The acquisition of L2 reading comprehension: The relative contribution of linguistic knowledge and existing reading ability
The study presented here examines the development of second language (L2) reading comprehension among adolescents who speak Spanish as their native language (L1) and are just beginning to learn English. The existing research on L2 reading comprehension among adolescents has focused on the transfer of reading skills from the L1 to the L2 and on the role of L2 linguistic knowledge. The research has suggested that reading skills transfer from the L1 to the L2, but that L2 linguistic knowledge plays the strongest role in L2 reading comprehension. However, previous research has not fully investigated the role of the L1 in the L2 reading development of adolescent learners. Crucially, students with low levels of L1 reading have not been included in the research, and such students must be studied in order to get a complete picture of the role of L1 reading in L2 reading.
This study further expands on the previous research by including a group of participants not included in the research program on L2 reading comprehension among adolescent learners—namely, adolescent newcomer English language learners (ELLs) who arrive in the United States and enter the school system in middle or high school. Research on these students is lacking and little is known about their development of L2 academic skills.
The main finding from the study is that L1 reading comprehension is the strongest contributor to L2 reading comprehension, as compared to the other predictor variables: L2 vocabulary, L2 syntax, and L1 vocabulary. This result is in opposition to previous research findings that L2 language skills play a more important role in L2 reading comprehension than L1 reading comprehension. It is clear that for newcomer adolescent ELLs in U.S. schools, their level of L1 reading is an important contributor to their development of L2 reading comprehension. Thus, educators should be aware of their students' L1 reading skills upon entry to school in order to provide them with the best instruction.
English as a Second Language;
0441: English as a Second Language