BERNHARDT: Um, I’m going to first say a—kind of a scandalous thing that isn’t very popular to say. Reading is indeed the extraction of information from written text. End of story. Um, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have lots of other dimensions. Principally, social dimensions. But I think we’ve got a bit off the track of thinking that it’s all about uh group building and um understanding cultural differences and that sort of stuff. I—as I look back over the years, particularly with the growth of the Internet, I think that’s the best example, the amount of English language that is on it—on the Web and the fact that we have millions of non-native speakers of English seeking information in that kind of a forum. Uh, we need to get back to the basics and—and hope that all of these individuals have good information and accurate information about what they’re reading. And—and on the Web they’re reading expository text, they’re learning about—anywhere from um health care issues to how to build a nuclear weapon. And for—in that whole continium, what is critical is that they understand, and understand accurately information that’s there. Um, so that’s—so I have to say that from the start that are task as language instructors is really to ensure that students have a high comprehension level and, I have to say, an accurate comprehension level. It’s not about the interpretation of text. It’s about the interpretation of factual information that, yes, gets put together in some sort of conceptual framework. But let move to the social part because, indeed, that’s there. Um, the social part is the—is the glue--and literacy is a glue. Literacy binds um the educated world. Uh, it’s something that the industrialized world understands um and that’s—it’s just really important. At a classroom level, that’s the function, that’s the—that’s the—probably the—the main element that socializes kids into becoming who they are, into becoming the citizens that they are, the learners that they are, the knowledge bearers that they are. That all happens through text and that’s essentially a social process of how they—how they come to who they are. That’s really important. The sociology also of who gets to be literate and who doesn’t get to be literate in the world is really, really important. Um, and that’s really uh often a gender issue. Um, I fear for those women in Afghanistan who have had everything removed from them, including—probably most importantly, literacy. Because even if they could maintain their literacy, they might be able to do some self healthcare. But they’ve had all of that removed from them. And—and so it’s a critical social dimension of the act of reading. So I—I still—uh, my heart is still there but I think frequently when we talk to teachers about social dimensions of literacy we over emphasize that and under emphasize really critical cognitive dimension. If I could continue with the—this point about Afghanistan just as if—just as an example. Um, clearly there’s the social dimension that I just mentioned, but if these individuals don’t have a way of making certain they can accurately comprehend, whatever that means, meaning, do they know when to look up words, do they know how to be flexible about the use of syntax. Do they have any access to grammatical material to help them understand. Um, do they know how to bind what they perhaps already know with what’s in the text. If they don’t have any of those strategies, none of the social part really matters anyway. It’s all down the tubes. Um, so I guess that’s the—it’s social, it’s cognitive, it’s all important.
OK. I think that sometimes we think about interpretation almost like literary interpretation or um what’s the grand theme here that I can extract and how many um unusual themes can we come up with to admire the ambiguity in these text. I think sort of that’s where we’ve come down on the interpretive side. And indeed, there’s a reason to do that. I find that—that a pretty limiting um sense of what interpretation is about. Interpretation on the other hand in a more cognitive sense, I think is about building—building a conceptual model in that—in that old time sort of information processing perspective. It’s about building a conceptual model. What makes sense within what I’ve already understood. And it’s true that we have to interpret—we always have to interpret sentence five in terms of sentences one through four. So, I guess, that’s what I mean about interpretation but—and that’s also what I mean about an accurate—if I could come back to the accuracy issue—accurate interpretation of um of text. Let me give you an example. One time I had some undergraduate German learners reading a text about how Germans teenagers get their driver’s license. Now, sidebar, the social dimension is, we’ve used the text that would high school kids would possibly be interested in. They’re all getting their driver’s license, let’s find out how German kids get their driver’s license. OK, so the text says, “In contrast to American teenagers where it’s often the case that their fathers uh will take them out and teach them to drive, German teenagers have to go to driving school to get their driver’s licenses…” OK. So I asked the kids to read and recall this. So you have a text that they have some sort affective interest in, we would think, they have high knowledge, we would think, um one of the interpretations I got was, ‘German fathers teach their children French.’ OK. Where could that possible come from? If you look at the word for driver’s license in German it is ‘Furoschen’ (spelling?). It starts with a capital ‘F’, it’s a big long word and has an umlough (spelling?) OK. Well, what happened? The kid had the word ‘Frunchersis’ (spelling?) French. Sort of the same length, same uh—has an ‘r’ at the beginning, large ‘F’ at the top and umlough (spelling?) Looks kind of the same. Let me go with what I know, OK. Now here’s the interpret part. What would possess this person to come up with something as illogical as ‘Why would German fathers teach their children French?’ So this person was bound—essentially bound to the text and bound to word recognition and indeed bound to—to the only word that he knew that was long that started with a capital ‘F’ and had an umlough (spelling?). OK? In otherwords, he used all the knowledge that he had but he came up with an interpretation that couldn’t possibly work and um—so that’s—that’s the interpretive dimenstion. That’s a dimension that has—that always disturbs me when I look at how kids come into language classes and are so able to suspend reality. And that’s what I mean about—they needed be able to interpret in terms of something that would seem reasonable and logical. And lots of times I’ve seen them suspend all of that and recall stuff that couldn’t be.
