Keiko Koda


My name is Keiko Koda and I am at Carnegie Maloigne University.

Second language reading research tells us a lot about a processing behaviors among learners of second languages, and uh, um also inter-language transfer and interactions. And we

One of the problems in second language reading research is um researchers do not pay attention to the fact that second language readers deal with two languages instead of one language. So researchers tend to look at research findings coming from first language reading research, but first language reading researchers deal with only monolingual problems. So that’s something we really have to consider in order to identify specific problems associated with second language reading.

When we talk about two languages, one: whether readers intend to do, a activate both languages, or not, those languages are activated regardless of readers intention. Then, uh first language experience does affect the processing of second language a reading. So what second language readers do is different from what monolingual a readers do. So, without paying attention to that process we really cannot capture what second language readers do. And what kind of problems they have in learning to read in a second language.

Many second language readers have extensive literacy experience in their first language. So they do have well developed skills and strategies. And as, we know, reading involves a large number of sub skills and a, different types of knowledge. And some skills are language specific, but other skills are not language specific. And we, we can, as teachers we can rely upon those known language specific, known language specific a skills adult second language readers bring to the learning process. So for example, when we talk about inference, readers know how to make inferences, OK. In that sense, first language reading proficiency helps second language learning, especially when we talk about reading.

What teachers really should be thinking about when dealing with second language readers is what kind of competences. What kind of skills they bring to the process a in learning to read in a second language. They do not start from there; they start from a really nice foundation. That’s something a, teachers should take advantage of.

Transfer is a phenomenon, a, where previously learned knowledge and skills are applied to a new learning situation. So in second language learning context, transfer usury refers to the use of first language skills and linguistic knowledge. But in some occasions second, second language skills are transferred back to the process of first language reading.

When we are thinking about our views, or changes of our views, in transfer, our first thing is in early ‘70’s, late ‘60’s to early ‘70’s, a transfer was considered as all negative. First language skills were something learners should get rid of. The teacher’s task was to help the learners to get rid of their first language skills. So transferred skills should be eliminated. That’s, that was the really major thought in, in early ‘70’s. Then, um, transferred skills received really little attention in the ‘80’s because language learning was basically governed by biologically determined faculty. And a, what learners did previously should not make any difference. But in the ‘90’s, late ‘80’s, ‘90’s, our transfers again a gained attention. And we now pay attention to what learners can do, what learners know, and use that as a basis for developing a new linguistic system and skills base.

In the last fifteen years I looked at first language experience effect on learning to read a second language, mostly ESL students. And my studies involved learners of, a learners of English, but with different first language backgrounds. Um, Arabic, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. And what I found was: those learners are responding to the same processing tasks differently. And most important finding, I think, is that those differences are very systematic and identifiable with their first language experience. So what it tells us is that our first language experience has long and lasting impact on a the learning of another language. And we cannot really ignore what they, our learners, have learned previously.

For example; Chinese learners dealt words more for graphic orthography. Now it sounds really awful, but morphographic orthography is where can I start over.

For example: Chinese, a Chinese learners dealt with a morphographic orthography. And morphographic orthography is really awful, it sounds really awful, but actually what it is, is a, um, one symbol in morphographic writing system, one symbol represents one whole word. So, for example, we have a symbol, a which defers to a table or desk, that one symbol, it’s not like English. So when you get training, literacy training in dealing with that type of script, a you tend to look at a symbol more holistically. OK? So when you start reading English, instead of being analytical, trying to go letter by letter and try to come up with pronunciation by looking at words and analyzing letter combinations, they try to memorize what this word is as a whole. And that is what we call transfer and a native language influence. And when teachers really emphasis more analytical approach to this group of learners, they may not make nice progress because what they are getting is so different to what they are used to.

In English each symbol represents a sound, sound segment. So in order to get pronunciation of a whole word, readers really have to look at individual letters and a combine the letters and a to get a pronunciation of the word. OK? That is analytical approach to reading. And English readers sometimes feel they do approach to words holistically, especially words that are short and familiar, but actually good readers do have very analytic approaches. But they do it so quickly and automatically even readers themselves do not notice what they do. But it’s, it’s analytical, OK, and that is different from holistic approach Chinese writing system requires their readers.

