Boundary setting for meaning construction in Chinese EFL reading

Boundary setting for meaning construction in Chinese EFL reading

First Author: Hing yi Wong -- EDUHK
Additional authors/chairs: 
Susanna S.S. Yeung
Keywords: Adolescent Reading, Assessment, Bilingualism, cognitive processes, Combinatoriality
Abstract / Summary: 

To understand how Chinese readers might construct meaning of an English text using the syntactic approach, a test was designed for KS3 students based on an expert reading construct. The test had 23 items. A developmental scale of different reading skills was developed and a hypothetical reading construct based on L1 English readers was designed and compared with the performance of 111 local S1 and S2 students aged 13-15 years old. Results went through IRT analysis and items were re-arranged according to students’ perception of item difficulties. Compared with the skill-based English reading construct in L1 reading, it was found that Chinese EFL readers perceived item difficulties differently as that of L1 readers. This was especially true when the semantic meaning of a specific word was “foreign” to a struggling EFL reader, the scenario of which might force him/her to fix the semantic meaning of word at the syntactic level. Based on the item measure of our sample, the developmental scale was re-adjusted and a reading construct of Chinese EFL readers based on syntactical approach was developed for further testing. To understand a connected prose, a shared and stable syntax of the target language, on top of semantic decoding, helps set a boundary for words to be grouped as units of meaning, thus constraining how meaning of words are related and make common understanding plausible.