Reading in a foreign language: Strategic variation between readers of differing proficiency
Bouvet, Eric James
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For university language students who are required to deal with literary texts for linguistic or literary purposes, there is hardly any transitional stage between short adapted expository texts, read in the early stages of language learning, and complex literary texts, encountered at university in the literature class. Language readers must then make a substantial mental effort to understand texts intended for a native readership. In challenging reading mode, the quality of reading depends on the efficiency of problem-solving operations, including evaluative and executive strategies, put into place in order to attempt to fill in the comprehension gaps present in complex texts. Although reading strategies used by foreign language learners have been identified and categorised by research, the conditions of their use and their relationships are still unclear. Moreover, to my knowledge, no empirical investigation has focused specifically on comprehension monitoring in the context of foreign language literary texts. Literature instruction would benefit from such a study. Using verbal reports to elicit data, this study proposes to examine how proficient and less proficient university students of French, at intermediate level of instruction, implement problem-solving strategies when reading literary texts. Strategies such as guessing at words, consulting a dictionary, and translating mentally, are studied in relation to their contribution to the overall monitoring cycle. The results obtained indicate that proficient and less proficient readers tend to use the same strategies but with different purposes. The study demonstrates that the major difference between the two groups of respondents resides in ability some readers have to integrate meaning and construct text in a cohesive and synthetic fashion.