Metalinguistic awareness in reading Hebrew L2
The chapter reports on a study that examined the contribution of different types of metalinguistic awareness to word reading and reading comprehension in Hebrew L2 of L1 speakers of Palestinian Arabic. A total of 104 Arabic-speaking students in 4th, 6th, and 8th grade (ages 9–10, 11–12, and 13–14) were tested on three tasks of metalinguistic awareness – phonological, morphological, and orthographic. All three skills were found to correlate positively with both word reading and reading comprehension. However, after controlling for age/grade-level, verbal memory, and spoken language abilities, each metalinguistic skill explained unique variance in word reading, with phonological awareness predicting the largest amount of variance, whereas oral language ability emerged as the best predictor of reading comprehension. Of the three metalinguistic variables tested, only orthographic awareness emerged as a significant predictor of reading comprehension in addition to oral language, explaining a relatively small amount of variance. Findings are explained in the framework of theories of L2 reading, the special characteristics of Hebrew language and orthography, and the possible effect of L1 Arabic, as a closely related Semitic language, on learning to read in Hebrew.