Examining how post-secondary L2 readers make use of background knowledge when reading literary texts an exploratory study
Literary texts offer rich opportunities for language learning. However, can second language (L2) learners fully understand L2 literary texts? According to Bernhardt (2001):"the act of reading in a second language is extremely tricky -- is even trickier with literary texts that are inherently ambiguous, full of metaphor and intertextual relations to texts to which the readers have no access" (p.198). In other words, L2 readers are often poorly equipped grammatically, linguistically and culturally to cope with literary texts in which it might be difficult to recognize figurative language, to comprehend metaphors, to identify underlying cultural assumptions and above all to think critically while navigating those complexities. Therefore, during the reading process, L2 readers encounter gaps in the text which necessarily compel them to use whatever background knowledge they possess in order to create meaning. The purpose of this research is to see exactly how post-secondary L2 readers use their existing background knowledge to understand literary texts and what they do when confronted with text passages for which they lack such knowledge.