Um, let me—let me just start with the issue of literacy and no literacy. Um, and this comes, I guess, in response to this—to the notion of um, uh, um—oh, I’m flipping out here--uh, the second language perspective, how you take a second language perspective and uh—for the instruction of reading. Um, there are several things that happen—well, let’s come back to the social dimension of literacy. Literacy is something that cultures have or they don’t. Uh, they either socialize other members of society through literate behavior or they don’t, or they some other sent patterns. So many children come to school um certainly in the industrialized world from societies that have literacy practices. They have all of the uh cultural around it and all of the uh, um what am I looking for? Sort of the—the cultural pattern behavior around that. That can come from religious structures, it can come from the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts. There’s all sorts of literacy stuff. OK. So that when um, um a child from another culture that has other—that has literacy patterns, that child already knows what this is about. There’s a message, there’s some cohearance, uh there’s possibly a story um and very crucially they understand that there is a link between what they know in their oral vocabulary and what’s written—they—from the beginning, from the time their infants. From the time—before they can even see or sit up, that link between oral language and the person sitting there with this thing is—is always there. Now we have some uh children, some adults, I think it is not as substantial as it was in the 70s, but we have some who come into the industrial—industrialized literate world with no concepts of print. Wow! That means that the socialization process has been very different, how—how people—how children have learned to adapt the practices of their own culture has not been through literate means, it might be through oral means, who knows what way—what way it is. They don’t have that stuff. They don’t understand that they uh—they surely don’t have the link because there’s no literacy between oral language and that squiggley stuff on the paper. None of that is there. Um, nor do they have a sense of the communication of information, if I could come back to the Girl Scout example, for exam—you know, how to—how to make knots or how to build a campfire or any of that stuff. They don’t have any of those. All of that knowledge that they may well have—they may well know how to build a campfire, they just would never get that from this paper with this stuff on—on—on it. So there’s an absolutely critical dimension about where teachers can start in those two groups of children. Because the child who comes without any of those concepts, has to get those concepts before we can ever talk about learning to read. We have to understand why we would do this and—and what role it plays and—I could probably think of a couple other reasons. So that’s um—that sets the stage and—and that’s, I think, one of the most critical things that teachers have to understand when they look at this sea of faces. They have got to understand where those kids fall in that continium. Then, of course, there are children who come uh into schooling in the industrialized world from very impoverished backgrounds where sure there was literacy in the environment, but they didn’t come from homes that had um—that conducted the home life through literate means. Uh, it’s still very oral, not lots of books in the—in the home. Uh, parents who perhaps don’t have much literacy. Certainly wouldn’t spend money on literacy kinds of things. Certainly wouldn’t feel confident uh walking into libraries and borrowing books or any of that stuff. Teachers need to understand where those kids also are. Um, uh we make a lot of assumptions about the kids who walk into our rooms and um there is a subtle racism that we believe that the uh—oh, I don’t know. The blonde, blue-eyed child will, of course, come from a literate background and the one of darker skin might not. Um, and those are unfortunate sets of uh assumptions to make in—in—uh, teachers are human beings. We all make assumptions. When we walk into classrooms we’re faced with a bunch of faces, we need to try to get moving and so we make these assumptions. And that’s an unfortunate kind of assumption sometimes to make about literacy learning because we can underestimate some kids, overestimate some kids, and so—OK. Given that, what if we find out that we have different degrees of knowledge about what literacy is. Frankly I think teachers need to go out and get some assistance about understanding what these different cultures are. So if I encounter this—let me use the Afghanistan example. If I encounter this young woman who has been raised in an environment where literacy um has been not only denied, but has been essentially, has become taboo for women. Um, as a teacher I need to understand that because I’m now presenting something that this 10-year-old, 12-year-old has come to understand as being something that she can’t do, she’s not suppose to do, all of that stuff. I—I have to use the word taboo. That teacher needs to be able to understand that and be sensitive to that and think about that. And frankly um, um I’d be the last person to claim I would know what to do in that particular situation because I think that would be extremely sensitive. And it’s really hard for westerners to ever think about literacy as being taboo. It’s something we all just assume and that is a mistake I think to assume this. And we have learned to take it for granted. That’s another huge mistake. We don’t value what this really means and there are lots of places on the globe that would prefer that people not have these powerful tools in literacy. OK. So that sort of sets that stage, I think. Let’s come back, though, then to the child who has—uh comes from the literate culture, has all of those strategies, knowledges, the task that that—but—but is put into a classroom where suddenly the language is a language that he or she doesn’t know. Um, the fundamental thing that—that the teacher has to understand in that situation is that what she is going to present to—this concept of literacy which she’s going to present to this child will not match the child’s oral vocabulary. So the child walks in with a developed fully—I’m going to say fully developed for whatever the age group—oral language, uh a sense of what literacy is and may or may not be able to read in that language. And let me come back to that in a couple seconds. But um