Biliteracy: Influences of language proficiency and interlingual transfer on bilingual teachers' reading

Ruth Anne Abrams, Fordham University


The purpose of this study was to identify the cognitive reading processes of 12 Spanish-English bilingual teachers. The major objectives of the study were to compare participants' cognitive reading processes in L1 with those in L2 and to examine the influence of language proficiency on biliterate abilities. Participants were (a) experienced Spanish-English bilingual teachers, (b) native speakers of Spanish as their first language, and (c) engaged in professional development at the graduate level. All data were collected in English and Spanish. Concurrent, nonmediated verbal protocols produced during silent reading and analyses of oral reading miscues were used to infer the participants' cognitive reading processes. Retellings of the silent reading passages provided a means of assessing comprehension. The Woodcock-Muñoz Language Survey measured Cognitive Academic Proficiency (CALP) level proficiency on oral and written language forms and provided information as to participants, language dominance. Informal written questionnaires served as a means of obtaining demographic and linguistic data about the participants. The language dominance measures indicated that 10 participants were Spanish dominant and 2 were English dominant. Findings from the data analysis resulted in the identification of 29 cognitive reading processes and related behaviors that were used by the participants during reading. Bilingual abilities were evidenced in four of the reading processes. The findings indicated that participants used the same general cognitive reading processes (e.g., inferencing) and related behaviors (e.g., reading aloud) when reading in both languages. However, the degree and efficiency with which these processes and behaviors were employed varied among participants and across languages. Participants gave evidence of their dual language abilities in their cognitive reading processes while reading in both languages. These bilingual processes were using cognates, code switching, translating, and transferring prior knowledge about the reading process and the topic content. Oral reading data showed cross-linguistic influences on the miscues in the nondominant language and the need to use language-specific knowledge when processing the surface features in either language. Participants perceived lack of vocabulary knowledge as impeding their lexical access and automaticity when reading in their nondominant language. Language proficiency, as an influential factor in the use of cognitive reading processes, was found only among participants who scored at the lower levels on the Woodcock-Muñoz Language Survey measures.

Subject Area

Literacy|Reading instruction|Bilingual education|Multicultural education

Recommended Citation

Abrams, Ruth Anne, "Biliteracy: Influences of language proficiency and interlingual transfer on bilingual teachers' reading" (2000). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9975335.