But reading skills, which Thonis refers to as decoding the printed word (p. 191), depend on the successful achievement, then successful transfer, of the earlier developmental steps.
Something of the same process is presumed to be in operation in the transfer of skills required to go from L1 to L2. The common element is that the earlier stages of skills development determine the degree of success with which any cognitive transfer from L1 to L2 can occur. That would help explain why research shows that successful readers in L1 appear to acquire L2 reading skills at a relatively more rapid rate than nonreading L1 counterparts of comparable age. What would be transferred would be the ability to decode print media; it would just be applied to the language being learned.
The most important classroom implications of the attributes of transferability of skills from L1 to L2 lie in the importance of identifying the current status of the individual students' competency in using L1 effectively. Thonis says that the English reading teacher should "watch for any problems and attempt to prevent them or to use hem for learning" (p. 193). However, that does not necessarily capture the full realities of classroom dynamics, where individual diagnoses may be difficult to make. The challenge of effective identification of L1 competencies includes the need to shape instructional procedures in a way that can best accommodate whatever needs are observed while also exploiting linguistic skills that the student may be attempting, with possibly limited success, to transfer. The point is that the teacher must be sensitive to the sequentiality of skills acquisition, not impatient to rush prematurely into L2 reading instruction.
Thonis, E.W. (1994). Reading instruction for language minority students. In C.F. Leyba (Ed.), Schooling and language minority students: