Many adolescent and adult L2 learners in language classrooms, both in the US and other countries, have little or no alphabetic print literacy. Language teachers may turn to SLA research for assistance, yet almost all research on oral SLA has focused on educated, highly-literate learners (Bigelow & Tarone 2004; Tarone, Bigelow & Hansen 2009). The assumption seems to have been that the findings of this research hold for ALL learners, including learners with little to no literacy. However, research in cognitive and experimental psychology shows that the acquisition of grapheme–phoneme correspondence – the ability to associate a phoneme and a visual symbol – changes the way oral language is processed. The present paper shows the relevance of these findings for SLA. It summarizes a three-part study on oral L2 processing, a partial replication of previous SLA research, carried out in a population of low-literate adolescent Somali learners of L2 English. The findings confirm that alphabetic print literacy level had a significant impact on oral L2 processing. The paper concludes with a call to replicate current SLA studies and findings with populations of learners who have little or no alphabetic literacy.