Do ESL College Students' Comprehend News Headlines

The present study aimed at investigating ESL college students’ ability to comprehend news headlines, to identify the stylistic features of news headlines, to find out the features that are easy to identify, and those that are difficult to identify and to identify error causes. 68 ESL junior college students enrolled in a stylistics course took a test which consisted of a sample of news headlines. The subjects were asked to identify the stylistic features of those news headlines, give examples that illustrate the features they give, fill in missing words and substitute punctuation marks, infinitives and block language by their meanings. Analysis of the subjects’ correct responses showed that 75% of the subjects were able to identify initials in the news headlines, 72% could recognize surnames and infinitives used instead of the ‘future’, 51% could recognize places where articles are deleted, 49% could identify block language, 21% were able to identify passive structures used in the news headlines, 15% could recognize places were verb to be is deleted, and 6% could identify ellipsis. Analysis of the incorrect responses showed areas with which the subjects had syntactic, semantic, background knowledge problems. Recommendations for news headlines comprehension instruction will be given.

Prof. Reima Al-jarf
King Saud University
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

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