Recent research on how we learn should help people in their efforts to read a second or foreign language (SFL) more effectively. This will be good news for those struggling to develop language skills in preparation for a move abroad, or to help understand foreign language forms, reports, contracts and instructions.
The ability to read a second or foreign language can be very beneficial for academics, business people, politicians, professionals and migrants trying to master an unfamiliar language. Surprisingly, little is known about how the ability to read in another language develops.
To address this issue, research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), led by Professor Charles Alderson of Lancaster University, set out to identify the factors that determine how this skill develops. in a number of different languages and what first language factors influence reading progress.
“Research on diagnosing the strengths and weaknesses of SFL reading learners was virtually non-existent, which makes this research very innovative. We have followed the development of SFL reading skills over several years and studied which cognitive and linguistic tasks are the more promising for predicting literacy skills in multiple languages,” says Alderson.
“Progress has already been made in understanding reading problems in the first language – so we cooperated with psychologists who studied a group of dyslexic readers for many years. We used their instruments to see if the elements that predict dyslexia in the first language can help understand SFL reading and its problems,” continues Alderson.
Contrary to many beliefs, researchers have found that the ability to read in a first language is less important in SFL reading than fluency in the newly learned language. It was concluded that SFL vocabulary size and text comprehension influence each other: vocabulary growth promotes comprehension and comprehension helps a reader learn new words.
The results will help language teachers design more effective strategies to help learners and influence the accuracy of tests that predict SFL reading skills. Using data collected from many countries and languages, research suggests that reading well in one language has little bearing on the development of reading skills in another.
Linguist, Professor Scott Jarvis, University of Ohio, USA, says: “This study was perhaps the most impressive to date on SFL reading skills. A remarkable job has been done to identify and measure a range of cognitive and linguistic abilities, as well as to track these variables over time and linking them to improvements in learners’ second-language reading skills.The results are valuable for language teachers, and the design of the research is likely to serve as a model for many future studies of SFL.
More information: http://www.esrc.ac.uk/my-esrc/grants/RES-062-23-2320/read
Source of the story:
Material provided by Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). Note: Content may be edited for style and length.