This study used a think-aloud approach to compare reading strategy use in the first language (L1) and non-native language (L2) among 36 English as a foreign language (EFL) college students at different reading levels. The participants took an English proficiency test and participated in two individual sessions in which a reading test and a think-aloud task were administered separately in Chinese and English. Cross-language transfer theory and the linguistic threshold hypothesis were used to conceptualise the similarities and differences in L1 and L2 reading strategies. This study found more frequent and diverse strategy use in English than in Chinese. Similar patterns of meta-cognitive strategy use were evident in both languages. The applications of certain meta-cognitive and support strategies served as indicators that differentiated more-proficient from less-proficient readers. The present study extended previous questionnaire studies and suggested that English reading instruction should be informed by this line of research to provide instruction on effective reading strategy use for EFL learners.