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Norwegian gamers master English better than mother tongue


Teenage gamers perform markedly better in tests of L2 English reading compared to reading tests in their mother tongue, a Norwegian study suggests.

A total of 463 16-year-olds from Oslo public schools scored in or above the 60th percentile in their L2 English reading tests, but were only in the 20th percentile on their L1 reading exam.

Other students typically scored in the same quintile for L1 and L2, or higher in L1.

These ‘outliers’ were identified among a national sample of 10,331 students taking national tests. On average, they exceeded average results in L2 by 5 percentage points.

Many of the student outliers who were amongst the top L2 performers acknowledged playing online games more than three hours a day, the research says.

Boys made up 66 per cent of the outliers. Over 90 per cent of them were Norwegian mother-tongue speakers.

When it came to making inferences from texts, seen as the most difficult aspect of reading, the gamers outperformed the overall sample by 17 per cent.

This surprised the researchers, not least because the majority were boys in vocational programmes – a group which doesn’t generally show good academic skills and is more likely to drop out. Girls in vocational programmes were the only section of the outliers’ group whose reading scores improved when they used fewer reading strategies such as scanning and re-reading.

Asked about their interest in and motivation for reading English, 85 per cent of the student outliers answered positively: English was their preferred language out of school, used in a variety of activities.

These findings challenge the common notion that poor L1 readers also underperform when reading in L2, and underline the importance of reader interest for L2 comprehension, the researchers said.

⇒ Outliers: Upper secondary school students who read better in L2 than in L1, Lisbeth M. Brevik, Glenn Ole Hellekjær https://tinyurl.com/y89dc2j4