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Korean College Students Reading Strategies Essay

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1. INTRODUCTION

Korean universities take a variety of different approaches to ensure college students obtain a strong level of English proficiency during their education. This is why many university English classes use authentic literature written for native English speakers. There are a variety of used resources; journal articles, research reports, thesis, online catalogues, databases, and internet materials. The number of English professors and universities that prefer to use authentic material is increasing.

Reading authentic English text can be a burden for EFL learners.

Kern (1994) mentioned that understanding texts written in a foreign language is a significant challenge for most students. To understand texts,a majority of readers not only translate a foreign language into their mother tongue, but also use translation to grasp the whole meaning of the content, and content related to their prior knowledge.

When learners encounter authentictext, they tend to take the text for granted, not questioning the text or thinking about it in other ways. Many college students have previously been taught to read in order to solve the question without understanding the deeper meaning of the textand what influences the writer.

In English education in Korea, reading is regarded as decoding the meaning of a written text to get knowledge and information. Thus, it is natural that reading activities in English textbooks focus on just getting information and grasping the content of the textbooks. That is why instructions from the teacher, reading strategies, and the classroom English reading textbook play important roles in training the learner how to read critically and gaining a full comprehension of what they read.

Many studies in second or foreign language reading have investigated how second or foreign language readers deal with texts when reading in the target language (Block, 1996; Sheorey&Mokhtari, 2001). Meanwhile, the cognitive processes involved in reading comprehension in a second or foreign
language are equivalent to those in the first language (Cummins, 1994), though constructing meaning in the second language is more demanding. While second language (L2) readers may think cognitively in reading, they generally face more difficulties in L2 reading because of their lack of grammar knowledge, limited vocabulary, or different cultural backgrounds, all of which impede comprehension. Many researchers like Chesla (1998), Cunningham and Stavonich (1997), Eskey (2005), and Hudson (2007) are interested the cognitive ocessesinvolved in reading comprehension, and have conducted a lot of research on effective reading lessons, reading materials, and students’ reading attitude.

Ko (2005)found that students need to employ certain kinds of strategies in order to improve their reading skills: (1) They need to improve reading through extensive reading; (2) they need to find interesting content for motivation; (3) they need to enhance content knowledge in various areas; (4) they are willing to improve their spoken skills; (5) they want to improve their general writing skills; and (6) they need to increase their vocabulary knowledge. In this research, I will analyze whether Ko’s (2005) strategies and activities that teachers think are effective can be applied to gain reading comprehension. Reading strategies are referred to as the mental operations that are involved when readers approach a text effectively and make sense of what they read as well as what they do when they are lost while reading (Barnett, 1998; Block, 1986).

As a part of helping readers to better comprehend L2 texts, some techniques or skills associated with reading proficiency have been examined. Many researchers have been making experiments about reading strategies. Some of these reading strategies range from skimming, scanning, contextual guessing, activating schemata, and identifying text structure, all of which are considered to be effective in enhancing comprehension (Block, 1986; Kern, 1994). Moreover, the Survey of Reading Strategies,known as SORS, introduced by Mokhtari and Sheorey (2002) will be adapted for use in this research project. This SORS has three major strategies: global reading strategies, problem solving strategies, and support strategies.

For the students’ reading strategies, Korean college students tend to use the support reading strategy when they read; the global reading strategy is least preferred.However, research findings do not find a substantial gap among the three major strategies of SORS. This indicates that Korean students are not afraid of using different reading strategies, and do not limit themselves from receiving other perspectives. Teachers, who teach reading strategies, prefer one of the three main SORS strategies more. They use the global reading strategy most; meanwhile, they areunlikely to use the support reading strategy in the classroom, or even to recommend it to students.

In this study, the researcherfocuses on Korean college students’ attitudes and preferences for using reading strategies, and the native English teachers’ attitude towards teaching reading, and the teacher’s preferences of reading strategies for teaching reading. Moreover, the researcher also investigates student’s reading difficulties and their expectations. The main research questions are as follows:

For Korean college students:

1. Which reading strategies do Korean college students like to useand think effective in helping them to improve their reading comprehension skill? 2. What are the difficulties and problems that inhibit their effective reading comprehension? For native English teachers:

3. Which reading strategies do native English teachers like to teach and think are effective in helping students to improve their reading comprehension skill? 4. What are the difficulties and problems that inhibit you from teaching reading strategies effectively?

