Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

Comparison of L2 Listening and Reading Comprehension by University Students Learning English in Korea

Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

Comparison of L2 Listening and Reading Comprehension by University Students Learning English in Korea

Article excerpt

Abstract:

This study compared L2 listening comprehension with L2 reading comprehension in terms of the roles of linguistic knowledge, background knowledge, and question types among 168 university students learning English in Korea. The analyses of the data found that L2 listeners processed inferential information more easily than factual information, while the reverse was true for L2 readers. In addition, linguistic and background knowledge exerted significant effects on L2 listening comprehension. In L2 reading comprehension, however, linguistic knowledge played a significant role, while background knowledge played only a moderate role. In terms of the interaction among linguistic knowledge, background knowledge, and question types, only linguistic and background knowledge in L2 listening comprehension and linguistic knowledge and question types in L2 reading comprehension were significant. Third, linguistic knowledge and background knowledge combined explained a total variance of 14% in L2 listening comprehension and 20% in L2 reading comprehension. These findings show that L2 listening comprehension and L2 reading comprehension differ from each other and that the comprehension of an oral and written text is a more complex process than the interactive process model holds.

Introduction

L2 listening and L2 reading skills have been the keystone in second language acquisition (SLA) theories and practice.1 According to some researchers and theoreticians, both skills provide input that is a causative variable promoting advancement in L2 knowledge through either conscious or unconscious processes (Krashen, 1985). Practically, these receptive skills often have advantages over productive skills cognitively as well as affectively because asking students who are not yet ready to speak too early will provoke interference from a first language, anxiety, and loss of motivation (Gary & Gary, 1981).

Whether receptive skills are the same or different is problematic, leading to two opposite models. The unitary model claims that the unitary comprehension process underlies the two skills, while the dual model holds that there are differences as well as similarities in the comprehension process of the two skills (Danks, 1980, cited in Lund, 1991). Regardless of this controversy, however, it is important to remember that the two skills are unique because listening comprehension involves an oral text which is not available for rehearing, while reading comprehension involves a written text in which a reader can go back and forward for rereading (Thompson, 1995).

When the similarities and differences between L2 listening and L2 reading comprehension are understood, the knowledge of the two skills will deepen and students and teachers will benefit from this. It is the burden of researchers to compare the similarities and differences between these two skills. In comparing the two skills, linguistic and background knowledge need to be chosen because the interactive process model, the most widely recognized model explaining listening and reading comprehension, holds that comprehension is the outcome of the interaction between linguistic and background knowledge (Dubin & Bycina, 1991; Morley, 1991). It is important for both theorists and practitioners alike to understand what each skill contributes to comprehension, as well as how they in fact interact. For this, question types (i.e., global and local questions) should be considered because they have interacted with knowledge types (i.e., linguistic and background knowledge) in comprehension (Johnson, 1981; Shohamy & Inbar, 1991; Tsui & Fullilove, 1998).

This study sought to compare L2 listening comprehension with L2 reading comprehension focusing on the degree to which linguistic knowledge, background knowledge, and question types contribute to or interact with the two skills. The findings of this study have a direct bearing on theoretical as well as practical issues of the two skills. …

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