Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

Nonlinguistic Variables in Advanced Second Language Reading: Learners' Self-Assessment and Enjoyment

Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

Nonlinguistic Variables in Advanced Second Language Reading: Learners' Self-Assessment and Enjoyment

Article excerpt

Abstract:

The present study on second language (L2) reading and individual difference variables (IDVs) examines learners' self-assessed ability level and enjoyment and the effects of these factors on two different measures of comprehension. The investigation controls for topic familiarity differences by gender and the study utilizes the authentic short story Aniversario by Luis Romero (Virgillo, Friedman, & Valdivieso, 1998). During regular class period, 88 participants from advanced grammar courses completed the following: (a) a questionnaire about general L2 reading abilities and enjoyment, (b) a reading passage, (c) a written recall task, (d) multiple-choice questions, and (e) a questionnaire concerning topic familiarity. Propositions in the text were analyzed for pausal units and recalls were scored for such units (Bernhardt, 1991). Results revealed that students believed they were satisfactory readers of Spanish and they generally enjoyed reading in Spanish. As predicted, levels of self-assessed abilities positively correlated with levels of enjoyment. The study yielded significant effects for both self-assessed ability and enjoyment on written recall (an open-ended assessment task), but no such effects were found on the multiple-choice questions (a task including retrieval cues). The study revealed that at the advanced levels of language instruction learners' self-assessment of their L2 reading ability was quite accurate, in terms of written recall. The findings suggest that the study of the variables self-assessment and enjoyment, in association with other L2 reading factors such as metacognition, anxiety, and motivation, may contribute to a better understanding of L2 reading comprehension.

Key words: advanced learners, comprehension, individual learner differences, second language reading, self-assessment

Language: Spanish

Introduction

Understanding second language (L2) reading with advanced readers offers important implications and considerations for readers from intermediate levels of instruction. The present study was motivated, in part, because of the lack of reading research conducted with students from advanced L2 university courses. In a recent discussion about new directions in L2 reading research, Bernhardt (2003) contended that more research is needed on the "ephemeral" dimensions of literacy, including affective variables such as engagement, interest, and purpose. She claimed that half of the variance in L2 reading is accounted for by first language (L1) literacy (20%) and L2 knowledge (30%), and that 50% of the variance remains unexplained. With students from third-year university level Spanish courses, the present investigation is a preliminary attempt to examine learners' self-assessed L2 reading ability along with a more transient variable, their L2 reading enjoyment, and to examine the relationship between these variables and two tests of L2 reading comprehension.

Review of the Literature

Levels of second Language Instruction

The first and second year L2 courses in Romance language departments generally emphasize the development of speaking and listening skills. After this, at the intermediate levels, the focus shifts to the development of reading and writing skills and includes culture and civilization as a major component. Students generally read short vignettes from newspapers, magazines, and history books, and they write about what they read. At the advanced levels of language instruction the reading of complete, authentic texts usually begins. Consequently, the instructional practices shift from a focus on language skills to an emphasis on text analysis and interpretation. The advanced level courses also include a heavy focus on grammar and composition where the objective is to prepare students for the level of reading and writing required in the literature courses. In most universities students in the advanced language courses enroll because they choose to, not because they are obliged to take the course in order to fulfill language requirements. …

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