2. LITERATURE REVIEW

Reading is an all-important language skill that is now in more demand than in any time in our history. With the exposure of the Internet in a global arena, students need to master reading in order to understand the vast knowledge the world embraces them with. It has been said that the literate adult today is reading more in one week than their great-grandfather did in a whole year (Swalmand Kling, 1973). This fact places pressures on the student to perform reading at a higher level than the student before them.Reading is the best way to absorb content materials and to increase critical thinking skills. It is also a hidden process that often goes unnoticed in the language classroom.

In addition, reading is also a complex activity, where the goal is ‘to construct text meaning based on visually encoded information’(Anderson andNunan, 2007). In the first language (L1) reading, readers use only one language, whereas in the second language (L2) reading, learners have at least two languages to deal with. On the contrary, readingin a first or second language contextinvolves the reader, the text, and interaction between the reader and the text (Rumelhart, 1977). Although reading in the L1 shares numerous important basic elements with reading in a second or foreign language, the process also differs greatly. Intriguing questions involve whether there are two parallel cognitive processes at work, or whether there are processing strategies that accommodate both first and second language.

Although on the surface first language and second language are different, readers can apply visual linguistic and cognitive strategies that they readily use in their first language reading to assist in their L2 reading. Whether the readers are reading in their first or second language the reading strategy operates in the same way: the readers look at the page and the print, then use their knowledge of sound or symbol relationships, order, grammar, and meaning to predict and confirm the meaning.

In short, when readers have well-developed first language reading strategies, they can learn a second language more easily and rapidly.Students should have effective reading skills in their first language to assist their reading comprehension in a second language.

2.1. L1 Reading

L1 reading is reading in the reader’s mother tongue. Reading contexts in general require knowledge of content; formal and linguistic schema. Reading is also a meaning-making process which involves an interaction between the reader and the text.

Recent theories in second language reading stress that the L2 learners’ first language skills are very important when they learn a second language (Hakuta, 1986; Krashen, 1982). One of the main reasons supporting this claim is that when students have well-developed first language skills, they can acquire second language skills more rapidly. Concepts which were readily and strongly developed in their first language acquisition become accessible skills to learn a second language. This process is what is known as common underlying proficiency as described by Cummins, 1994.

Although on the surface the two languages are different, readers can apply visual linguistic and cognitive strategies that they also use in their first language reading, to read in an L2 (Ovando, 2005). This means in both languages readers look at the page and the print, and then they use their knowledge of sound or symbol relationships, order, grammar, and meaning to predict and confirm meaning. There are four elements that are important in reading comprehension in either in L1 or L2: (1) whether the readerreads a lot and is familiar with reading in another language; (2) the length, type, and language difficulty of the text; (3) whether the reader uses the global reading, problem solving, or support strategies; and (4) fluency. In L1 reading, researchers have emphasized two factors potentially influencing readers’ processing strategies: the type of material that will be read and the purpose or goal for which a text will be read.

2.2. L2 Reading

Second language reading is one of the four skills in mastering a foreign language. Seond language reading is gathering the syntatic and semantic processes as well as vocabulary, which include speed of letter naming, phonological processes, orthographic processes, and working memory. In addition, background knowledge also takes part in L2 reading comprehension (Malley, 1990).

Moreover, based on Bernhard and Kamil (1995), second language reading comprehension processes have two main crucial variables; they are L2 vocabulary and L2 grammatical skills. In addition, there are six elements that intereact and blend together in forging the construct of L2 comprehension. The six elements are the phonemic/graphemic features, syntatic feature cognition (grammatical ability), word recognition, vocabulary, prior knowledge, and metacognition.

Reading in an L2 is different from reading in an L1, in that L2 reading is influenced by a variety of factors that are normally not considered in L1 reading (Bernhardt andKamil, 1995). Among these factors, the two most frequently used ones to explain L2 reading fluency are readers’ L1 reading ability and L2 language proficiency. According to Teillefer (1996), these two factors significantly affect L2 reading comprehension, but to a different extent depending on different reading styles.

With regard to importance and actual contribution of the above-mentioned two factors to L2 reading, there are two conflicting hypotheses: The Linguistic Threshold Hypothesis and the Linguistic Interdependence Hypothesis. The first hypothesis, also known as the Short-Circuit Hypothesis (Clarke, 1979), states that in order to read in an L2, a certain level of L2 linguistic ability is required. In another definition, the L1 reading ability can be transferred to L2 reading only when L2 proficiency is higher than the linguistic threshold. Therefore, a certain amount of linguistic ability is a prerequisite for the transfer to take place. That is, a certain amount of knowledge of L2 grammatical or linguistic skills is necessary in order to allow L1 reading knowledge to assist L2 reading (Bernhardt andKamil, 1995). Based on this hypothesis, it is assumed that without some L2 skills, the L2 readers’ limited language proficiency prevents their good L1 reading skills from being transferred to L2 reading (Lee, 2000).

