Academic journal article International Journal of Linguistics

The Impact of Topic Interest on Second Language Reading Comprehension

Academic journal article International Journal of Linguistics

The Impact of Topic Interest on Second Language Reading Comprehension

Article excerpt


The purpose of this study was to investigate the impact of interesting topics on reading comprehension of Iranian advanced-level learners. 56 Iranian advanced-level students answered an interest questionnaire, and depending on the answers participants were listed in 2 groups of interested and less-interested participants. Participants read a text, and after reading they answered an immediate and a delayed free recall task. Analysis of recall tasks revealed that topic interest did not affect readers' recall significantly. It was also found that the impact of gender and interest had significant effect on immediate recall of readers; female readers out performed males in recalling interesting topics. Findings suggest that less-interesting topics can also be used in classroom activities as well as interesting topics.

Keywords: Topic interest, L2 reading, Immediate recall, Delayed recall

1. Introduction

Reading in a second language has always been a major concern for both language learners and teachers. Various interrelated affective and cognitive factors influence the comprehension of texts, and make reading comprehension a complex interactive process (Alderson, 2000; Lee, 2009; Hudson, 1991; Grabe, 1991; Al-Issa, 2000).

Topic variables, which are listed within factors associated with texts (Alderson, 2000), are among the factors that may influence quality of reading comprehension. Studying these factors and their impact on reading comprehension can help learners and teachers to overcome the problems in understanding texts and facilitate comprehension process. There are several studies on the importance of reading topics in LI (Asher, Hymel, and Wigfield, 1978; Kobayashi, 2009; Carrell, and Wise, 1998; Eidswick, 2010), but since purpose, process, and factors affecting L2 reading are more complicated than LI, more studies are needed in L2 contexts.

2. Topic Interest and Reading Comprehension

Interest is believed to be learners' preference in doing one task or activity rather than others, and it is characterized with increased attention and emotional engagement of learners (Schiefel, 1991). Interest, with regards to learning, can be studied into 3 types; individual, situational, and topic interest (Ainley, Hidi, andBerndorff, 2002). Individual interest is described as one's continuing preference towards one specific content area or doing a task or activity rather than other contents or activities, situational interest in contrast is the feeling of enjoyment caused by the texts or the situation that the learner is engaged in (Schiefel, 1991), and finally topic interest is a learner's level of interest when a specific topic is studied (Hidi, 2001; Ainley, Hidi, andBerndorff, 2002,). Schiefel (1991) defines topic interest as a form of individual interest and contrasted it with situational or text-based interest, but Ainley, Hidi, and Berndorff (2002) believe that these 2 types of interest are interactive and topic interest cannot only be individual or situational interest and it has characteristics of both types. Hidi (1990) emphasizes that situational and individual interest are not distinct from each other and they overlap in many areas, so this is not necessarily situational or individual interest alone that contribute to better learning but both of them and their interaction facilitate learning; therefore, it is not always true to say that origin of the learners' interest is only individual or situational and not the other. Hidi (2001) believes that both situational and individual interest contribute to topic interest. She believes that topic interest has a key role on reading because the topic of a passage is the first thing every will face when they are going to read a text. There are various views on how and why interest may influence reading comprehension. In studies concerning learning and education, it has always been important to find out if and how interest facilitates learning processes. …

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