International Journal of Applied Linguistics

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Volume 17 Issue 1 (March 2007), Pages 1-158

First‐ to second‐language reading comprehension: not transfer, but access (pages 14-37)

The ‘transfer’ of reading comprehension skills from a first language (L1) to a second language (L2) has long been discussed in the literature. This study challenges the transfer metaphor, proposing instead a notion of access. Studies based on Gernsbacher's Structure Building Framework (SBF) show that reading comprehension draws on general, amodal cognitive processes. It follows that L1‐literate learners of an L2 already have comprehension skills: their need is to access these skills from the L2. To examine whether the SBF predicts L2 readers’ performance, two groups of French learners of English performed an anomaly detection task. Results corresponded to the predictions of the SBF. The difficulty of lower‐intermediate readers in accessing their comprehension skills was also linked to capacity problems in L2‐based working memory.

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