Eye-Movements in Children and Adults Reading in a Second Language: Similarities and Differences

Schroeder, S. 1 , Häikiö, T. 2 , Pagan, A. 3 , Hyönä, J. 2 & Liversedge, S. 4

1 MPI for Human Development, MPRG REaD
2 University of Turku
3 University of Oxford
4 University of Southampton

Eye-tracking studies have shown that adults who are reading texts in a second language (L2) read more slowly and make more and longer fixations than adults who are reading the same texts in their native language (L1). This behavior is similar to that of children who are reading in their L1.

In this study, we investigated groups of bilingual adults with four L1-L2 combinations: German-English, English-German, German-Finnish, and Finnish-German. In addition, we compared their data with that from skilled adults and 4th grade children who read the same sentences in their L1.

Results show that all bilingual groups read the sentences slower and made more fixations in their L2 compared to their L1. The differences between adult L1 and L2 readers were qualitatively similar to the effects observed for children reading in their L1. However, in contrast to children, L2 readers showed only small effects for mean fixation duration, but higher regression rates.

In sum, our results indicate that L2 reading is driven by deficits in lexical processing which increase (re)fixation rate and slow down sentence processing. We will discuss our findings with regard to current models of reading development and lexical processing in beginning readers and bilinguals.