This study aimed to examine the effects of visual characteristics of Arabic orthography on learningtoread compared to Hebrew among Arabic and Hebrew bilinguals in an elementary bilingual education framework. Speed and accuracy measures were examined in reading words and non-words in Arabic and Hebrew as follows: Arabic words and non-words composed of connected and similar letters, words and non-words composed of connected and non-similar letters, and words and non-words composed of unconnected letters. In Hebrew, words and non-words composed of similar letters and non-similar letters. It was found that Arabic speakers showed an almost equal control in all reading tasks in both languages whereas, Hebrew speakers showed better performance in their mother tongue in all reading tasks. In Arabic, the best performance was in reading words and non-words that was unconnected. Based on these findings, it was concluded that Hebrew speakers did not succeed in transferring their good ability in reading their mother tongue to reading the second language, apparently due to the unique nature of the Arabic orthography. Our findings with regard to the cross-linguistic research literature as well as the specific features of Arabic language are discussed.
Cite this paper
Ibrahim, R. , Khateb, A. & Taha, H. (2013). How Does Type of Orthography Affect Reading in Arabic and Hebrew as First and Second Languages?. Open Journal of Modern Linguistics, 3, 40-46. doi: 10.4236/ojml.2013.31005.
 Abdelhadi, S., Ibrahim, R., & Eviatar. Z. (2011). Perceptual load in the reading of Arabic: Effects of orthographic visual complexity on detection. Writing Systems Research, 3, 117-127.
 Abu-Rabia, S. (2000). Effects of exposure to literary Arabic on reading comprehension in a diglossic situation. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 13, 147-157. doi:10.1023/A:1008133701024
 Abu-Rabia, S., & Siegel, L. S. (1995). Different orthographies, different context effects: The effects of Arabic sentence context inskilled and poor readers. Reading Psychology: An International Quarterly, 16, 1-19. doi:10.1080/0270271950160101
 Amara, M., & Mar’i, A. (2002). Language education policy: The Arab minority in Israel. Dordrecht/Boston/London: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
 Bialystok, E. (2001). Bilingualism in development: Language, literacy, and cognition. New York: Cambridge University Press.
 Azzam, R. (1993). The nature of Arabic reading and spelling errors of young children. Reading and Writing, 5, 355-385.
 Breznitz, Z. (2003). Speed of phonological and orthographic processing as factors in dyslexia: Electrophysiological evidence. Genetic, Social and General Psychology Monographs, 129, 183-206.
 Cummins, J. (1979). Linguistic Interdependence and the Educational Development of Bilingual Children. Review of Educational Research, 49, 222-251.
 Cummins, J. (1981). The role of primary language development in promoting educational success for language minority students. In California State Department of Education (Ed.), Schooling and language minority students: A theoretical framework (pp. 3-49). Los Angeles: Evaluation, Dissemination and Assessment Center, California State University.
 Cummins, J. (2000). Language, power and pedagogy: Bilingual children in the crossfire. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
 Eviatar, Z., & Ibrahim, R. (2001). Bilingual is as bilingual does: Metalinguistic abilities of Arabic speaking children. Applied Psycholinguistics, 21, 451-471. doi:10.1017/S0142716400004021
 De Groot, A. M. B. (1992). Determinants of word translation. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 18, 1001-1018. doi:10.1037/0278-73188.8.131.521
 Ibrahim, R., & Aharon-Peretz, J. (2005). Is literary Arabic a second language for native Arab speakers: Evidence from a semantic priming study. The Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 34, 51-70.
 Ibrahim, R., & Eviatar, Z. (2012). Multilingualism among Israeli Arabs, and the neuropsychology of reading in different languages. Literacy Studies, 5, 57-74.
 Ibrahim, R., Eviatar, Z., & Aharon Peretz, J. (2002). The characteristics of the Arabic orthography slow it’s cognitive processing. Neuropsycholgy, 16, 322-326. doi:10.1037/0894-4184.108.40.2062
 Ibrahim, R., Eviatar. Z., & Aharon Peretz, J. (2007). Metalinguistic awareness and reading performance: A cross language comparison. The Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 36, 297-317.
 Ibrahim, R. (2009). The cognitive basis of diglossia in Arabic: Evidence from a repetition priming study within and between languages. Psychology Research and Behavior Management, 12, 95-105.
 Maamouri, M. (1998). Language education and human development: Arabic diglossia and its impact on the quality of education in the Arab region. The Mediterranean Development Forum. Washington, DC: The World Bank.
 Paradis, M. (2009). Declarative and procedural determinants of second languages (studies in bilingualism 40). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
 Rao, C., Vaid, J., Srinivasan, N., & Chen, H. C. (2011). Orthographic characteristics speed Hindi word naming but slow Urdu naming: Evidence from Hindi/Urdu biliterates. Reading and Writing, 24, 679-695. doi:10.1007/s11145-010-9256-9
 Roman, G., Pavard, B., (1987). A comparative study: How we read Arabic and French. In J. K. O’Regan, & A. Levy-Schoen (Eds.), Eye movements from physiology to cognition (pp. 431-440). Amsterdam: North Holland Elsevier.
 Saiegh-Haddad, E. (2003). Linguistic distance and initial reading acquisition: The case of Arabic diglossia. Applied Psycholinguistics, 24, 115-135. doi:10.1017/S0142716403000225
 Saiegh-Haddad, E. (2004). The impact of phonemic and lexical distance on the phonological analysis of words and pseudowords in a diglossic context. Applied Psycholinguistics, 25, 495-512.
 Saiegh-Haddad, E. (2005). Correlates of reading fluency in Arabic: Diglossic and orthographic factors. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 18, 559-582.
 Share, D. L., Jorm, A. F., Maclean, F., & Matthews, R. (1984). Sources of individual differences in reading acquisition. Journal of Educational Psychology, 76, 1309-1324.
 Shatil, E., Share, D. L., & Levin, I. (2000). On the contribution of kindergarten writing to Grade 1 literacy: A longitudinal study in Hebrew. Applied Psycholinguistics, 28, 1-25.
 Shimron, J., & Navon, D. (1982). The dependence on graphemes and on their translation to phonemes in reading: A developmental perspective. Reading Research Quarterly, 17, 210-228.
 Taha, H., Ibrahim, R., & Khateb, A. (2012). How does Arabic orthographic connectivity modulate brain activity during visual word recognition: An ERP study. Brain Topography, 26, 292-302.
 Taouk, M., & Coltheart, M. (2004). Learning to read in Arabic. Reading and Writing, 17, 27-57.