Title

Second Language Reading Comprehension and Patterns

Date of Degree

12-2006

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Program

Education

Advisor

Gilberto M. Hinojosa

Advisor

Dorothy H. Ettling

Advisor

Jessica C. Kimmel

Advisor

Sally E. Said

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to explore the role first language plays in second/foreign-language acquisition as well as how adult learners shift their first language and second/foreign language in their reading process to acquire reading comprehension of a second/foreign language. More specifically, this study concentrated on the second/foreign-language reading process in order to explore the common strategies and patterns that adult learners use to read a second language in an academic setting. For quite a long time, there has been a general belief among many second/foreign language learners and educators that first language use is an obstacle to learning a new language. However, the fact is that first language use still exists in second/foreign language classrooms and adult learners still have bilingual dictionaries at their side when they learn a second/foreign language. The question of whether learners’ first language is always an obstacle for second language learning, could be asked from this contradiction. The purpose of this study was to explore the role of first language in second/foreign language acquisition. More specifically, this study concentrated on second/foreign language reading processes in order to determine how adult learners demonstrated second language reading to acquire reading comprehension, and how a learner’s first language functions in second language reading. A qualitative research method was used in this study. The results showed that some common reading patterns do exist among 23 advanced second language readers in a context of “time.” A common thread of these reading patterns is that participants constantly switch reading strategies, top-down and bottom-up in a reading activity, depending on different reading focuses. Also, they switched between first and second language during a reading activity in order to help them acquire reading comprehension, especially when they encounter barriers. When they memorize incoming information, the language switching is more obvious. The results of this research suggest that the using of various reading strategies is an effective way to acquire second language reading comprehension. The results also show that advance second language readers do use their first language to help acquire second language reading comprehension. However, first language usage is limited in certain situations. In conclusion, first language does play a role as a helper and supporter in acquiring second language reading comprehension.

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