenges for Vietnamese learners. The research involved 65 high school students with 2.5 to 13 years of Japanese learning. Survey results showed a positive correlation between Japanese proficiency and performance. Students were more accurate when Japanese wh-questions mirrored Vietnamese word order, especially in ‘why’ and ‘when’ questions. Difficulties arose when structures differed. Advanced learners could acquire L2 wh-questions with parametric values distinct from L1, but native-like interpretations in Japanese remained challenging. The study advocates for explicit classroom instruction on Japanese wh-question word order, particularly with scrambled sentences, to enhance accuracy and improve overall teaching effectiveness.

About the author: Trang Phan was a HYI Visiting Scholar from 2020-21.