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Perspectives on What Contributes to L2 Literacy Development – A Focus on Transfer

Date: Tuesday October 29, 2019

Time: 11:30 am to 1:00 pm

Location: TSH 201

Guest Speaker: Dr. Esther Geva

Bio: Dr. Geva’s research interests include the development of literacy skills in children learning to read in a second language (L2); the relations between oral and written language skills in L2 learners; transfer issues in L2 literacy development; cognitive and linguistic processes and predictors of normal and problematic literacy development in L2 children, and selected topics in cross-cultural psychology pertaining to children’s well-being such as parental attribution and concepts of wellness.

In applied practice, she is interested in community-based approaches to prevention and intervention in minority groups, and options in assessment and intervention for ESL and other L2 learners.

Abstract: The presentation will begin by describing an overall model that synthesizes the contextual and intraindividual factors that contribute to L2 learning and then shift to the ubiquitous topic of cross-linguistic transfer. Cross-language transfer has been a longstanding central theme in the study of language and literacy development in second language L2 (and L3) learners. While in its earlier versions the focus has been primarily on cross-language transfer in spoken language, with the growing interest in understanding reading processes and reading development in various groups of L2 learners, there has been an exponential increase in the number of studies that examine cross-language transfer in relation to literacy aspects such as word reading and spelling, reading comprehension, and writing. Definitions of L1-L2 transfer vary in the extent to which they emphasize innate vs. acquired, cognitive, developmental and neurolinguistics aspects, and in the extent to which they focus on facilitating or debilitating outcomes of similarities and differences between elements in various L1-L2 combinations. Two cross-language transfer frameworks (with variants) dominate the behavioral field – the Contrastive (Lado, 1964), and the linguistic interdependence framework (Cummins, 1981). I will describe briefly their core features and illustrate the relevance of both of these perspectives with studies on L2 literacy development that I have been involved in. I will conclude with a brief discussion of implications for assessment.