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Reading Rate of Academic English Texts: Comparing L1 and Advanced L2 Users in Different Language Environments

Authors:

Nicole Louise Busby ,

Norwegian University of Science and Technology, NO
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Anne Dahl

Norwegian University of Science and Technology, NO
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Abstract

Slower reading in a second language (L2) has been attributed to lower proficiency and/or to slower language processing. This study investigates the role of linguistic context in L1 and L2 academic reading speed among 295 undergraduate Psychology students who all read English language texts at university. The aim was to compare academic reading among students in a predominantly English-speaking environment (the UK) with those in a parallel language context where both English and the local language are used in teaching (Norway). Three groups were tested: Norwegian students in Norway, and both L1 and L2 English-users in the UK. Participants completed a timed academic reading task, followed by comprehension questions. Although all three groups achieved similar mean scores on the comprehension questions, the L1 and L2 English-speaking students in the UK read the text significantly faster than the Norwegian students. There was no significant difference between reading times for the L1 and L2 readers in the UK, indicating that the difference was not simply a consequence of L2 reading. Additionally, in contrast to previous research on groups with lower L2 proficiency, this study found no significant association between reported extramural English exposure and reading speed in either L2 group. The results indicate that advanced L2 readers in a parallel language environment may need more time to read academic texts in L2 compared to L1 readers and L2 readers in an immersion context, which has implications for the time and support needed by these students.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.35360/njes.542
How to Cite: Busby, N.L. and Dahl, A., 2021. Reading Rate of Academic English Texts: Comparing L1 and Advanced L2 Users in Different Language Environments. Nordic Journal of English Studies, 20(1), pp.36–61. DOI: http://doi.org/10.35360/njes.542
Published on 28 May 2021.
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