Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

Language Deficits in Poor L2 Comprehenders: The Simple View

Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

Language Deficits in Poor L2 Comprehenders: The Simple View

Article excerpt

Introduction

Recently, second language (L2) researchers have proposed that L2 reading may be similar to first language (L1) reading (e.g., see Proctor, Carlo, August, & Snow, 2005; Verhoeven & van Leeuwe, 2012). Koda (2007) speculated that L1 reading, L2 oral proficiency, and L2 word decoding contribute significantly to L2 reading comprehension and also pointed out that students' individual differences in each of these domains can help explain differences among students in overall reading comprehension. Other researchers have postulated that reading has "universal" properties reflected in the writing systems of the languages, all of which represent a spoken language (Perfetti & Harris, 2013; Perfetti & Liu, 2005). For example, Koda (2008) noted that students learning to read an alphabetic orthography must first learn general mapping principles (i.e., print relates to speech, speech can be segmented into sounds, segmented sounds relate to graphic symbols), then master the mapping details (i.e., how the aforementioned mapping principles are encoded) of the orthography. If reading has universal properties, then once the universals of reading are learned in one language-e.g., an alphabetic orthography such as English-then the skills necessary to learn English are available to learn another alphabetic orthography, such as Spanish.

In L1 reading research, the simple view of reading (SVR) model (Gough & Tunmer, 1986; Hoover & Gough, 1990) was first conceived as an attempt to pursue a parsimonious approach for tracking the developmental progression of primary-level Spanish-English bilingual students living in the United States through the upper elementary grades. The SVR model proposes that reading is the product of word decoding and language (listening) comprehension, and that decoding and comprehension make separate, independent contributions to reading skill. Some L2 researchers have proposed that the SVR model may also be relevant for explaining the development of L2 reading skill (e.g., see Verhoeven & van Leeuwe, 2012). For example, Proctor et al. (2005) found that both word decoding and oral language comprehension make independent contributions to L2 reading comprehension; however, they speculated that decoding skill may play less of a role in reading comprehension once a certain level of word decoding skill is attained. More recent studies have confirmed these findings (e.g., see Joshi, Ji, Breznitz, Amiel, & Yulia, 2015).

In addition to proposing that reading is the product of word decoding and language comprehension and that these two skills make separate and independent contributions to reading skill, the SVR model has implications for identifying different types of readers and for proposing intervention strategies to improve reading comprehension. For example, some individuals may exhibit good word decoding and good language comprehension, while others may be good decoders but poor comprehenders, poor decoders but good comprehenders, or both poor decoders and poor comprehenders. An open question is whether students in the United States who are learning to read an L2 at the same time they are learning to speak and comprehend the L2 would fit the profiles proposed by the SVR model. Learners who bring no home or community exposure to that L2 in either spoken or written forms are not only learning to read the L2 many years after they have learned their L1 but may also have little or no exposure to the L2 outside of the classroom.

In this study, the SVR model was examined using data gathered from first- and second-year learners of Spanish as a second language who had no previous exposure to the language prior to high school courses. Their performance in reading was assessed using a standardized measure of Spanish reading and vocabulary that is normed on native Spanish readers. The purpose of the study was to examine the extent to which the students under consideration fit one of the four profiles of good and poor readers posited by the SVR model and to propose broad instructional strategies for supporting and enhancing their reading skills. …

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