Learners and readers of Arabic, especially Heritage Language Learners, suffer more than ever from the lack of focus while reading online texts. This becomes a challenge that negatively impacts their overall learning process. This paper explores the influence of one salience feature - bolded keywords - over reading speed and comprehension amongst Heritage+ Learners of Arabic. Heritage+ refers to Arabs living in the Arab world, but who have minimum exposure to the language. Thirty-two students, who are Heritage+ Learners of Arabic, currently studying at the American University in Cairo and belong to Generation Z (18-25 years), participated in the study. Each participant was requested to read two articles; one text with bolded keywords and the other one without, followed by two multiple choice questions per article, and two open-ended questions. The study used a mixed approach to explore the influence on reading speed, comprehension, and individual preferences. Based on the non-parametric tests conducted to analyze the abnormally distributed data, there is no significant difference between the two text formats on reading speed and comprehension. However, it is clear from qualitative data gathered that participants prefer to read texts with bolded keywords for better comprehension, focus and engagement with text. Based on students’ perceptions, bolding keywords can be amplified in pedagogical practices in language teaching classrooms to help maintain engagement with learning materials. However further research is needed to verify the effect of bolded keywords on reading speed and comprehension. Furthermore more research is recommended to explore this feature amongst other groups including foreign learners, Arabic native speakers and people with reading difficulties.


School of Humanities and Social Sciences


Applied Linguistics Department

Degree Name

MA in Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language

Graduation Date

Summer 6-15-2023

Submission Date


First Advisor

Raghda El-Essawi

Committee Member 1

Shahira Yacout

Committee Member 2

Iman Soliman


78 p.

Document Type

Master's Thesis

Institutional Review Board (IRB) Approval

Approval has been obtained for this item