there is inherently, however, the mismatch there between the text that the child is going to learn how to read and the oral language that the child has. So the task of the teacher is to try to make that match, get—get the oral language and the literacy somehow in alignment. And that’s the big challenge. Um, that gets even more complicated when the child—we haven’t brought in the dimension of content yet. So far we’ve kind of been talking about um, um the match between—sort of a sound symbol correspondents, that sort of stuff. Now suddenly, we also have children who come in who have a lot of world knowledge like um the building the campfire. Maybe they all know how to do this and maybe some of them know how to um—maybe all that they have to do is learn what the written words look like for what they know how to do. Um, the other ones may well no how to do this, but at this point, don’t have either the oral language to be able to talk about that, or know what the—what that language would look like in print. So one child is in jouble—double jeapordy and the other one is in triple jeapordy. And—and I guess that’s—that’s the way I would sort of set up that framework so that teachers are confronted with kids in—in, yeah, in multiple conflicts with each other, I guess. Let me stop there. I’m sort of babbling.
Double jeopardy in a second language content—context means I don’t know the language and I either don’t know the content or I cannot articulate the content. In other words, um or I can’t get at the content. So, um—so we have kid—oh, let’s go into a—into a content area like science. Um, the task of the child is to be busy learning English and also busy learning science. So it’s two things that this person has to learn. I guess that’s where I get—come up with double jeapordy. You—your task is to learn two things. And the only way that you can learn the language part is by understanding the content and the only way that you can get the content is by knowing the language. And that’s what I call double jeapordy. And it’s particularly double jeapordy when we go to assess those kids because we get so busy assessing the content—or the language, that we don’t find out whether they actually learned the content. And maybe they did and maybe they didn’t. Triple jeopardy is when they have to learn the language, they have to learn the content, and they have to learn what in the world the housing for this content is actually about. And if you can’t make the jump about the fact that written text houses both oral language and content, then you’re in triple jeapordy because you’ve got—you’ve got to figure out what that is. And if you come from a culture that has never provided you with information through literate means, you are really in trouble.
OK. Um, I think that what we actually know is how important the first language literacy knowledge is. That um it appears that 20 percent of the variance—and let me not—not use these uh—this education e’s or the statistical e’s. If we imagine a test that has 100 points on it, if a child comes into that test already literate, there’s a real probability that the child already literate in some language and is going to take a test in another language, the probability of your getting 20 percent of the answers correct is quite high, just based on the fact that you know something about literacy. Let me give you an example of that. I don’t know any Arabic, but I know how newspapers work. I know about the function of print, I can make lots of assumptions. So if you gave me uh—if you asked me questions about what’s in a newspaper article written in Arabic, I can tell you some stuff already. I can tell you by the nature of the print whether it’s fat print or print that’s got a lot of curly q’s. If it’s got a lot of curly q’s, it’s serious. If it’s fat print, it’s not. If it’s got a lot of edges on the print and bigger, it’s not from a serious newspaper. If I look at the picture I can sort of figure out what’s going on. So I can—I can—based and that—not based in any kind of knowledge about the language, but it’s the knowledge of literacy. So in a nutshell, we can count on the fact that literate individuals are going to get a score of somewhere around 20 based on their literacy. OK. Then, the other thing that we know fairly substantially is that if we took that same test, that an individual would get another 30 points on that test—on the 100 point test, based on his or her knowledge of grammar. And I’m going—I use the grammar crassley meaning vocabulary in some kind of syntaxical knowledge. That’s just uh root forced, you know any part of the language or not. So we can count on the fact that part of your score absolutely has to deal with how much language you know. Um, and I should come back to—to—to say that we know—we know as much as we could know anything. We know this from studies of both children and adults, studies of—of some um non-cognitive language like um—uh, Dutch to Turkish. Uh, a big conviat in this, however is—is fundamentally the majority of the data are from cogniate languages. So I think that we could assume that, for example in the—in the Arabic example, would I get 20 percent? Probably not. But I would—I’d make a few hits based on the fact that I uh—so I don’t want to overestimate that—that initial huge chunk. But, you know, it’s a chunk. And if I could come back to more adanced learners and college learners, for example—I realize that’s not exactly on the topic, but college learners um if you look at the kind of scores that they get, a 20 percent is a lot on uh—on a test. That can make or break you. And um, so it’s—it’s—I don’t want to overestimate, but it is substantial. So we have 20 percent, we have 30 percent. Uh, I know of no study that’s ever been able to break more than explaining 50 percent. So there’s this huge section of stuff that we really can’t explain yet but—but fundamentally we know that literacy knowledge is important and um and their grammatical knowledge is important. But let me add one more thing. It’s important to also see at some level how unimportant that is because we’re still essentially at the failure level. So there’s a whole bunch of other stuff that must be going on in order to make learners successful. So if we merely stopped at, ‘Oh, the kid can read in his first language already? Great! Let me give you some vocabulary and syntax.’ If we stop there, we have engendered failure uh and boy is that important for all of us to keep in mind also. To not lie to ourselves about what we do. Um, do you want me to talk about um (interruption).
