The present study attempted to validate the linguistic threshold hypothesis (LTH) and the interactive-compensatory model (ICM) in an English as a foreign language (EFL) setting by assessing the relative contributions of English proficiency and reading strategy use to English reading and examining the mutual compensation between these two factors in English reading, respectively. To this end, 166 (55 males, 111 females) EFL freshmen enrolled in General English I at a university in southern Taiwan satisfactorily completed three measurements to respectively assess their English proficiency (vocabulary and grammar knowledge), English reading comprehension, and reading strategy use (bottom-up and top-down strategies). The findings support the LTH by showing that English proficiency was a stronger predictor of English reading comprehension than reading strategy use and that the high proficient learners employed more reading strategies and used them more effectively in English reading than the low proficient learners. Furthermore, the findings verify the ICM by specifying the actual levels at which intermediate English proficiency compensated for low reading strategy use, and high reading strategy use compensated for low English proficiency for successful English reading. The present study concludes with the suggestion that linguistic knowledge should be taught to EFL learners simultaneously along with reading strategy use for the best performance in English reading comprehension.
Key Words: English proficiency, reading strategy use, English reading comprehension