Reading and Writing

, Volume 20, Issue 8, pp 753–784

Reading in two orthographies: A cross-linguistic study of Dutch average and poor readers who learn English as a second language

  • Eleni Morfidi
  • Aryan van der Leij
  • Peter F. de Jong
  • Femke Scheltinga
  • Judith Bekebrede


The present study investigated the reading of secondary school students in their first and second language (L1, L2). Twenty-six average and twenty-six poor readers matched on age, gender, listening and reading comprehension participated. They were native Dutch speakers who started learning English at secondary school (grade 7). We examined whether differences in L2 between the two groups reflect differences in L1 with regard to reading and relevant subskills. In addition, the relationship between reading and its predictors within and across the two languages was investigated. Between group differences were similar in L1 and L2 when task conditions involved high levels of phonological and orthographic complexity or demanded speeded processing. Furthermore, serial rapid naming predicted speeded word reading in both languages and L2 text reading accuracy, while L2 phoneme awareness and orthographic knowledge explained unique variance in L2 text reading accuracy. Cross-linguistic prediction revealed that speeded word reading predicted its counterpart from L1 to L2 and vice versa. Serial rapid naming explained additional variance in the prediction of L2 from L1. After exclusion of the reading predictor from the model, serial rapid naming was the most consistent cross-linguistic predictor, while L2 orthographic knowledge explained a small amount of unique variance in L1 speeded word reading.


Poor readers Phonological skills Orthography Second language 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eleni Morfidi
    • 1
  • Aryan van der Leij
    • 1
  • Peter F. de Jong
    • 1
  • Femke Scheltinga
    • 1
  • Judith Bekebrede
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Educational SciencesUniversity of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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