BERNHARDT: First language reading makes the match, the—the aligned match between oral and language and print. Um, and I’ll—I’ll say the scandalous thing, that fundamentally reading is oral language written down. And um—and I don’t need to preach about the context under which that statement isn’t true, but when kids come into classrooms, that’s what it’s about. So you have things like the language experience approach and—and uh fairly tales and rhyming and all of that stuff and it’s all based in oral language. So the task that the first language child has and the task of the teacher is to make those connections as automatic as possible and get them more sophisticated. I’m laughing, that sounds oh, so simple compared to what has to happen with a second language—in the second language situation which is where the child is not calm with it. Automatic oral match between uh the text that he’s going to learn how to read and what he has in his oral vocabulary. So the teacher is presented with having to build up the oral vocabulary in order—the oral vocabulary in the relevant language in order to make the literacy connection. So there’s that extra point on the triangle uh that the second language situation requires. And that’s, I think, as fundamental of distinction as—as I could possible come up with. (interruption) Well, but you know, at some level if you just look at research studies, you know, yeah—you know, maybe—maybe we could say that, but that’s very different from what the teacher’s task is. I mean, you know, there’s just—this is probably what I don’t like about research and—and why I wanted to go back into a classroom because it’s really important to remember um when you get the statistical tables what that means, it’s very, very different when you have those faces looking at you. And indeed, there is the—the relat—the one and one relationship between what we know from research and those faces, that’s there. But those are human beings that you have to be able to accommodate somehow in your instruction. And so to blightly say, ‘Oh, yeah, it’s—yeah, we’ll all worry about that 20 percent layer,’ no, let’s think about what that might mean. What does that mean for my planning? What does that mean for uh how I’m going to distribute my time in that class? What does it mean for um how the kid will perceive himself? Do I want the other children to see I have to work on oral language development with this child when I don’t have to do it with the other 15? There are all these very complicated things that have to—have to go on in the teacher’s head about how this is going to play out in an individual classroom. I think researcher frequently forget that sort of stuff.
OK. Um, now let me not underestimate—how do I want to say this, I don’t want to say that um—that elementary reading is all about just that, sort of a one-to-one mismatch. That’s what’s gets it all going but, we also know from research that elementary school children are learning about content uh and that they should be reading expository materials and not as many stories and that sort of thing. And so at some level there’s—because I’m going to the theme of content but—so at some level for both these sets of children, there’s—there’s content at uh—at issue. But the—the language is simply simpler. It is much less syntactically complex. The vocabulary is—is far less uh complex. Um, and I think that’s probably what keeps the oral written match a little more closely aligned for younger children. Um, I think also for younger children we do a lot of things in classrooms that are more uh activity oriented uh and more exploratory um so that as they learn stuff, they do use a lot of oral language, they use that with each other, they use that with their teacher in order to interpret what they are suppose to learn. It’s—it’s just uh, I think it’s a different way of dealing with younger children then what they expect. Um, secondary school—oh, let me finish the—uh, elementary teachers are children oriented. They really—their good at assessing individual kids, I think they focus on their—they automatically focus on the individual learner uh and have a real committed to individual children. And I admire that enormously and it’s—it’s the saying that—that ‘Elementary school teachers teach children and secondary teachers teach content.’ And I—I think that that is a distinction that’s alive and well and actually I should say it’s not just with children, but it’s also with any sort of elementary instruction. Even elementary university language instruction. I think those instructors are very focused on individual learners and what they’re learning and when those learners get into upper level classes, like literature classes, it suddenly becomes about literature. It’s not about them anymore. Um, so elementary school teaching I think is fundamentally about kids. Uh, secondary school teaching is fundamentally about the content and we also know from the research in first language reading that secondary school teachers do not like to perceive themselves as literacy teachers. They don’t want to be bothered with any of this stuff. They very much have the attitude um, ‘They learned how to do that already.’ ‘That’ being reading. Uh, we know from research about the content area reading courses that exist in um certification programs, teachers self report. They don’t like those courses. The science teachers do not want to take a course in content area reading. We know all this. So all of those attitudes go into classrooms. That’s really bad for the second language person who is really swimming, has very uh—uh, unclear, uncertain grounding in all of this stuff. Another dimension is that the text are simply substantially harder. They’re lengthier, they are uh more grammatical complex, they have lots of charts and figures. They’re just much more complicated. Um, they have vocabulary that by in large doesn’t exist in the oral vocabulary of anybody. There’s lots of words that we read and understand and certainly don’t use everyday. The word ‘chlorophyll’ I do not use but once or twice a year when I need it for an example. I do not regularly use any scientific vocabulary. Um, so there’s really no way—I’m over—I’m exaggerating but let me just say, there’s no way that your average um second language high school student would be in an environment where there was a significant use of scientific vocabulary, mathematical vocabulary, what happens in history and social science, and you name it. Uh, and those are—that’s a huge difference also between young children and older children.
