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Auteur: Faizah AL-HAMMADI

The Effect of Mental Translation into L1 on the Reading Fluency of L2 Texts

Abstract/Résumé: The relationship between L1 and L2 reading strategies has been the subject of a long debate. This paper reports the findings of an experiment in which 100 college level L2 students read medium length English texts with the aim of presenting an oral summary of the target text either in L1 or in L2. The L2 reading performance of subjects who were given the instruction to present an oral summary of the target text in L1 was compared with that of their counterparts who were asked to give an abstract in L2. The comparison was held along the dimensions of speed (measured in WPM) and accuracy (measured by comprehension and inference questions). The overall comprehension of experimental group 1 was found to be significantly better than both experimental group 2 and the control group. The differences were found to be statistically significant for all components of the reading comprehension task. These findings point to the positive role of the L1 in the speed and accuracy of L2 reading comprehension. At the level of memory for details, students in experimental group 1 performed significantly better than both experimental group 2 and the control group. Again, the ability to develop fully-fledged scenarios on the basis of a reading text enables learners to remember the minute details. It is quite plausible that utilizing L1 reading skills makes the construction and the utilization of scenarios and schemas more effective during reading comprehension process. The present findings are significant given the fact that a negative role has been ascribed to L1 in L2 performance. The present findings also provide support for the claims of Kern (1994) which may rather counterintuitive. It is worth noting that EFL methodology should stress the fact that reading exercises must be goal-directed .In other words, comprehension for the sake of comprehension is a too vague and hazy goal for the learner to pursue. Rather, the learner should be directed to read and comprehend for the purpose of passing judgments, evaluating felicity, presenting an oral/written summary, detecting hidden attitudes, etc. Also, the above tasks should be made clear to the reader 'up-front', because they will be vital in directing his/her reading process. Finally, the reader should be encouraged to exercise meta-cognitive activities during the reading process including those related to fully-fledged L1 reading strategies.