Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2016

Access Restrictions

Access restricted until 07/03/2020

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Teaching and Learning

First Advisor

Plakans, Lia

First Committee Member

Schrier, Leslie L.

Second Committee Member

Wesely, Pamela M.

Third Committee Member

Johnson, David C.

Fourth Committee Member

Shen, Helen H.


Reading Chinese is one of the most challenging tasks for learners of Chinese as a foreign language (CFL learners). Studies showed that effective use of strategies (e.g. inferring meaning from context) helps to enhance reading comprehension. However, so far, most studies about reading Chinese as a foreign language have focused on lower-level processing (e.g. word learning strategies, the effects of orthography on word acquisition, etc.). Studies about reading process and strategies of adult CFL learners engaging in independent Chinese text reading are extremely limited, and few studies compare reading strategies and perceptions of successful and less successful CFL readers. This study filled these gaps by investigating adult CFL learners’ reading strategies and comparing strategy use and perceptions of successful CFL readers and less successful ones. Using the Compensatory Model of Second Language Reading (Bernhardt, 2005; 2011) as the theoretical framework, this study answered three research questions with sub questions: 1. What are the reading strategies used by adult CFL learners? (a) What are overall reading strategies used by adult CFL readers? (b) What are effective strategy combinations used by adult CFL readers? 2. How do successful adult CFL readers apply and perceive reading strategies when reading in Chinese? 3. How do less successful adult CFL readers apply and perceive reading strategies when reading in Chinese? Qualitative research methods were used to collect and analyze the data. Twelve college level third-year Chinese learners were asked to read a Chinese text, finish a think-aloud task (verbally express their thought process), recall the content of the text, answer several text-related questions, and engage in semi-structured interviews. This study identified 14 bottom-up strategies and 12 top-down strategies. The effective reading strategy combinations used by CFL readers included 1) inferring word meaning by accessing context cues, character meaning, and mental lexical networks; 2) monitoring comprehension by using context information, rereading, summarizing, noticing text structure, paraphrasing, or translating difficult parts; 3) segmenting Chinese words by checking the dictionary, conducting grammar analysis, and referring to mental lexicons. Through comparing the cases of successful and less successful CFL readers, this study revealed that successful readers were good at using context information, monitoring comprehension, and distinguishing important text segments from less important ones. They showed confidence in applying reading strategies and consciously acquired and practiced using strategies while reading. Less successful readers, on the other hand, had more difficulties in decoding characters and words as well as understanding complicated sentence structures. They did not trust their ability to infer about words and phrases, and relied more on the dictionary and translation. In addition, compared with less successful readers, successful readers used more top-down strategies, and they had better metacognitive competences in applying a wide range of strategies effectively. The findings of this study provide useful pedagogical implications to improve Chinese reading instruction and a better understanding about reading Chinese as well as L2 reading.


Chinese, L2 reading, reading strategy


xi, 224 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 215-224).


Copyright © 2016 Sha Huang

Available for download on Friday, July 03, 2020