Evidence for an Expanded Role for Reading in Foreign Language Learning


  • Robert Lado

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      ROBERT LADO (Ph.D., Univ. of Michigan) is Dean of the School of Languages and Linguistics at Georgetown University, where he has been developing a Ph.D. program for his department under a Ford Foundation and National Science grant. He serves as chief consultant for a program to develop English Departments in Spanish Universities, and for the Spanish-American Teacher Exchange Program under the Agreement of Friendship between the U.S. and Spain. Linguistics Across Cultures and Language Testing are among his current publications.


ABSTRACT  The widely held assumption that it is harmful to allow students to read from the beginning what they are expected to master orally was tested experimentally with the result that reading appears to facilitate rather than obstruct language acquisition without significant negative effects on pronunciation. Evidence from experiments reported by others gives further support for this conclusion. Tests of language skills (aural perception, pronunciation, control of vocabulary) conducted among students of various languages and ages at the beginning level show significantly superior results among the students exposed to written as well as auditory stimuli as opposed to those exposed to the purely auditory. On the basis of the evidence it is concluded that reading should be given an expanded role in language teaching from the beginning. Specifically, although it is possible to learn to speak without reading, it seems a more effective strategy to learn to read simultaneously with learning to speak. The evidence is against a completely oral prereading period.