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Extensive reading (ER) and development of different aspects of L2 proficiency

Extensive reading means reading in quantity with the purpose of gaining a general understanding of what is read. It is intended to develop good reading habits to build up knowledge, vocabulary, grammatical structures and to encourage a liking for reading. This is what Richards and Schmidt (2002) believe about providing the students the opportunity to read outside the classroom, not only the materials or texts used during a English learning program, but authentic materials, like books, magazines or papers where an L2 learner could choose what he or she wants to read and consider this as a pleasant activity. Different authors refer to the general benefits of Extensive Reading, like the Input Hypothesis by Krashen (1982), the necessity of Massive Amounts of Reading, as Ellis (2005) suggested, or the Reading Hypothesis, developed by Krashen (1993) as well. Besides, some authors have investigated about specific benefits of Extensive Reading: Reading Comprehension and Speed (Bell, 2001), Vocabulary (Grabe and Stoller, 1997), Grammar (Yang, 2001), Reading and Writing (Hafiz and Tudor, 1989), Writing (Tsnag, 1996), General L2 Proficiency (Mason and Krashen, 1997). However, the benefits mentioned above are not easy to observe in a short term. For this reason, some authors attempted to clarify how extensive reading improves the understanding of the language in L2 students. Hayashi (1999) examined improvements of Japanese EFL university students after receiving extensive reading instruction for approximately 10 months. Besides, Bell (2001), compared two groups of elementary level English language learners in Yemen in terms of reading comprehension and reading speed over two semesters, separated in extensive reading and intensive reading groups. Current Investigation The present study aims to explore the different effects of extensive reading on various aspects of L2 ability in a group of 31 Japanese university students. They were asked to answer two different types of tests developed by the Edinburgh Project on Extensive Reading (EPER). The two tests were the following:

PPT: Placement / Progress Tests These evaluations considered mainly cloze tests which intended to measure English Language Proficiency. Although PPTs require comprehension of written texts, the level of comprehension is more likely to be at the lower-level rather than at the higher-level because the evaluations are centered on micro-level linguistic competence such as vocabulary or grammatical order or ideas. ERT: Extensive Reading Tests These evaluations considered reading processes: Scanning, Skimming, Rauding, Learning, Memorizing. According to Carver (1990), these steps lead to Reading Ability, which is defined by this author as the ability to read smoothly with sufficient speed and achieve a general understanding of written texts. In contrast to PPTs, semantically and conceptually acceptable answers were scored correct, and mistakes in grammar and spellings were ignored. The evaluation process considered a pretest-posttest design during a period if 15 weeks and sessions of 90 minutes per week. During this course, a selection of written material was given to the students according to their own interests and preferences, which was evaluated using 2 versions of the tests described above. (A & B of PPT and 1 & 2 of ERT). Also, the teacher and the students could only discuss the topics contained in the reading in their L1, so they didnt receive any influence of the L2 while they were in classes. At the end of the evaluating process, results demonstrated that the benefits of extensive reading are more likely to be manifested in general reading ability, at least as far as adult competent L1 readers reading in L2 are concerned, and that progress in microlevel linguistic ability such as vocabulary, spelling and morphosyntax may follow later.

Sergio Cerda Lira Magister en Lingstica UNIVERSIDAD DE PLAY ANCHA