When that study was conducted uh in 1993—I don’t remember the exact date. It was early 90s. Um, I would say that by and large there was nothing in any of those text books um and that was back in the days—doesn’t sound like it—oh, but it’s—it’s almost a decade, I guess. Back in the days when a second language um problematic was probably seen mostly as a socio-cultural phenomenon, sort of a motherhood and apple pie kind of phenomena, and sort of a uh feel good kind of pheno—certainly not cognitive, certainly not um, um fundamental. Um, there just wasn’t anything. There was a—there was a bit of the usual stuff about um ‘Honor the child,’ um ‘Make sure that you bring the parents in and have food day,’ um—um, you know, ‘Try to—‘Make sure you’re extra nice to second language children.’ And, you know all of that stuff that—that it’s, yeah—I don’t mean to be too flip about that—that it’s important but also not at the core of educating these individuals. Um, so I have to say that by large that it wasn’t uh—it wasn’t—the stuff wasn’t there. And if you went to reading conferences, um I always felt rather um—um, no, I was always a really weird person because I wasn’t busy doing English and so—and the reading world is very monolingual, very anglophilio, very um, um—what’s the word I’m looking for? Um, the word that means furrow foreigners? Um, um—I can’t think of that word. But the theory um, very much of the attitude—we can handle foreigners as long as they’re on our terms. ‘I’ll accept you as long as you can deal with me on my terms,’ which is always the English language. That was very much the uh—the attitude. And so, oh, isn’t it cute that there are these other languages but you know, they’re not important. There was absolutely no importance so—so the reading world is, first of all, very anglosentric and second of all, it’s very American and that makes it very English centered and so there were all of the prejudices and all of the beliefs all wrapped up in English. So, they weren’t—they never thought—the never entertained the thought that there were other languages and if they did it was just sort of something we sort of thought was cute or we would tolerate, but certainly we’d never take very seriously. Certainly wouldn’t go out and learn them ourselves and certainly didn’t think they had any kind of role to play. So you see that in the literature, you saw that in the attitudes of uh—of individuals uh, saw that in—in conference programs um saw that all over the place. So it’s not surprising that it wasn’t in the literature. It just wasn’t on the—on the—on the screen at all. Um, that is possibly changed a little bit. I hope that that’s something that I’ve contributed to because I was never in the ESL world, I was always in the uh—always pretty involved in reading kinds of things and um as I grew older and surlier I was able to say, ‘You know, all of these reading models, for example, they’re all based in English.’ English isn’t even the most frequently spoken language in the world and what would—so how could you talk about culture and all of this stuff and fail to recognize that you’ve housed that in a—really, in a minority setting. Um, so I think there’s some understanding of that a little bit better now. Um, I think probably that there’s uh there are more educated foreigners among us now. They’re not maybe as—they’re not seen as boat people so much anymore or as uh, undereducated people that—there’s—I think there’s a little bit more of that.
