The 31st Second Language Research Forum
Building Bridges Between Disciplines: SLA in Many Contexts
October 18-21, 2012

Conference Program


Colloquium VI:  Reading in a Second Language: Processes and Challenges


Organized by:
 Dr. Charles Perfetti, University of Pittsburgh
Dr. Keiko Koda, Carnegie Mellon University

In literate societies, second language learning implies second language reading. This colloquium brings together 4 presentations from researchers who have studied the processes of learning to read in a second language and the challenges faced by learners.

The research represents work on multiple complexities inherent in second language reading from a cross-linguistic perspective. 

Collectively, these studies illuminate the language-specific constraints on reading development, their impacts on second language reading processes and acquisition, and various other factors moderating the impacts.

Issues in the Development of Literacy Skills in Children’s L2

Esther Geva

University of Toronto (Canada)

Much of my research on L2 reading development has been guided by general questions such as: Are models of reading based on monolingual readers applicable to L2 students? Is proficiency in the L2 essential for reading in L2? How do reading and language skills in the native language relate to L2 reading skills? Do language and orthographic typology matter in understanding L2 reading development? Is it possible to identify reading disabilities in L2 learners even when they are not fluent in the L2? I will address some of these fundamental questions and provide evidence based on research involving L2 learners conducted in my lab in Toronto.


Developing second language literacy in adult education settings

Aydin Durgunoglu

University of Minnesota Duluth

Most of the research on adult second language learning has been conducted with participants in high school and colleges.  However, in the USA and around the world, quite a few individuals develop second language proficiencies outside of formal schooling, for example in adult education settings. These learners tend to have limited schooling in either of their languages.   In this presentation, after summarizing the National Research Council’s recent report on adolescent and adult literacy, I will discuss findings from two different adult education contexts:  Spanish- and Hmong-speakers developing English literacy in the USA and Arabic and Kurdish-speakers developing Turkish literacy in Turkey.  


Variations in cross-linguistic facilitation in biliteracy development

Keiko Koda

Carnegie Mellon University

Second language readers are no longer in the minority.  More than half the children worldwide learn to read for the first time in their second language.  Because L2 reading involves two languages, models of monolingual reading cannot adequately explain how reading skills are acquired, refined and maintained by learners with prior language and literacy learning experiences. In this talk, I will discuss systematic variations in cross-linguistic facilitation stemming from previously acquired language skills and reading ability based on findings from a series of biliteracy studies involving five languages and seven writing systems.


Second Language Literacy: Lessons from alphabetic learners of Chinese

Charles Perfetti

University of Pittsburgh

Spoken and written second language learning can be mutually supportive. However, when second language literacy crosses a major writing system boundary, literacy can be an additional obstacle for learners. I illustrate ways to address this problem in the case of Chinese, discussing research that combines classroom learning and cognitive neuroscience methods to study behavior and brain effects of instructional interventions. One conclusion from this work is that writing facilitates learning to read Chinese and strengthens the neural networks that support orthographic processes.


Neural networks in second language word reading processes

Ludo Verhoeven, Barbara Wagensveld, Pienie Zwitserlood,  Peter Hagoort & Atsuko Takashima

Behavioural Science Institute, Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands

The focus of this study was on the brain activity involved in second language (L2) word reading processes. Dutch university students studying Greek were trained to read aloud unfamiliar disyllabic letter strings written in Greek alphabet and pronounceable in Dutch over multiple sessions. There were three conditions: (i) “Trained” (letter strings that were extensively trained), (ii) "Recombined” (letter strings of which the disyllables were recombination of the syllables in the trained condition), and (iii) “Novel” (novel pronounceable letter strings). Brain activity was measured on three different time points (day 1, 5, and 28) with multiple extensive training sessions in between using fMRI technique while they were instructed to overtly read the print on the screen. The data show that subjects were able to map L2 grapheme-to-phoneme conversion quite rapidly and that they benefited from repeated training. The results suggest that the subjects were not only coding the word in L2 as a whole but they also read recombined L2 word representations faster and more accurate than novel L2 word representations. Two distinct brain activity networks emerged: First, the assembled phonology network which was dominant during the initial phase of the trained words on day 1 and for the novel words throughout the experiment. Second, the addressed phonology network which increased in activity with repetition over the course of day 1, and also kept increasing in activity over a month of repeated practice.

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