Memory for Phonetic and Abstract Visual Material and Success in Learning to Read English and Japanese by Second Language Learners
M. Flaherty
Reading success among native speaking children in both English and Japanese is influenced by the ability to recode orthographic material into a phonetic representation. However, a major difference between beginning readers of Japanese and English is that good readers of Japanese surpass the poor ones in memory for abstract designs; no such difference was found with alphabet. The present research addresses the influence of the writing system in terms of second language reading success. Students of Japanese and English were separated into three groups based on their performance on language tests and teachers' assessments. It was hypothesised that second language alphabet habituated adults learning to read Japanese, like Japanese children, will differ in memory for both phonetic material and abstract designs and that second language Japanese adults learning to read English, like American children, will differ in memory for phonetic representation, but not abstract designs. The hypothesis was confirmed. The possibility that learning Japanese and English could enhance visual and verbal/phonetic memory respectively, is discussed.

Key words: second language learners, phonetic memory, visual memory, reading success, English, Japanese, abstract design