How Do Children Learn New Words in A Second Language? The Role of Self-Teaching in Orthographic Learning

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Learning to read written words is the major benchmark that beginning readers must meet to achieve high-level reading comprehension later on. In my dissertation, I make among the first attempts to examine self-teaching— the process by which children teach themselves new written words via independent text reading— in L2. In past decades, self-teaching has been shown to be a robust means of written word learning across writing systems in L1. But very limited research has examined self-teaching in L2. The overarching aim of my dissertation is to: (1) identify the challenges of self-teaching in L2; (2) examine potential optimal learning conditions that can help L2 learners compensate for poor learning; and (3) provide a robust accounting of this literature via meta-analysis. Studies 1 and 2 examined self-teaching among English L2 learners with a non-alphabetic L1—Chinese (Study 1) and an alphabetic L1—Spanish (Study 2), and seek to explore the potential factors that affect L2 learners’ self-teaching. A systematic review will then be conducted to compare self-teaching across studies (Study 3). These attempts, among the first in the field, are expected to yield a comprehensive understanding of existing evidence and guide future research. Collectively, the findings from my work will not only enrich the theories of self-teaching and L2 word learning, but also will add to the growing evidence supporting the educational value of self-teaching in L1 and L2, and the mechanisms that support L2 learners in this endeavor.