Electronic Theses and Dissertations





Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Committee Chair

Emily Thrush

Committee Member

Teresa Dalle

Committee Member

Joseph Jones

Committee Member

Rebecca Adams


Alshammari, Hammad Ali M., Ph.D. The University of Memphis. August, 2018. The Effect of Educational Background on Second Language Reading. Major Professor: Emily Thrush, Ph.D. An increasing number of studies in the field of L2 reading have found that Saudi ESL learners are more likely to encounter reading difficulties in the US (e.g., Khan, 2011), and Saudi learners have demonstrated the lowest reading scores on the TOEFL and IELTS standardized language tests worldwide (as cited in Al-Qahtani, 2016). This study explored the effects of educational background on L2 reading by interviewing eight Saudi ESL learners with different reading proficiency levels. The study followed a qualitative framework to produce detailed data. Interviews elicited the perceptions of the participants on their current and previous reading contexts to determine the possible sources of their reading difficulties. The interview questions were categorized under five main themes: 1) reading in Saudi Arabia and the US, 2) culture in Saudi Arabia and the US, 3) learning process in Saudi Arabia and the US, 4) perceptions toward reading in Saudi Arabia and the US, and 5) assessment in Saudi Arabia and the US. Many studies, such as Hudson (2007) and Koda (2005), have shown a significant relationship between L1 and L2 reading ability. This was supported in the present study as more highly proficient L1 readers were more capable of meeting higher and unexpected reading requirements in the US, such as strategies to read quickly to compensate for having less time to prepare than in their prior reading context in Saudi Arabia. The study concludes that the orthographic distance between L1 and L2 did not play a major role in determining the L2 reading difficulties, since participants were at a more advanced reading level. The study also provides recommendations for Saudi ESL learners as well as reading instructors in Saudi Arabia and the US.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.