First time l2 adult reading how long does it take martha young scholten leslla 4 antwerp
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First-time L2 adult reading: How long does it take? Martha Young-Scholten LESLLA-4 Antwerp - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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First-time L2 adult reading: How long does it take? Martha Young-Scholten LESLLA-4 Antwerp. Orthographic tranparency in some alphabetic scripts (Ziegler & Goswami 2005; children take longest to gain literacy in English and so will 1 st time L2 readers). Greek Finnish Swedish German Dutch

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First-time L2 adult reading: How long does it take? Martha Young-Scholten LESLLA-4 Antwerp

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First-time L2 adult reading: How long does it take?Martha Young-Scholten LESLLA-4 Antwerp

Orthographic tranparency in some alphabetic scripts (Ziegler & Goswami 2005; children take longest to gain literacy in English and so will 1st time L2 readers)








  • Typical case: children start learning to read

    • once they’ve established close to adult linguistic competence in their native language

    • when they’ve grown up in a print environment, observing literacy practices (4-5 years)

  • Child development research: norms exist for rate of development of a range of language skills, including development of reading (as e.g. grade level)

    • This assumes consistent amount of time spent in school (=30 hrs/week from e.g. six years old), and further assumes a consistent amount of time spent in school on literacy activities

    • Research does show influence of school-external factors

      • extent and type of early literacy experiences

      • presence of books at home

      • lexia (as in dyslexia and precocious reading)

      • phonological working memory capacity

    • Research also points to role of instructional practices

Are there norms for L2 reading development?

  • In L2 acquisition, stages/levels exist (e.g. CEFR), yet norms for rate of progress in reaching levels is far less clear, and only made explicit by the foreign service, in advertising claims and typically evident in instructed contexts:

    • Those who progress more rapidly get better marks in school

    • Those who progress more rapidly than others pay less for courses

    • Those adults who develop (quickly) to near-native levels are deemed exceptional (those remaining at low levels despite ample input are considered poor L2 learners

Variables in first-time L2 adult reading

  • The same extra-school variables apply:

    • Home literacy practices

    • Books at home

    • Lexia

    • Working memory (e.g. Juffs & Rodríguez 2008; Kurvers & van de Craats 2008)

    • Instructional practices

  • But several important differences exist

    • L2 adults often have a low level of linguistic competence in the L2

    • They may not have grown up in a print environment

    • Time spent in the classroom may be less than 30 hours per week

The policy makers’ view: fund programmes that impart skills

  • First-time L2 readers make slow progress (slower than low-schooled L2 readers)

    • Lack of documented progress = insecure funding

  • But LESLLA research does show first-time L2 readers demonstrate the cognitive prerequisites for learning to read

    • What is the evidence that 1st time L2 readers learn to read?

    • How long does it take to learn become literate ‘from scratch’?

How do we know when someone can read?

Stages in word recognition, by strategy

(Kurvers 2007)

1. Visual recognition/guessing

based on visual or contextual cues

2. Letter naming

responding with the names or the sounds of

individual letters, without any blending

3. Letter-by-letter

sounding out letters and blending

4. Partial decoding

decoding by groups of letters

5. Direct word recognition

reading of a word is read without any spelling out.

Reading level placement by subskills (Young-Scholten & Strom 2006)

Consider one group of 0-schooled 1st time L2 readers

  • They demonstrate the same correlations between sub-syllabic and phonemic and reading (decoding) as children

  • Correlations exist between morphosyntactic stage (Organic Grammar) and reading, but not between phonological competence and reading (possibly phonlogical competence and awareness)

Variable success

  • Why haven’t seven out of the eight learned to read? (Is their morpho-syntactic development simply too low to support literacy development?)

  • What accounts for Sharif’s success?

    • Age?

    • Sex?

    • Length of residence in the TL country?

    • Maritial status?

    • Literacy of family members? Answers to these questions are currently beyond us (cf. Kurvers & van de Craats 2008)

Let’s assume successful (Kurvers’ and Y-S & S level ‘5’) first-time L2 readers indeed exist

  • This leads to a simpler question: under what conditions do those who succeed learn to read?

    • Hours spent in class?

    • Concentration of hours (attendance)?

    • Other factors? (This is not so simple…)

Pilot study: what’s the range of hours required for a 0-schooled adult to learn to read for the first time in a second language (English)?

  • A form was sent with request for snowballing it to

    • four teachers in the UK

    • one researcher in Australia

    • four ESL practioners/professionals in the USA

Form for teachers to record hours required to reach Level 5

Results: one response

  • JY, US refugee ESOL programme director: 200 hours for one non-clan Somali woman (no children)

  • cf. Feldemeier (2008) on Germany

    • Feedback from teachers has led to current system of up to 1200 units (1 = 45 minutes) for literacy learners), where these students must have a 70% attendance record (see Condelli et al. 2006)

    • Note that German orthography is much more transparent

What next?

  • I don't want to be discouraging and I think it is a great idea.  I just don't know how to collect data on it without a lot of work.  At least here in the US, hard data on this is very hard to come by,  We could get teachers' perceptions, which helps but I don't think it convinces government that much.  I do agree that 0-schooled are different than those with even a few years education. We need to get a grant to do this! (Condelli, April 23, 2008)

  • I could see asking for groups of students but how could you ask a teacher about individual students unless they had only a few? Most teachers here would only have a few but large programs will have dozens each term. If you limit to zero schooling it will be a little easier […] (Condelli, April 21, 2008)

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