Oh, well the fundamental way to honor someone is to try to be on their terms and for me that means an attempt on the part of the teacher to learn the language of the child or to learn something about it so that she has more skills from which to assess what’s going on. Uh, that means that you—honoring is—you spend time with people. That means that you take your very precious time to learn how to do something that somebody else can do. And that um, that’s what I would say is the very first principal of honoring someone. Um, the second one uh is probably individual work and making sure that an individual child is always included in activities. There is some uh—oh, I don’t know, maybe folk belief that not—that sending a child to—to a resource teacher or—or into some other activity, that this is somehow protecting the ego of the child. And I think it sends the message of just being sent away, that you don’t—‘You’re not going to count in this group’ and ‘I don’t know how to get you into this group.’ Um, and I think that’s a terrible thing that we do. And um, so I think that honoring also means that no matter how hard this kid is to work with and I do not underestimate how difficult—there’s nothing worse then dealing with a learner who doesn’t understand what you’re doing. I—I—there just isn’t—um, and the biggest challenge is to try to keep that kid with you and what we really want to do as human beings is just send them away and hope he’s going to be quiet because he’s interrupting—interrupting what I think I’m able to do. Or he’s a constant reminder to me that maybe I’m not being successful in everything that I should be doing.
From the first review in ’91, the—the big difference is that 20 percent, 30 percent issue. And that is um, um—let me tell you what that does. I guess—I guess a way to answer the question is if those findings are true—and whatever true means, if—if those findings are true, they cast doubt on the rest of that database for a number of reasons. One, no where in that database um are we told—well, I shouldn’t say no—we are rarely told the literacy level of the individuals who participate in those studies. That’s a real—if—if that 20 percent is—is an accurate estimate, somewhere or 15, 20 percent—if that’s true, and we do not know what the literacy level of the individuals in the study are, there’s a problem. Because what would—what that would mean is that the learners—that—that when we saw differences in scores between—let’s say treatment one and treatment two and we claim we see a difference, well, if we can’t account for that 20-point difference—think about what a 20-point difference would do in most studies. In most studies a 20-point difference would find no significance between these two. We can wipe out all these findings. That really worries me about that whole pile of stuff. The other problem um that’s pointed out in the um, uh—well, let me say the 20 percent. The other thing we don’t know, in the vast majority of those studies, is the distribution of languages. So we don’t know about the literacy level and we don’t know about the distribution of languages across um those studies. If we have 100 subjects, we don’t know how many are first language literacy—literate, we don’t know the level of that literacy and we don’t know what the distribution of language is. So how many were cognate languages with English, how many—all of those variables. We want to know any of that stuff. Furthermore, with the other 30 percent, the grammar and vocabulary, there are very few studies that ever did a blunt force um estimate, measure, whatever you want to call it of um, grammatical ability. That frankly, practically wipes out the database. Kind of a frightening thought. Um, and there’s much of that stuff I’m—I’m just not um—I’m not certain of even if I—if I don’t take the—the—the—the 20—the 20 and 30 percent rules, if you want to call them rules or guidelines or whatever—even if you don’t think about that and think about it in another way, did many of those studies just re-measure the literacy that student’s already had? Did they re-measure the knowledge that students—that the readers already had? Um, were they glorified grammar tasks, grammar that students didn’t have? There are all these questions. It—I think it’s a—it was a hastily coffled together research base, um that didn’t have enough of the theoretical frame behind it. Now, where’s this all going to go? Uh, I think that it is absolutely um critical that every future study measures literacy ability and provides us with a grammar score. Uh, now when I say that, this is why people don’t like me to review articles and why they generally don’t send them to me, because I really won’t accept a study now that won’t do-that doesn’t have those—those basic measures in them. Um, but let me not perseverant on that fact, there’s still—how are we going to account for this other huge por—we still cannot account for success and so we have to figure out some way to account for success because we have learners who succeed. Thank God, they succeed. Um, uh we need to understand what makes them succeed and that’s what we really do not have a sense of yet. Is it the topic knowledge that they come with? Is it their motivation? Is it their um, uh is it the uh relative high or low stakes behind what they’re going to reap? Is it—is it because they want to go to graduate school? Is it because they want to know how to build uh, um, uh, fresh water system in their village? Is that what makes them successful readers? I don’t know. But that’s the kind of stuff—that whole affective dimension, despite what I said about the social dimension before—this is where, OK, how are we gonna—how are we gonna make these decisions about success? It’s got to be there somewhere in affect in knowledge and motivation desire, whatever.
