Monolingual and Heritage Bilingual Strategies in Reading in Russian

Thematic Section: Literacy in heritage languages

heritage languages, literacy, reading, writing, pedagogy

Olga Parshina, The Graduate Center, City University of New York
Irina A. Sekerina, College of Staten Island, City University of New York
Anastasiya Lopukhina, National Research University Higher School of Economics
Titus von der Malsburg, University of Potsdam

We used a novel to bilingual research scanpath approach (sequences of eye fixations) to investigate reading strategies among bilingual and monolingual Russian-speaking readers. First, we ask what kind of reading strategies Russian speakers employ while reading 30 simple sentences in Russian and whether speakers’ status (i.e., monolingual/child/heritage/L2) influences which of those reading strategy are adopted. In addition, we investigated the influence of individual differences on the preference for specific reading strategies in bilingual readers. Method. The data contain eye movements (Eyelink 1000+) from 120 participants, 30 in each of the following groups: monolingual adults (ML), 8-year-old monolingual children (CH), heritage speakers (HS), and L2 learners of Russian (L2). We found that monolingual adults employ a fluent reading strategy which suggests effortless processing of the written materials – they read straight from left-to-right at a fast pace, skip words, and do not regress much. High-proficiency heritage speakers and children share the same intermediate reading strategy which is characterized by short regressive saccades, longer fixations, and absence of word-skipping. L2 learners as well as low-proficiency heritage speakers exhibit a beginner reading strategy which involves frequent re-reading of the whole sentence and particular words, long fixations and no word-skipping. We suggest that unlike ‘intermediate’ readers who use the respective strategy to resolve local processing difficulties (e.g., word recognition failure), ‘beginner’ readers experience global-level challenges in semantic and morphosyntactic information integration. Proficiency in Russian for heritage speakers and comprehension scores for L2 learners were predictive of the reading strategy used in bilingual speakers. Scanpath analysis revealed qualitative differences in reading strategies that cannot be captured by the word-level analysis using the conventional eye-tracking measures.