Measuring second language vocabulary acquisition

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Williams Eds. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Milton, J. L2 vocabulary acquisition, knowledge and use. The interface between theory and learning in vocabulary acquisition. Miralpeix, I. Knowledge of the written word. Fitzpatrick Eds. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan. Molnar, T. Second language versus third language vocabulary acquisition: A comparison of the English lexical competence of monolingual and bilingual students.

Cognate recognition and L3 vocabulary acquisition.

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Nagy, W. Journal of Reading Behavior, 25, — Nation, P. Learning vocabulary in another language. How large a vocabulary is needed for reading and listening?


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Canadian Modern Language Review, 63, 59— Scoring Yes—No vocabulary tests: Reaction time vs. Language Testing, 29 4 , — R Core Team R: A language and environment for statistical computing. Reynolds, B. Towards a model of advanced learners' vocabulary acquisition: An investigation of L2 vocabulary acquisition and retention by Taiwanese English majors.


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  • Applied Linguistics Review, 6 1 , Schmitt, N. Developing and exploring the behaviour of two new versions of the Vocabulary Levels Test. Language Testing 18, Stewart, J. Do multiple-choice options inflate estimates of vocabulary size on the VST? Language Assessment Quarterly, 11 3 , — Szabo, Cz.

    Multilingual vocabulary knowledge and cognate recognition in the L2 and L3. Szubko-Sitarek, W. Multilingual lexical recognition in the mental lexicon of third language users. Berlin: Springer. Tanabe, M. Measuring second language vocabulary knowledge using a temporal method. Reading in a Foreign Language, 28 1 , 1. Treffers-Daller, J.

    Vocabulary size revisited: The link between vocabulary size and academic achievement. Applied Linguistics Review, 4 1 , — Operationalizing and measuring language dominance. International Journal of Bilingualism, 15 2 , — Introduction: Special issue on knowledge and use of the lexicon in French as a second language.

    Journal of French Language Studies, 18 3. Wesche, M. Assessing second language vocabulary knowledge: Depth versus breadth.

    MAVA™ - Montgomery Assessment of Vocabulary Acquisition™

    Canadian Modern Language Review, 53 1 , 13— Willis, M. A model of L2 vocabulary learning and retention. The Language Learning Journal 40 1. To make sure that you can receive messages from us, please add the 'ejal. If you do not receive e-mail in your 'inbox', check your 'bulk mail' or 'junk mail' folders. Eurasian Journal of Applied Linguistics. User Username Password Remember me.

    Notifications View Subscribe. Font Size. Keywords Action research Aspect Hypothesis Discourse Evaluation Task DET EFL ELF English as a Lingua Franca English as a lingua franca L2 motivation anxiety applied linguistics challenges data-driven learning ideal L2 self intercultural communicative competence migration motivation reflection second language acquisition tense-aspect acquisition vocabulary learning writing.

    Abstract Recent empirical findings in the field of Multilingualism have shown that the mental lexicon of a language learner does not consist of separate entities, but rather of an intertwined system where languages can interact with each other e. Full Text: PDF. References Ard, J. Newbury: Express. A vocabulary size test. The Language Teacher, 31 7 , 9— Testing and teaching vocabulary. This produces what it called a frequency profile where the quantity of word knowledge is plotted in frequency bands as in Figure and known words are concentrated in the most frequent bands.

    The relationship between frequency of occurrence and acquisition does not seem to have been explicitly investigated in studies of young first language L1 learners. Biemiller and Slonim investigated the possibility that word frequency may explain variation in this common sequence, but no connection was observed. Issues of Methodology in Testing Vocabulary Size The influence of frequency on learning is an important issue since it can, and often does in measurements of L2 learning provide a rationale for the construction of vocabulary size tests, which justify their selection of vocabulary for testing in terms of a principled sample across frequency bands.

    They suggest that the overwhelming majority of vocabulary known by English speakers falls within the first 25, words and that testing beyond this level of frequency may not usefully improve the estimate of size, which emerges from the test. There are some obvious reasons for wanting to base a test of size on frequency information.

    One reason is that it avoids many of the potential difficulties associated with dictionary counts. A second reason is that large dictionaries, which can contain quantities of historic and highly specialist words, which may not be suitable for a vocabulary size test, intended for young learners. A third reason is that dictionaries are not lemmatised although it is considered that since word knowledge is based on root or base words then a count of lemmatised base words or word families is most appropriate Vermeer, Frequency lists, especially in English, are available in lemmatised form e.

    There are also reasons, however, for questioning whether most generally used frequency lists are suitable for testing young learners. Frequency lists tend to be heavily based on written language sources which is likely to be qualitatively as well as quantitatively different from the oral language from which young learners will gain their language Milton, Consequently, it can be assumed that learners can become fluent in oral language with a smaller vocabulary size than is required for fluency in many written forms of the language.

