Chinese children self-teach English written words via reading aloud

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Background: Children can self-teach new words via reading aloud texts independently (Share, 1995). Previous studies on self-teaching heavily focused on learning to read in a first language (L1) (e.g., Share, 1999). Limited work was devoted to learning a second language (L2). Extending this line of research to L2 learners is of great importance given that the vast number of people in the world are bilinguals or multilinguals. The current study aimed to fill this gap. Specifically, the roles of exposure time of target pseudowords (four vs. six), availability of context (cohesive story vs. scrambled text), and phonological structure of target pseudowords (single consonant vs. consonant cluster) in self-teaching were investigated. Methods: The participants were forty fifth-grade Chinese L1 children who were learning English L2 in Mainland China. A classic two-phase self-teaching paradigm was applied. In the self-teaching phase, children were asked to read through eight texts embedded with one regularly spelled English pseudoword in each, consisting of four cohesive stories and four scrambled texts. The target pseudowords appeared four or six times in each half of the texts. Twenty-two children learned pseudowords with single initial consonants, and the other eighteen learned pseudowords with initial consonant clusters. Pseudowords were used to rule out the potential effect of children’s prior knowledge of words. In the post-test phase, the orthographic decision, naming and spelling tasks were administered both immediately after text reading and again after three days to assess word learning outcomes. Results: In learning to spell, English L2 children were able to acquire novel English words with four exposures, two more exposures and context benefited their performance. Pseudowords with initial consonant clusters posed a challenge. In visual word recognition, context facilitated the learning of pseudowords with initial consonant clusters. There was a trend that learning was improved over time in spelling. No significant learning occurred for naming accuracy. Conclusions: English L2 learners are able to self-teach the written form of novel words via reading aloud just as their L1 peers. However, unlike L1 learners, L2 learners need to rely on additional support from exposure time and contextual information for robust learning, and are hindered by complex phonological structure. Our findings enrich the current reading theory and have implications for effective pedagogy to facilitate written word learning among English L2 learners. Copyright © 2020 AAAS.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020
Event2020 Annual Meeting of American Association for the Advancement of Science - Seattle, United States
Duration: 13 Feb 202016 Feb 2020


Conference2020 Annual Meeting of American Association for the Advancement of Science
Abbreviated titleAAAS 2020
Country/TerritoryUnited States
Internet address


Li, Y. (2020, February). Chinese children self-teach English written words via reading aloud. Poster presented at 2020 Annual Meeting of American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS 2020), Seattle, USA.


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