OK. Uh, uh, phonemic awareness, let me say some scandalous things. Uh, well—well scandalous, by that I mean uh—well, I guess I mean scandalous. Um, reading is about the match between oral language and what’s in print and so we know that a necessary, but not sufficient—a necessary condition is being able to make the match between sound and symbol. I think that there’s a lot of research evidence that children need, some phonemic awareness. They need to understand how words are structured and how to make those sounds work for them. And again, I—we’ll underline necessary, but not sufficient. Now the funny thing about second language readers is the extent to which the phonemic awareness has to be accurate. In other words, if I impose my English phonology system on my reading of French, I can still read French. I pronounce all the s’s at the ends of words, I pronounce the x’s when I’m reading and I’m vocal—sub-vocalizing. And we all know readers sub-vocalize. With a second language reader, you don’t have to sub-vocalize the right pronunciation. You just sub-vocalize something. And we know across all languages, whether they’re character systems or phonetically based, that readers impose uh phonology on those languages. So um—so is phonetic awareness important? Does it have to be the right phonetic awareness? Hmm. I’m not so certain. Not so certain at all. As one would progress in fluency and reading, maybe that—that um phonetic awareness has to get more or the use of phone names, let me say, needs to get more—or will get more accurate, but I’m not absolutely convinced because I—I can function in—in—in French and I can’t speak a word in French. Uh, and I know exactly what I do when I read it. Um, whole language. Um, frankly I don’t believe that there’s a teacher in the world that doesn’t use the whole language and phonetic awareness approaches. I can’t image how one can do one without the other. I really can’t and frankly when I’ve watched what I consider to be whole language teachers—and I actually think I’m very whole language oriented in my foreign language instruction, um I’m not shocked or upset about doing word building activities. I think there’s lots of system atisity in language that kids need to be aware of. I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with that. Um, my favorite whole language activity—I think—I think a fundamental whole language activity is language experience. I love language experience. I use it in a univer—in elite university. I do home language or I do—I do language experience. It’s extremely helpful and do we read those words allowed? Do we make sure that we know what these words are? Absolutely. Do they then use those words in their—in their conversation? Absolutely. So, I—I have a—I—I’m not one of—I’m not one of these um missionaries about one perspective or the other and I frankly believe most teachers uh are sensible enough to know when they need to use one approach ver—versus another.
I—I—I will end up repeating myself here, but—but understanding (interruption). Understanding the principles of—well, the fundamental principal of the relationship between the oral language that the child comes with and the—the language in the text. Um, a teacher needs to understand that principal, understands—needs to understand that fact and use that fact within the context of what she’s going to present. So let’s say the teacher’s going to do language experience. Uh, everybody’s been to the zoo so we’re going to do the language exp—we’re going to—we’re going to tell the story of what we did yesterday when we went to the zoo. OK? Um, and let’s say that there are two or three kids that do not have um the English, if you will, to describe. They certainly know what happened when they went to the zoo. So the principal is that the teacher somehow has to evoke some oral language from that child in order to then get that into print—to put that on the board or on the white board or whatever. And that’s what I mean by a principal because after we get past that principal, she’ll continue with how she knows how to do um, uh language experience. Round robin reading. All kids like to read allowed. You have to have some principals about what you’re going to ask the second language child to read allowed or the conditions under which you’re going to allow a child to read allowed. Maybe that child gets to read allowed the same passage as her friend who just read it allowed which enables the second language child to hear this one more time before she gets to do it. So, again, that’s what I mean by a principal and then—and then teachers use their good sensitive strategies about how to handle children.
Oh, um it’s—well, now that’s a funny thing to ask because until you said second language reading I—I have the answer because the concept of development is the key development. It is the key concept that, again, another principal that teachers need to know, that uh, children might have an awareness of the set of forms, but that does not mean that those forms can come out in oral speech. And if the teacher has to have a sense of the progression of those forms over time, she needs to understand she’s not suppose to panic when the forms don’t come out. She needs to understand also not to panic when the form was right—right in existence in oral speech yesterday, but today it’s gone. And she needs to have those set of principles about how second language acquisition occurs. Now, the relationship between second language acquisition and reading uh, I don’t think that that’s as clear a relationship. I think the relationship or the principal here needs to be much more about the relationship between first language literacy development and second language literacy development. That’s where I think reading—L1 reading, L2 reading, much more alike then different and um—so I don’t think that language development stuff from the second language from the SLA database, however you want to call that—just look at a—look at the triple A program and we’ll define it that way. And when we use that and say, “What’s this have to say about second language reading,” I’m not certain it says a whole lot. Um, understanding what we know about literacy acquisition in general, that has stuff to say. I think that’s the much more relevant uh relationship. And actually, that’s probably one of the reasons I believe that the first—that the second language reading database is not as strong, as relevant, as important as it should be because it was never marked by a firm understanding of what was known about first language literacy acquisition.
