An immigrant, who worked in an American machine shop, acquired polite standard spoken English by reading romance novels in an 18-week adult extensive-reading English as a Spoken Language (ESL) class. Full time employment in the machine shop and once-a-week class discussions provided the only places where the student was routinely exposed to spoken English.
This paper reports a case supporting the claim that reading popular literature in a second language strongly influences a learner’s acquisition of the spoken target language.
The powerful effect of reading on first and second-language acquisition has been well-documented in many multi-participant research studies (Krashen, 2004). In addition, an overwhelming number of individual case studies, which support the larger more rigorous studies, continue to pile up (Krashen, 2007). The greater number of participants involved in larger studies ostensibly makes them more generalizable, but individual case studies, because they are experience-near, are often closer to the less abstract subjective truth we know as individuals.
In the long run, the sum of the many one-off generalisations about the experience of individuals, outlined in the growing corpus of case studies about second language reading, provides robust evidence supporting the benefit of this language learning practice.