Word recognition is a very important component in reading comprehension. What is reading compre—what is word recognition, what are the coins (?) and differs to two basic processes? One involving a retrieval of sound, and another involving, um the

Word recognition is very important in reading comprehension. Word recognition defers to two basic processes. One is the process of obtaining a sound of a word, and another is a processes of obtaining the meaning of a word. And only thing we have uh in reading is a print. And if readers do not know how to make sense out of print, they cannot get sufficient information to play with. So there will be no comprehension, or a little comprehension. So if they do not have sufficient information from the text, readers may have to use their, their prior knowledge and come up with their own interpretation with very limited amount of information. Then, yes, this interpretation might be extremely plausible, but that could be different from what text says. Then it’s not good comprehension. So in that sense, what recognition skills are really, extremely important.

There are no magic in improving or getting this word recognition competence. Only thing students can do, teachers can do, is to increase their practice. Their experience with letter strings and so forth. Um, there, there are, there are several strategies, but strategies can get learners um, just to a little extent, but students really have to be able to get those sounds and meanings from a string of words quickly enough so that in their head they can synthesize all the segment of information, all the segments of information so that they can make sense out of this string of words. OK? So practice is the only way they can develop word recognition and competence.

If teachers understand the process of second language acquisition, then teachers can design more informed, of course, and principled instruction. When everything goes right their knowledge of research may not be that important. But when something goes wrong teachers can sit down and reflect and a think about what might have gone wrong. Teacher can be really analytical about their teaching practice. If they, teachers depend only their experience, that process would never occur. Because we usually do not know where to start. But, if teachers have very clear ideas, step-by-step what they did and why they did it, then can go back and analyze and try new strategies, practice strategies, and see how that works. So they can come up with their own hypothesis about their own practice if instruction itself is principled, principled, uh instruction itself can be analyzable.

When teaching does not go well, or students are not clearly learning, if teachers are not informed, or if teachers cannot be objective about their practice, all we can do as teachers is to blame ourselves, or blame students, instead of being analytical, analytical. So teachers tend to take, um problems as a failure and start blaming whatever they can blame, including themselves. Then that does not really solve the problem at other than creating sort of traumatic situations for both teachers and student.

There are differences between knowledge and knowledge use. A, people in general do not really recognize uh this very important distinction, a because we tend to have this assumption in our field that once students develop linguistic knowledge they can put them, put it in use automatically. But that does not happen automatically. The student need to practice to put what they know into the situation where they can use. So they have to develop competence, or the ability to use what they learned, what they know, into actual processing situations. The program a of ignoring this distinction is that teachers spend entire instruction, instructional time uh in explaining what language is about. Explaining grammar, explaining strategies. And one example I usually use for my student is tennis. When we try to teach how to play tennis, we cannot explain what tennis is or some scientific evidence of a how to hit balls and how balls goes, that does not make all students good players. Students have to practice, students have, the students really should spend more time on using what they learned. OK? Rather than just sitting down and learning what language is about.

I was going to talk about um, we are reguired to learn two thousand words (interruption) in isolation, a but that did not help me when I went to American classroom as a graduation student. On the first day I did not understand anything. After spending seven years in Japan learning English as a foreign language, (interruption)

My experience learning English was really endless effort, even up to this day after I spend fourteen, no sixteen years in the United States, I’m still learning. But going back to Japan when I was a high school student, we were told that in order to pass college exams, we have to memorize a two thousand, most frequently used words in isolation. That was just word memorization. We spent a lot of time; all Japanese high students spent a lot of time memorizing those words and grammatical rules and so forth. So we did have, I did have at that point, lot of grammatical knowledge, something about the language and lot of vocabulary in isolation. However, when I came to the United States and went directly to classroom, I did not understand a word. Any single word, everything was a long stream of sound; I could not single out even one word out of it. And, at the end of the class, I had to go to my professor and ask what was the assignment. I, which I had to do by the next class. So,a, just by sitting down and memorizing rules and a words really does not make us a good learner. We cannot use the knowledge we have of any actual processing situations. We cannot function in language we are learning, unless we have meaningful exercises to use the knowledge we learn.

