Word -reading strategies: English -speaking first graders learning Hebrew as a second language

Nina Elisabeth Goodman, Fordham University


This study investigated the word attack strategies used by English-speaking first graders learning Hebrew as a second language when they read English (L1) and Hebrew (L2). Seventeen first-grade students were observed while reading narrative and expository texts in English and Hebrew and asked to report on the word-reading strategies they use when reading both languages. Dysfluent reading and other miscues were analyzed for the kinds of strategies used to decode unfamiliar words. Initial word attack strategies in both languages were compared. Results were analyzed to establish whether the students' segmentation of unfamiliar words was supported by each language's natural orthographic structure. Accuracy and fluency in both languages was also compared. While students did transfer some strategies from English (L1) to Hebrew (L2), there were specific L1 strategies which were not successful when reading a second language with a different orthographic and morphologic structure. When attempting to identify unfamiliar words in Hebrew students most often decoded words dysfluently, beginning with the initial consonant-vowel (CV) unit and sounding out each subsequent syllable as defined by a CV unit. In English, students used a greater variety of strategies, including decoding and whole-word substitution. They relied more consistently on the initial phoneme or the initial CVC unit in English when segmenting words that were read dysfluently. This indicates the use of different strategies for each language and the contribution of the natural orthography of each language to the reading strategies used by the students. Fluency and accuracy were both compromised when English-speaking students read Hebrew.

Subject Area

Bilingual education|Multicultural education|Elementary education|Literacy|Reading instruction

Recommended Citation

Goodman, Nina Elisabeth, "Word -reading strategies: English -speaking first graders learning Hebrew as a second language" (2007). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3255003.