Learning to read for the first time as adult immigrants in Finland: Reviewing pertinent research of low-literate or non-literate learners’ literacy acquisition and computer-assisted literacy training

Eva Malessa

Computer-assisted language learning, Finnish as a second language, Non-literate, Late literacy, Adult learner


Against the backdrop of increasing global humanitarian migration to highly literate countries and the resulting necessity and challenge to provide language and literacy education to non-literate or low-literate adult second language (L2) learners, this article calls for more research on a new population of late literacy learners, particularly in Finland. The article begins by outlining the pressing necessity for research on this special group of L2 learners who has traditionally been ignored by Second Language Acquisition (SLA) research. It will then go on to illuminate essential components of developing reading literacy, drawing on relevant previous research on pre-literates. Further, the role of orthography, in particular the shallow transparency of the Finnish language, are critically examined with regard to alphabetic literacy. As adult non-literacy is a relatively new phenomenon in the highly literate society of Finland, there is a scarcity of research on how non-literate adults acquire Finnish. Growing academic interest and emerging Literacy Education and Second Language Learning for Adults with little or no schooling (LESLLA) research in Finland, with focus on reading literacy skills, is presented and discussed. The article highlights the possibilities of technology to enhance the individual literacy process for LESLLA learners and presents the Digital Literacy Instructor (DigLin) as one technology-enhanced practice environment for the very first steps in learning to decode the alphabetic code. Finally, conclusions on LESLLA learners’ late literacy acquisition and a future research perspective are drawn, emphasizing the potential of computer-assisted language learning (CALL).

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