The second hypothesis is the Linguistic Interdependence Hypothesis, also known as Common Underlying Proficiency (Lee, 2007 and Cummins, 1994),which states that the reading performance in L2 is largely influenced by L1 reading ability, so L1 reading ability transfers to L2 reading. Therefore language skills such as reading and writing in the L1 are interconnected and transferable to L2. This hypothesis proposes that L1 skills and L2 skills are not so different, but at some fundamental core they are interdependent or even the same (Bernhardt andKamil, 1995). Hence, once a set of language skills has been acquired, it can be adapted to enhance reading in the L2 context.

Despite the conflict of the two hypotheses, it has been acknowledged that each hypothesis is accurate to some extent that both L1 reading ability and L2 language proficiency are important factors to increase L2 reading fluency, and that the product of reading refers to the level of understanding, which is considered to be achieved by one’s reading ability and various reading strategies that the reader uses. Another finding from August (2006) states that learning to read in a second language is an entirely different process from learning to read in the first language, and the methods used to teach adult second language learners should be somewhat different from those that are used to teach children. August also mentions that L2 readers can build reading proficiency by using previously developed L1 reading skills and knowledge to support newly developing L2 language skills. So, in effect, L2 readers need less academic training to advance their skills in L2 reading. In other words, the adult L2 learner needs to acquire most of the requisite academic skills from L2 instruction itself rather than from the transfer of the skills.

Although some degree of skill transfer occurs from L1 to L2 for all second language readers, the academic goals of an individual with a weak L2 background are more dependent upon the newly acquired L2 language skills. Therefore, the L2 leaner requires a curriculum which provides a highly intensive focus on L2 language and reading skills. Transfer of L1 skills has a very powerful influence on the acquisition of L2 skills, but many adult second language readers need a great deal more thantransferred skills to achieve their academic goals.

A well-developed L1 reading skill can be automatically transferred to L2 reading, and L2 readers as well as L1 readers contribute to the reading process in a constructive manner. However, there are other aspects that can limit the L2 readers’ contribution in reading second language material or text, which are language misinterpretation, lack of both background knowledge, and limited resources (Berhardt andKamil, 1995; Block, 1992; Koda, 1989). Therefore, one cannot simply assume that L2 readers will be able to interpret text in the same manner as competent L1 readers do (Gass, 1987).

2.2.1. Process of Reading

Reading processes such as bottom-up, top-down, and interactive, can be used before, during, and after reading (Goodman, 1976; Rumelhart, 1977; Smith, 1971). According to Carell andGrabe (2002), L2 readers use different reading processesthan L1 readers do because (1) they are limited in their linguistic knowledge; (2) they do not have enough cultural and social knowledge that is common in the English content; (3) they do not necessarily retrain prior knowledge, which is the basis of understanding English materials; (4) they study English for a variety of reasons, including making themselves familiar with English speaking countries, and (5) they use both their first and second language. That is why knowingL2 learners’L2 reading ability and the type of texts will help in choosing reading processes which can make the text better understood.

2.2.2.1. Bottom-up processing

Bottom-up processing is a type of reading process where reading comprehension starts with the fundamental basics of letter and sound recognition, then later builds up to letters, letter clusters, words, phrases, sentences, and longer text, and finally meaning in the order to achieve comprehension. Beginner learners need a strong bottom-up component, which includes phonics instruction. In bottom up reading, students start with the basics of letter and sound recognition, move from morpheme recognition to word recognition, grammatical structures, and sentences in order to achieve basic comprehension. According to Iwai (2007), in bottom-up processing readers focus on letters, sounds, syllables, words, phrases, sentences, and paragraphs. The process of constructing the meaning begins with written words. These learners view reading as beginning with the printed page, proceeding linearly from visual data to meaning by a series of processing stages.

The most typical type that applies to bottom-up processing is intensive reading. Intensive reading involves a short reading passage followed by textbook activities to develop comprehension and/ or a particular reading skill. In an English lesson or in an English language course, this type of reading is often applied for sharpening students’ L2 knowledge and ability.

