Does Recreational Reading in Native Language Influence Foreign Language Learning Process?

Article excerpt

The present study was conducted under the guidance of two reasons. Firstly, as relevant literature indicates below, while recreational reading in English has considerably positive effects on native, second, and foreign language acquisition/learning processes, the influence of recreational reading in one's native language on English as a foreign language (EFL) learning still remains as an untouched research area. Secondly, although English is taught widely as a foreign language in Turkey, there is a lack of data on the effects of recreational reading in Turkish as a native language (L1) on EFL learning. With these concerns in mind, the research focuses the effects of recreational reading in L1 on EFL learning process.

For Holden (2004), reading is a very important gateway to personal development, and to social, economic and civic life. Furthermore, it helps learning about people, history, languages, science, mathematics, and all other content. In terms of language acquisition and learning, reading, one of the main language skills, develops language acquisition and learning. Specifically speaking, as presented in the section of literature review below, recreational reading improves autonomous learning, creativity, intelligence, comprehension, communicative competence, literacy development, motivation, and attitudes towards language learning. However, research results indicate that reading enjoyment has declined significantly in the last years (Sainsbury & Schagen, 2004).

As for the scope of the present study, it was found that the frequency of recreational reading in L1 among Turkish EFL learners is quite low (1.37 books for each month). In accordance with the researcher's observations and EFL learners' experiences, the main reason behind the low frequency of recreational reading in L1 is the exam-centered education system. That is, EFL learners graduating from high school programs focus on tests to achieve the Foreign Language Examination, an official and central examination for the selection and placement of students in EFL-related programs at universities. As the examination includes multiple-choice reading and grammar items, students' main focus is on gaining experience only about solving the reading questions. Finally, during the language education at high school, they complain that they do not have time for recreational reading in both L1 and EFL. In addition, in the departments of English language teaching in Turkey, reading skills are presented integratedly with writing skills in teaching programs. In relation to reading skills, the course includes a wide range of authentic reading materials including newspapers, journals, reviews and academic texts in order to comprehend contrasting viewpoints and to predict and identify main ideas and to decode intersentential clues. It also aims to equip students with intensive and extensive reading habits and with critical thinking skills such as synthesizing information or analyzing a problem. Yet, as it is difficult to achieve the course goals in a three-hour reading and writing class, one of the possible ways to achieve the goals is recreational reading as an extensive reading activity. Thus, as Turkish EFL students have a quite low frequency of recreational reading not only in EFL but also in L1, the study aims at investigating the effects of recreational reading in L1 on EFL learning after a recreational reading process outside the classroom.

In conclusion, given that there exists no certain data about the effects of recreational reading in native language on foreign language learning process, the present study aims at investigation of recreational reading in L1 on EFL learning. As the studies on the issue are too limited to draw conclusions, the findings of the research will contribute to EFL learning and teaching process. In this sense, EFL learners and teachers are the target groups that will form the implications and recommendations obtained from the study. …