The important lesson we learn from the situation like mine, and many other second language learners, who have memorized a lot of words, and a when time comes, and a, you just find out that we cannot function, with all the memorized words, is that we sit down and memorize words in such a nonfunctional way. Memorizing, memorizing words does not really help students develop skills and strategies critical to comprehension. Language comprehension, when we are talking about listening comprehension or reading comprehension. Readers and listeners, learners, need to develop this critical skill of comprehension by learning words in context. Practice is very important, but practice helps to be meaningful. Practice has to be authentic. What it means is sitting down, having, having a all the long list of words and a memorizing them, word by word, does not, doesn’t, it. (Interruption) Sitting down and memorizing a long of words is not a kind of skills or competence required to understand a real language. So what readers really have to a develop is to learn words instantly during comprehension. That can be done, but you, as a teacher, we as teachers, really have to work together and come up with exercises where students can develop different kinds of competences. OK? Word learning competences, not just teaching words, but um students need to develop how they learn words, not words themselves. Then once they develop those skills, you, we don’t really have to show them words, students can develop a and learn words by themselves. And that is a kind of skill critical to comprehension and vocabulary building.

Language acquisition does not occur in linear fashion. So, if you’re familiar with a children learning English as their first language, uh you may notice that a children, for say uh, went, came, you know, producing all correct forms of past tense. However, after a certain period they start saying something like goed or comed. Those are all obviously incorrect forms, and the students, children, never in, never heard of these forms stills they produced those incorrect forms. And it looks like they are progressing, but actually they are not. I will just come back to this point later. But then, after a certain period, this process of producing incorrect forms they go back up and start producing correct forms. Now what does it tell us? It tells us that students (interruption) What it tells us, is, children first imitate. They a produce forms through imitations, but then they are sensitive to certain irregularities implicit in those input, their input words they are getting. And they create their own rules, their own hypothesis about those irregulations, and they test out. And depending on feed back from their parent, or other caretakers, they correct themselves and start using rules versus non-rules. And a eventually they get all correct forms of, say, past tense. Now, um it. (Interruption)

And what we should learn from this known linear progression in language acquisition is: even young children can be very creative. These children are sensitive to irregularities. So, learners, when we are dealing with adult learners or more cognitively mature learners, we should not really ignore what they can do a in terms of hypothesizing about language rules and so forth. And if students can figure out all these rules by themselves, that is much, much more powerful heuristic a mechanism helping them learning, or internalizing, new linguistic system. So if, if the teachers give all the rules then students do no have chance to exercise their creative a process or hypothesizing um skills. And, uh again they have to go back to memorization, then what we encounter is students not being able to use what they memorized in actual language processing and communication situations.

In the last decade and a half, metalinguistic awareness has attracted tremendous attention among first language reading researchers. Um, what we learned from their research findings is that: children’s sensitivity to the words internal structure really facilitates um learning to read. And how it works is that children a develop analytical approaches to words. (Interruption)

In the last decade and a half, metalinguistic awareness has attracted tremendous research attention among first language reading a teachers and researchers. And what we learned from their studies is that: a children’s understanding of the internal structure of words really helps children to look at words analytically. And why, why it is important is that our children, if children do not have any concept of the segmental nature of words, they cannot segment long sentences into workable words. So they cannot be analytical when processing sentences, and even discourse. A, and another great merit of metalinguistics awareness is that: because of this analytical ability associated with this particular awareness, children can learn um unfamiliar words during reading or interaction, oral interaction, with other children and adults. If they do not have the linguistic capability, or any conception of the ana, of the segmental nature of words, they look at words and if they’ve never seen this word, they have no way to segment the word. So this, it is all or nothing process, I’ve never seen this word, and I don’t know what it is. Instead, with this kind of analytical competence children look up and they may be able to find known segment in a longer strings of words, and combine known segments and make sense out of longer strings. And that is a basis for, many researchers believe, incidental word learning. (Interruption)

It is very, very important for children to understand um. (Pause)

Instant learning does not happen automatically. It is really important for children and learners to be conscience of what they do, what they can do during reading. If children do not really understand to, understand looking up word parts helps them create, or construct, word meanings which a.

Instant word learning is very important but it does not happen automatically. It is very important for children to understand um their understanding of the segmental nature of words that help them process words, which they have never seen before. So teacher’s role is to raise consciousness. It is very important for teachers to tell students that by paying attention to individual components, what’s in the word, they can do a lot with this word even though they have never seen words. So before giving up this word, simply because they have never seen before, students can develop analytical skills, if they do have enough attention uh allocated to word learning, and if they understand they can learn words during reading comprehension, or other types of language processing.