Reading in a Foreign Language    ISSN 1539-0578
Volume 29, Number 1, April 2017

Narrow reading: Effects on EFL learners’ reading speed, comprehension, and perceptions
Anna C-S Chang & Sonia Millett

This study compared the reading speed, comprehension and perceptions of two groups of English as a foreign language (EFL) learners. Each group addressed one of two types of narrow reading: same genre and same title. The same genre texts were three graded readers in the Sherlock Holmes series, and the same title texts were The Railway Children, published by three different publishers at different language levels. The study was conducted over a 3-week period. Then, two approximately 1,000-word texts, one related to Sherlock Holmes and one to The Railway Children, were used to measure whether the participants’ reading speed and comprehension differed in reading the two types of texts. The results showed that all participants read significantly faster and comprehended more with the related text than the unrelated text. A questionnaire on participants’ perceptions showed positive responses to narrow reading, especially the same title treatment. Pedagogical implications are discussed.

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An exploratory study of NNES graduate students’ reading comprehension of English journal articles
Kate Tzu-Ching Chen

The academic success of non-native English speaker (NNES) graduate students greatly relies on their ability to read and comprehend English journal articles (EJA). The purpose of this study was to identify NNES graduate students’ comprehension difficulties and reading strategies when reading EJA. In addition, the study explored how the relationship between reading difficulties and reading strategies are characterized. The study participants were 456 graduate students undertaking various majors in Taiwan. Both survey and interview methods were employed. The results of the study revealed that the participating students had medium-to-high levels of reading comprehension difficulties and that they tried to use various reading strategies. There is a significantly negative correlation between EJA reading difficulties and reading strategies.

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Discipline-specific reading expectation and challenges for ESL learners in US universities
K. James Hartshorn, Norman W. Evans, Jesse Egbert, & Amy Johnson

English-medium institutions of higher education host increasing numbers of English-as-a second-language (ESL) learners in the US. English language skill is vital to their progress. Previous research examined reading challenges and expectations faculty have for their first-year students within five popular majors for international students including Biology, Business, Computer Science, Engineering, and Psychology. Analyses revealed differences across majors and identified the reading expectations and challenges these first-year learners face. Building on the research, this study examines the reading expectations of faculty for their upper-division students nearing graduation. In addition to comparing the reading expectations and challenges within the same five majors, we compared professor perceptions across the baccalaureate experience. We present these findings along with observations of participating faculty across the five majors regarding the linguistic preparation of their students for professional work or graduate study within the discipline. The implications and applications of these findings are discussed.

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The differential impact of reading and listening on L2 incidental acquisition of different dimensions of word knowledge
Sarvenaz Hatami

This study compares the impact of second language (L2) reading and listening on the incidental acquisition and retention of five dimensions of vocabulary knowledge – spoken form, written form, part of speech, syntagmatic association, and form-meaning connection – at the level of recognition (form-meaning connection was measured also at the level of recall). The study also examines the relationship between frequency of word occurrence and vocabulary acquisition through reading versus listening. The participants were 139 pre-intermediate level English as a Foreign Language (EFL) learners with Farsi as their first language (L1), who were assigned to two experimental groups (i.e., reading and listening) and one control group. The experimental groups were exposed to the same text containing 16 target words (replaced by 16 non-words). The results on the immediate posttest revealed that readers scored higher than listeners on all five dimensions of word knowledge. Retention scores on a three-week delayed posttest (which due to the presence of testing effects could be measured for only one dimension of vocabulary knowledge, that is, form-meaning connection) were also higher for readers; however, listeners appeared to forget less within three weeks. Moreover, increase in the frequency of word occurrence in the text significantly benefitted incidental vocabulary acquisition through reading, but not through listening.

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Standards of coherence in second language reading: Sentence connectivity and reading proficiency
Shingo Nahatame

Standards of coherence are one of the major factors that influence reading comprehension. This study investigated the standards of coherence that second language (L2) learners employ when reading. In a pair of experiments, Japanese learners of English read two-sentence texts with varying causal and semantic relatedness between sentences and then judged the coherence of the texts on a 5-point scale. Analysis of the judgment ratings indicated that both causal and semantic relatedness affected readers’ perceived text coherence. The texts high in causal or semantic relatedness were judged as more coherent. Furthermore, when making judgments, lower proficiency readers were likely to place greater emphasis on semantic relatedness, whereas higher proficiency readers were likely to place greater emphasis on causal relatedness. These results suggest that L2 readers generally base standards of coherence on causal and semantic relatedness between sentences; however, readers of varying L2 skill levels may adopt different standards of coherence.

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L2 Japanese learners’ responses to translation, speed reading, and ‘pleasure reading’ as a form of extensive reading
Mitsue Tabata-Sandom

Fluency development instruction lacks in reading in Japanese as a foreign language instruction. This study examined how 34 upper-intermediate level learners of Japanese responded when they first experienced pleasure reading and speed reading. The participants also engaged in intensive reading, the main component of which was translation. Survey results indicated that the two novel approaches were more welcomed than translation. There was a positive correlation between the participants’ favorable ratings of pleasure reading and speed reading. The participants exhibited flexibility toward the two novel approaches in that they were willing to be meaningfully engaged in pleasure reading, whereas they put complete understanding before fluent reading when speed reading. The latter phenomenon may be explained by their predominantly-accuracy-oriented attitudes, fostered by long-term exposure to the grammar-translation method. The study’s results imply that a key to successful fluency development is an early start that nurtures well-rounded attitudes toward the target language reading.

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The effects of L1 and L2 group discussions on L2 reading comprehension
Blake Turnbull & Moyra Sweetnam Evans

The aim of this study was to explore the effects of post-reading group discussions in both first (L1) and second (L2) languages on L2 reading comprehension. The participants were fifteen Japanese university students of intermediate-level English. Three cohorts read four English texts and produced individual written recalls. Group 1 (the control group) responded in writing without discussion; group 2 discussed the texts in their L2 (English) before producing written recalls, and group 3 discussed the texts in their L1 (Japanese) before writing their recalls. The findings show that participants in the L1 discussion group used a larger number of higher-order processing and reading strategies than did those in the other two groups, suggesting that L1 group discussions have a positive effect on learners’ reading comprehension. The authors make recommendations for teachers to use bilingual teaching strategies and to encourage the strategic use of the L1 in the L2 classroom.

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Foreign language reading anxiety in a Chinese as a foreign language context
Jing Zhou

This study examined the foreign language (FL) reading anxiety level of learners of Chinese as a FL (n = 76) in the United States. Data from an FL reading anxiety survey, a background information survey and a face-to-face interview indicated that there was no significant difference in reading anxiety level among four course levels. In general, Chinese L2 learners experienced a medium level of reading anxiety. 100- and 400-level students experienced higher levels of reading anxiety compared to 200- and 300-level students. A regression model with background variables such as years of learning Chinese, heritage learner status, the number of foreign languages learned, and time spent in China significantly predicted learners’ reading anxiety levels and explained 15% of the variance in their reading anxiety. Worries relating to comprehension, unfamiliar topics, unknown pronunciation, and feeling uncomfortable reading aloud were identified as major sources of FL reading anxiety.

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