Automatic activation of phonology in visual word recognition has been well documented. It has been attributed, at least in part, to the sequential development of speech and literacy which results in the tendency for children to match orthographical input to phonological representation at the early stages of literacy development (e.g., Bosman & De Groot, 1996; Davis, Castles, & Iakovidis, 1998; Goswami, 1993). In contrast to the development of speech prior to literacy in first language (L1) acquisition, second language (L2) learners typically learn to speak and read at the same time. This raises the question of whether phonology is also automatically activated in L2 reading. This issue was investigated in this study by exploring the pseudohomophone effect in L2 reading using a lexical decision task. The role of learners’ L1 was also examined by including both alphabetic and non-alphabetic learners of English as L2. A strong pseudohomophone effect was found in reaction time among native English speakers and alphabetic non-native speakers. Non-alphabetic learners, however, showed a pseudohomophone effect in error rate but not in reaction time. The findings were discussed in terms of how learning experiences and L1 background affect phonological activation in visual L2 word recognition.