A STUDY OF THE READING DIFFICULTIES OF SECOND-YEAR EFL LEARNERS AT PUBLIC SECONDARY SCHOOL OF KAYRALA MANATUTO TIMOR -LESTE

Arthur McNeill, Agostinho dos Santos Gonçalves, Pedro da Costa

Abstract


The aim of the research is to identify the difficulties experienced by secondary
students in Timor-Leste when they read texts in English. The study also attempts
to identify the causes of the students‟ reading difficulties. 200 students and two
of their English teachers participated in the study. A questionnaire was used to
gather information about the students‟ reading experience and habits. Based on
the questionnaire results, ten students were selected to participate in focus group
discussions about their reading difficulties. Five of the students were assigned to
a „challenged‟ reader focus group, while five were assigned to a „coping‟ reader
group. Two English teachers (the only two English teachers at the school)
participated in semi-structured, in-depth, interviews about aspects of their
students‟ reading difficulties. The teachers were also asked about their
approaches to teaching reading, the types of materials used and the resources
that were available to support reading at the school. The results show that many
of the students find reading in English particularly difficult. Inadequate
vocabulary knowledge and a lack of reading strategies are the main contributors.
The single most serious difficulty reported by both students and teachers was the
pronunciation of the words of the reading texts. This finding suggests that the
students are accustomed to reading texts aloud rather than silently and may not
have progressed beyond a sub-vocalizing phase. The teacher interviews
confirmed that the majority of the students adopt a „bottom up‟ approach to
reading, in spite of the teachers‟ efforts to introduce „top-down‟ reading
strategies.

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