Reading is one of the four human language skills. It is a complex process in which the reader tries to understand written language not only by reading sentences but connecting the sentences with ideas, memories and knowledge, which are activated by the words. (cf. Cziko et. al)
The purpose of this essay is to analyse in detail this complex process. Seventeen responses given by a non-‐native speaker of English on a medical text will be examined by using the writer's own knowledge to determine which reading model is being used and which model dominates throughout the process. This essay is structured chronologically, analysing the student's responses sentence after sentence.
In response to the first sentence it is clear that the student uses a top-‐down approach to understand the sentence. According to Harmer using a top-‐down approach means that the "Reader […] gets a general view of the reading […] passage by absorbing the overall picture." (2001: 201) She chooses a specific word "liver" and a sequence of words "in the child the liver is bigger than in adults" from the sentence. By choosing these two extracts the student knows that the sentence talks about a human organ and therefore she can activate the schema of the structure of the human body by using her own previous knowledge. Furthermore we can assume that she picks these words because they are relevant to her and that are comprehensible. In the next sentence this previous knowledge is crucial for the student to understand the sentence. Harmer says that "In order to make sense of any text we need to have 'pre-‐existing knowledge of the world' (Cook, qtd. In Harmer, 2001: 199). Such knowledge is often referred to as schema. Each of us carries in our heads mental representation of typical situations that we come across" (Harmer, 2001: 199). This phenomenon becomes clear in response two. She can understand the meaning of the sentence by activating an existing schema created from her experience; "is that why my nephew has a big and round belly?". In her reflection she does not comment on the first part of the sentence, the word "intestines" probably being too discipline specific for the subjects general knowledge. As the student is familiar with the term "pot-‐ belly" she is able to understand the second part of the sentence.
In the third response the reader struggles with the whole meaning of the sentence. She cannot find any proposition that make sense to her. According to Bruning "a proposition is the smallest unit of meaning that can stand as a separate assertion. […] Each [proposition] represents a unit of meaning about which a judgement […] can be made" (2004: 49) The student tries to understand the connection between liver injuries and crowded highways, but does not understand that the proposition of crowded highways means that this situation causes more car accidents which in turn...