Wow. Um, I—of—of the great model builders um Goodman is the only one in that model building crowd, if you will, that ever understood that there were other languages—that there were languages other than English, that there would be some reason to acknowledge some other. There’s absolutely no question about that, that no matter—and that was 1968, I think is the—is the big article. Um, that was absolutely a revolutionary thought and it was so far ahead of its time. Um, it remains, I think, the classic um—a classic statement—is still the L1 statement about this. Now from ’68 onward, we have all these very fancy models and all these uh diagrams and all of that sophisticated stuff, I should say, stuff that sort of looks sophisticated because it’s in an ever fancier uh chart. Um, that stuff never acknowledged those—those—those model builders never acknowledged anything other than the English language. Never. Um, now model building in the year 2000 is a little old fashioned. Um, um, in fact, there I am positing another model. That’s, I think, in the—in the new handbook, that’s probably—I’d have to look, but I bet that’s the only model in there. It’s kind of an old-fashioned way of thinking. It’s a—it’s a kind of a dustful and peeriest way of thinking about things but that’s the way it goes. That’s how I think about stuff. Um, I’m not certain that um model building—it’s just too old-fashioned, the way of looking at things. I don’t um—um, and with the—with the advent—with acknowledging how important the qualitative dimensions are—model building is sort of fundamentally a quantative kind if thing. Although the first model I built was very qualitative in nature. But, I don’t know. That’s just—I don’t know where that’s going to go.
Uh, um I’ll give you from an example of—of my model. Any time that you put something uh in two dimensions—any time you put a multivariate problem into dimensions, you have trouble. And in my own model, what I had to do was resort then to the language to say, “Now look, you’re—you’re looking at this picture but you have to understand that it’s got other dimensions, namely the distance—the linguistic differences between one language to another,” the relationship between reading English and Spanish, for example, versus English and Swahili, versus English and Russian, and so forth. Those are different kinds of spaces. Um, then there’s all of those social dimensions. Uh, something on—on two dimensions sort of ignores, um ignores affective, ignores motivation, ignores personality, all of that stuff. And I think that’s probably why that’s stuff kind of died. Um, this is a real parallel between first language and second language. Uh, fluent readers um are pre-efficient in their use of um—in their—in the way they distribute cognitive attention so that they spend—they know how to look at different elements and text and they know how to monitor their speed. So, for example, we know that readers look at most of the words in a text, they look at—at least 83 percent of them uh, but they spend their time in areas of the text that are the most important. So in English, for example, readers don’t look at the um, um uh’s and nuh’s, the determiners very often. Uh, they don’t need to because word order carries the load in English. We know that that’s how English functions and an English reader knows how to do that. The fluent non-native reader of English has acquired those behaviors. I’m getting nothing by focusing on ‘the’, let me just skip that and go to some more important element in the—in the text. Uh, different language—switch to German, highly inflected, really important to see what ‘the’ looks like, where it is, because word order does not carry the message in German but inflection does. Um, an efficient reader knows where to look, learns that ‘the’ is suddenly important and can spend time looking at that. Also knows the conditions under which ‘the’ aren’t very important and uh can accommodate. The—the new—the non-fluent reader will use um—will use—let’s just use the English—sorry—the English speaking strategy—um, will fail to look at some of the inflection and will have a comprehension product that is inadequate. (interruption) Um, this is terrible. A recapture. OK, the fluent—a fluent reader—and let’s take the example of reading English. The fluent, native reader of English knows that word order carries the day. In order—in other words, in order to deal with the reading of English, we have to have a sentence of how words follow each other in order to get the message. That means that words like determiners, like ‘a’ and ‘the’ and by in large pretty irrelevant to getting a message. So that if you look at what native readers of English do, indeed they look at about 83 percent of the words on the page. They skip lots of the determiners and even when they look at the determiners, they spend very little time looking at them. A reader—a non-native reader learning English has to acquire those kinds of strategies. What the non-fluent reader does is spend lots of time on each and every word and then loses the sense of what’s going on. In other words, each word is equal in the text. But as the reader becomes more fluent in the second language, learns the strategies to—to what’s important, what’s not important. Uh, if you look at a language like German, which is highly inflected, the fluent reader also will look at 83 percent of the words on the page. But that’s going to include the determiners because the determiners carry lots of information in German. German is not dependent on word order, it is dependent on—on the uh, uh, uh, on word endings. I’m searching for that—the—the word, but—on the word endings. The non-native learning German—let’s say that person’s an English speaker—what that person will automatically do is use the English reading strategies, look at the content words, avoid looking at the uh, um determiners. Uh, that means that if you read German just looking at content words and no determiners, uh you have no idea whether the man bit the dog or the dog bit the man and that will really um change your comprehension product. The fluent—the more fluent person, the learner as he or she progresses through the language or German acquires those strategies to understand what’s important in the text and what isn’t important in the text.
Relationship between the oral language they bring and the uh, oral language reflected by the text that they’re trying to learn how to read.
The most important thing for all elementary school teachers to know about second language reading is the—is about the fundamental mismatch between the oral language that the child brings and the nature of the oral language related to the text, the literacy that she’s trying to get across.