Bilingual oral reading fluency and reading comprehension: The case of Arabic/Hebrew (L1)-English (L2) readers

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The relevance of Oral Reading Fluency (ORF) to reading comprehension in the native language (L1) and in English - a foreign language (L2) - was studied. Fifty university students, twenty-two Arabic and twenty-eight Hebrew native speakers, read both L1 and English texts aloud and reported their comprehension on-line. Results showed that ORF was not correlated with reading comprehension in L1. However, in English, the two reading measures were significantly correlated. Next, the ORF and reading comprehension scores were each analyzed using a 2 × 2 ANOVA with repeated measures on language (L1 versus L2) and with native language (Arabic versus Hebrew) as a between subject factor. This analysis revealed a main effect of language, with both sets of scores higher in L1 than in L2. However, a native language effect was only traced in the ORF scores, favoring the Hebrew native group. The findings demonstrate the importance of ORF in adult L2 reading comprehension. Linguistic proficiency and the unique properties of unvoweled script are used to explain the absence of a significant correlation between ORF and comprehension in L1 reading. Diglossia is proposed as a tenable explanation of the lower ORF scores among the Arabic native sample.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)717-736
Number of pages20
JournalReading and Writing
Issue number8
StatePublished - Dec 2003


  • Cross-linguistic reading
  • Diglossia
  • Oral reading fluency
  • Reading comprehension
  • Unvoweled script


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