Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Xiaozhao Huang


This research was designed to gain understanding of literacy skills transfer from a first language involving a particular writing system to a second language which uses another, divergent writing system. The author has worked in adult literacy in an area of the Sahara desert where the people's first language is Arabic and the majority of adults were illiterate. The present research utilized this setting to study literacy skills transfer from Arabic to English. Specific questions addressed in the research were: what skills transfer from L1 to L2, at what point should instruction in L2 begin, and can lexical access be used as a predictor of success in learning L2?

Thirty individuals who had only studied Arabic previously were recruited to participate in a one month research project in which English would be taught in a classroom setting. The English taught focused on literacy skills. An effort was made to find ten individuals who had from 0 to 3 years of Arabic education, ten who had studied 4 to 6 years of Arabic education and ten who had studied 7 to 9 years. After 3 ½ weeks of English literacy classes, the participants were tested on the English they had learned as well as their Arabic proficiency and lexical access skills. It was hypothesized that participants having a certain significant level of Arabic proficiency would have a noticeably easier time acquiring English literacy. The results of the study support this hypothesis. Data obtained suggests the positive transfer of lexical access skills and that lexical access skills can be used to predict learning ability in L2.

This paper begins with a review of biliteracy and skills transfer highlighting the broad, multifaceted nature of the subject.