Research On Reading A Second Language

Below are few highlights findings from second language research that will affect our approach to teaching reading skills:

1.      Bottom-up and top-down processing

In bottom-up processing, readers must first recognize a multiplicity of linguistic signals (letters, morphemes, syllables, words, phrases, grammatical cues, discourse, and markers) and use their linguistic data-processing mechanisms to impose some sort of order on these signals. Virtually, all reading involves a risk – because readers must, through a puzzle-solving process, infer meanings, decide what to retain and not to retain, and move on. This is where a complementary method of processing written text is imperative: top down, or conceptually driven, processing in which we draw on our own intelligence and experience to understand a text. More recent research on teaching reading has shown that a combination of top-down and bottom-up processing, or what has come to be called interactive reading, is almost always a primary ingredient in successful teaching methodology because both process are important.

2.      Schema Theory and Background Knowledge

How do readers construct meaning? How do they decide what to hold on to and having made that decision, how do they infer a writer’s message? These are the sorts of questions addressed by what has come to be known as schema theory, the hallmark of which is that a text does not by itself carry meaning. Research has shown that reading is only incidentally visual. More information is contributed by the reader than by the print on the age. That is, readers understand what they read because they are able to take the stimulus beyond its graphic representation and assign it membership to an appropriate group of concepts already stores in their memories. Skill in reading depends on the efficient interaction between linguistic knowledge and knowledge of the world.

3.      Teaching Strategic Reading

One of the ongoing themes among researchers and teachers of foreign languages is the tension between direct and indirect approaches to teaching language skills. The continuum of possibilities is highlighted in debates over conscious and subconscious acquisition, explicit and implicit learning, focal and peripheral processing and learning versus acquisition. Instruction should of course provide an optimal mix of each, but Neil Anderson (1999,2004) advocated a healthy dose of strategy-based instruction, including metacognitive strategies of self-planning, monitoring, and evaluating one’s own reading process.

4.      Extensive Reading

Extensive reading is a key to student gains in reading ability, linguistic competence, vocabulary, spelling and writing. The research on extensive reading suggests that instructional programs in reading should give consideration to the teaching of extensive reading.

5.      Fluency and Reading Rate

Researchers have suggested to use skimming, scanning, predicting, and identifying main idea as approaches to increasing fluency and reading rate.

6.      Focus on Vocabulary

7.      The Role of Affect and Culture

The “love” of reading has propelled many learner to successful acquisition of reading skills. Instruction has been found to be effective when students’ self-esteem is high. The autonomy gained through the learning of reading strategies has been shown to be a powerful motivation, not to mention the affective power of reading itself. Similarly, culture plays an active role in motivating and rewarding people for literacy.

8.      Adult Literacy Training

A significant number of immigrants arriving in various nonnative countries and cultures are nonliterate in their native language, posing special issues in the teaching English. What are sometimes referred to as “skill-based” (bottom-up) and “strategies-based” (top-down) approaches are both used in adult literacy training.



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Simple and complex at the same time, but not twisted, of course!

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