2.2.2.2. Top-down processing

Top-down processing is a reading process where readers use background knowledge to predict meaning of the text. They search text to confirm or reject the predictions that they made. Within the top-down processing, the teacher should focus on meaning-based activities rather than on mastery of word recognition. By using this process, the reader builds comprehension skills by first applying general information already learned (larger elements) and moving down towards the specifics of the language (smaller elements). In top-down processing, readers make and evaluate experience and background knowledge. Coady (1979) wrote that the top-down processing model makes readers use their background knowledge schema and connects the schema with conceptual abilities and processing strategies to accomplish comprehension.

University students have to do lots of research which requires lots of reading. This requires extensive reading and top-down reading processing. Extensive reading is also called pleasure reading, free voluntary reading, sustained silent reading, and supplementary reading (Bamford and Day, 2004; Nunan, 2003). In extensive reading, readers read as many books as they can outside of the classroom, to broaden their comprehension skills in order to get the main ideas or key points they need to imply top-down reading processing. The primary purpose of using extensive reading as a tool is to encourage students to enjoy reading in English, and thereby increase their motivation to improve their English skills by focusing on the understanding of broader and longer texts rather than the processing of a particular academic text.

2.2.1.3. Interactive Processing

Reading is an interactive process that goes on between the reader and the text, resulting in comprehension. The text presents letters, words, sentences, and paragraphs that encode meaning. The reader uses knowledge, skills, and strategies to determine what that meaning is. This strategy is known as interactive processing; it is a combination of bottom-up and top-down processing which assumes that ‘a pattern is synthesized based on information provided simultaneously from several knowledge sources’ (Nunan, 2003), and it would include aspects of both intensiveand extensive reading. When put into practice, it is assumed that knowledge acquired from one strategy can compensate for the lack of knowledge from the other strategy. Fluent readers are considered to be those who can efficiently integrate both bottom-up and top-down strategies (Dubin, 1986; Grabe 1991; Murtagh, 1989). Aspects of interactive reading that help readers to interpret the author’s meaning are: 1) using their prior knowledge, 2) having a purpose for reading, 3) monitoring their understanding, and 4) working within the constraints of the situational context (Walker, 2001).

The first aspect is that readers combine what they already know with the information from the text to figure out the author’s meaning (JohnandPrice, 2001). This textual information is comprised of pictures, letters in words, and headings, and the structure of sentences is used combined with prior knowledge (Kerringan, 1979). The second aspect is that readers tend to elaborate on what they read. They make connections using previous knowledge or experience to help them remember and interpret what they are reading. These new connections become part of thereaders’s knowledge base. The third aspect of interactive reading is that readers will continually monitor their understanding to see if it makes sense. These readers actively monitor their understanding through self-questions and various fix-up strategies to repair their comprehension. The fourth aspect is that readers use the situational context (elements given at a present time) to form ideas and adjust their purpose to each reading.

2.2.1.4. Interactive-compensatory model

The interactive-compensatory model of reading was mainly developed to show how word recognition during reading can be affected by developmental and individual differences in the use of context (Stanovich, 1980). It is different from the bottom-up or top-down model in that in this model, readers process information simultaneously, not step by step. So, it seems that understanding of written and spoken language relies on a balanced combination of top-down and bottom-up processing. The readers have to pay attention to features in the text, orthographic knowledge, semantics, syntax, and lexical (vocabulary) knowledge when reading (Nutall, 2000). Thus, the perceptual-automatic recognition skill noted by Grabe (1992) seems psychologically real and theoretically possible, both in terms of Stanovich’s statement. Underwood (1982) asserted that when learners have achieved comprehension through practice, attention can be deviated. This interactive-compensatory theory states that all reading skills develop independent of each other and in a different span of time.

The purpose of the interactive-compensatory model is to provide a framework for understanding and improving L2 reading. The interactive-compensatory model includes 5 main components: cognitive abilities, knowledge, strategies, meta-cognition, and motivation. Knowledge and regulatory skills such as strategies and meta-cognition are combined into one category because of their close relationship among the components.

There are three interrelated components within the model: cognitive ability, knowledge and regulation, and motivation (Underwood, 1982). Each of these components could be divided into further subcomponents. For example, the motivation component would include self-efficacy and attribution beliefs. It is assumed in the model that each of the components leads either directly or indirectly to learning.Since all components lead to learning, if a student is lacking in a particular skill (for example, knowledge) it could be compensated by greater strengths in other areas.

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