chapter  30
19 Pages

Out of My Orthographic Depth: Second Language Reading

ByBARBARA BIRCH, CALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY, FRESNO

Because of a vagary of my recent years, I have been able to study both Macedonian and Mongolian in their home countries. The former, a Southern Slavic language, has a shallow Cyrillic orthography dating from the 1940s; its letters correspond one-to-one with its phonemes. The latter, a Mongolic language, has a mid twentieth century Cyrillic orthography as well, but it is deep; the correspondence between the visual appearance of the word and its pronunciation is not always predictable. Macedonian was easy for me to decode very quickly, but learning to decode Mongolian literally made my head hurt. As a reading researcher, I wrote this chapter in an attempt to understand my experiences as acquisition phenomena (and not merely the effects of aging) and their implications for second language (L2) reading instruction.