This study investigated first language (L1) orthographic influence on cognitive processing involved in second language (L2) reading. Using a fundamental unit of representation, three orthographic systems (i.e., alphabet, syllabary, and logography) can be categorized into two types: morphography and phonography. Previous L1 reading research has suggested that different strategies are used for phonological recoding by morphographic and phonographic readers. This study tested the possibility that these L1 recoding strategies are transferred and utilized in L2 reading. A cross-linguistic experiment involving adult L2 learners of English with contrasting L1 orthographic backgrounds (Arabic, Japanese, Spanish, and English—for native control) was conducted. The results indicate that reading among phonographic readers (Arabic, Spanish, and English) is seriously impaired when essential phonological information is inaccessible. Similar phonological inaccessibility, in contrast, apparently does not affect the reading performance of Japanese, or morphographic, readers. Further, the study demonstrated, first, that phonological inaccessibility exerts differential effects on the reading processes of phonographic and morphographic readers and, second, that L2 readers from different L1 orthographic backgrounds utilize their L1 strategies in reading English as an L2. Hence, the findings of the study verify cognitive strategy transfer during L2 reading.