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Business English, Professional English, Legal English, Medical English, Academic English etc.
Online peer-reviewed Journal for Teachers

English for Specific Purposes World (ESP World)

English for Specific Purposes World

ISSN 1682-3257

English for Specific Purposes World (ESP World) Home    Information   ESP Encyclopaedia    Resources    Contacts

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1.1. The Reading Process

There has been much discussion about the process of reading, its nature and the skills required for effective reading to be achieved. A significant body of literature (Robinson, 1980; Carrol, 1980; Nuttal, 1982; Carrell, 1983; Grabe, 1988) posits that reading is not a passive process, but an active process of communication whereby the reader approaches the text for specific purposes. The readers involvement in the text is of crucial significance as he/she should not accept passively what is written, but he/she should develop, modify and even reflect on all or some of the ideas displayed in the text.

According to some experts reading is an interactive constructive process in which readers comprehend, interpret, and respond to text according to what they already know. The term interactive is probably best explained by Eskeyas the interaction of the readers several kinds of knowledge and the interaction of the reader and the text. The term interactive (in Dubin, Eskey and Grade 1986:16), as Grade (1991) has pointed out, can refer to the occurrence of an interaction that involves both a reader and a text, what might be seen as a negotiation with meaning by a reader who comprehends textual information by utilizing what is contained in the text, and what he or she brings to the text (Carrell and Eisterhold 1983).

According to Grabe (1988:56), the notion of reading as an interactive process refers to a kind of dialogue between the reader and the text. The notion of reading as an interactive process evolved from schema theory and is often termed the top-down approach to reading. Moreover, Grabe (1988) suggests that the term interactive also refers to the interplay of both bottom up and top down reading strategies. (Block 1992, Eskey 1991 and Rumelhart 1997). Bottom up strategies include decoding graphic features and grammatical characteristics, while top down strategies include predicting, applying background knowledge and recognizing global text structure. The notion of top down strategies is usually used in the literature to include both global strategies for processing the text as well as activating conceptual (background) knowledge of the world.

Any imbalance between bottom up and top down processing can cause problems for the reader. In the words of Dubin and Bucina (1991:197) the two processes, bottom up and top down, are complementary; one is not able to function properly without the other. Thus, interactive theory accounts for the ability which mature readers have when they read rapidly for main ideas as well as their ability to read closely when necessary for example, in scanning for specific information or proofreading material after composing it.

Some other researchers describe the reading act as a transaction, in which meaning emerges from a continuing giveandtake relationship between the reader and the text, each shaping and shaped by the other. This kind of interaction between readers and the text allows readers to construct their own meaning according to their background knowledge and experience. Coady (1979) claimed that reading was conceptualized as an active process of text comprehension made possible by readers utilizing their background knowledge and using appropriate strategies.

Recent approaches have conceived reading as an interactive cognitive process in which readers interact with the text using their prior knowledge (Carrell, 1983) and cultural background. According to Brumfit (1980:3), reading is a complex activity covering a combination of perceptual, linguistic and cognitive abilities. It is a constructive thinking process which involves application, analysis, evaluation and imagination Reading probably is not possible without analyzing (Taylor, 1984:391). Reading pedagogy which is implied by such a conceptualization would include helping students to establish purposes for reading, facilitating reasoning, promoting analysis, evaluation and encouraging students to reflect upon and refine the ideas they have encountered in the text. Conceptualizing the reading process in this way makes important the cognitive and communicative aspect of both reading and reading instruction.

1.2 Implications for English for Academic Purposes reading

How do the above-mentioned notions relate to English for Academic Purposes pedagogy? Grabes(1988) notion of reading as an interactive process implies that the EAP reader most probably has more limited content and formal schemata as well as less knowledge of the language used in the text in what one might term his/her cognitive warehouse than the author has. Thus, while an EAP reading course usually emphasizes building up students knowledge of rhetorical structures and improving their knowledge of the target language, it cannot ignore the gap in their content schemata.




---- Linguistic schemata Cognitive warehouse
---- Content-formal schemata

Grabes interactive model of reading dictates that EAP instruction should focus both on linguistic structures for decoding language and on global reading strategies. However, should EAP instruction place equal emphasis on both top down and bottom up reading skills? Should such equal emphasis be a feature of all courses regardless of the students proficiency level?

The instructor of EAP reading should be concerned with achieving and maintaining a proper balance between
top down and bottom up processing.



Top-down reading skills
Bottom-up reading skills

The work of the teacher of EAP, then, when working with specific texts should also involve helping learners to acquire the formal schemata that would help them to achieve the necessary balance between top down and bottom up text processing strategies to enable them to read efficiently. Content schemata would be acquired from textbooks, journals, articles of educational content. So the teacher should have some knowledge of the content of these educational texts, and be prepared for situations in which learners are to some degree unfamiliar with the content. In such cases the acquisition of formal schemata should facilitate the acquisition of content schemata.

With regard to formal schemata, EAP students may often be unfamiliar with various academic text genres. Regarding content schemata,there is the twofold problem of unfamiliar academic content and unfamiliar cultural references which, as Clampham (1996) notes, may in some cases be more important than syntax. A possible means to alleviate these problems is to choose texts that are linked thematically (on the same or similar topic) thus developing content schemata and facilitating vocabulary reentry. At the same time, a focus on rhetorical forms and typical academic genres develops formal schemata.

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