    Child language too contains many items that are simply not relevant beyond the realm of childhood and therefore feature much less in written language and occur low down in frequency lists. Most English speaking children learn the names for the young of animals, for example a tadpole is a young frog, but until they have children of their own native speakers may have no reason for using or encountering the word tadpole thereafter. Nonetheless, it would seem preferable to base a test on a principled sample of vocabulary linked to a demonstrable model of acquisition, as with frequency, rather than an adventitiously arrived collection of words.

    Within these broad aims are a number of more specific objectives: 1. To test the effect of frequency in the uptake of young monolingual, bilingual and immersion learners of EFL and provide, therefore, a justification of frequency-based testing in this population. To track vocabulary growth in an unaided young learner in the first academic year of immersion using a frequency-based test.

    To compare the vocabulary knowledge of an EFL learner after a single year of school immersion with monolingual and bilingual counterparts in the same class. The Participants The principal subject of this investigation was a 7-year-old boy Participant A who moved to Britain from Iran at the end of September He started school classes in Year 4 in October He was a first language speaker of Persian who spoke no other language before moving to the UK and at the time of entering school had mastered only greetings formulae in English.

    His EFL knowledge was therefore assumed to be at or around zero at the start of school. The school provided 15 minutes per week of one-to-one teacher support to help him with his English development. This participant was from Canada and he spoke French at home and began his immersion in English school in September This participant spoke Persian at home but all other activities outside the home from playgroups to nursery school to formal state school were carried out through the medium of English.

    The test also includes 20 false words which are designed to look and sound like words in the target language which allow the scores which emerge to be adjusted for guessing and overestimation of knowledge. The tests give an overall score of words known out of the most frequent 5, words. The test is simple in format and comparatively large numbers of items can be tested in a short space of time. Results on these tests are usually very reliable David, An illustration of the format of this type of test is given in Figure Please look at these words.

    Some of these words are real English words and some are invented but are made to look like real words. Please tick the words that you know or can use. Here is an example. Procedure Participant A was tested each month between February and July. After four months in class, however, it was felt he was becoming sufficiently confident and communicative for the results of the test to become meaningful without being intimidating.

    His mother, who was also the assessor, tested him monthly at home. Firstly, the assessor read each word and asked the subject to give the meaning of that word. The assessor accepted answers such as synonyms, explanations in English or Persian and illustrations of correct use as correct answers.

    The participant was told that the number of correct answers was not important and it was just research to measure the words he did know. The participant was not tested on the false words in the X-Lex test since this was considered unnecessary. Participants B, C and D were tested using the same tests and procedure in July. Results Vocabulary Knowledge and Frequency The means scores from the four participants tested in July, on each of the five frequency bands in the X-Lex test are given in Table Table X-Lex vocabulary scores divided by frequency band among the 4 participants.

    Table X-Lex scores from the three test versions taken by Participant A. X-Lex February March April May June July Version 1 Version 2 Version 3 Mean It will be seen that the 3 different tests give consistently similar estimates suggesting the tests are working well and reliably. The scores also reveal a pattern of growth in vocabulary size over the testing period, however, growth is not straight-line and as learning progresses the scale of monthly growth diminishes and appears to be plateauing at around lemmatised words.

    This is clearly visible in Figure where the mean scores are charted as a histogram. Table X-Lex scores in immersion learners, a bilingual and a monolingual child. Participant A B C D EFL learner Monolingual EFL learner Bilingual first year English second year X-Lex Version 1 Version 2 Version 3 Mean Again, it will be seen that the 3 different tests give consistently similar estimates suggesting the tests are working well and are providing believable estimates of vocabulary size, at least within the 5, word- range covered by the test.

    There is a strong frequency effect therefore, a tendency to learn the most frequent words before the less frequent. This is a trend, of course, and less frequent words are learned alongside the highly frequent words for the frequency lists. Three versions of the X-Lex frequency-based tests were used and with all four participants and the tests produced consistently similar scores, which suggests that this test, within its own parameters, is working consistently and reliably.

    The presence of the frequency profile and the reliability of the tests replicates the results among adolescents and adults reported in David and Milton A general conclusion from these observations is that they support the argument for the validity of frequency-based tests as a generally applicable measure of vocabulary knowledge in children.

    It would appear from Participant A, the immersion learner of English, that even a 5,word test can capture most of his English word knowledge in his first year of learning. A 5,word test appears less suitable for the monolingual and other participants. English Vocabulary Growth in an Unaided Young Learner The results shown in Table and Figure suggest that Participant A learned some 2, lemmatised words during the course of the academic year, that is in nine or ten months.

    This figure appears comparable to the estimates of about 3, words per year attributed to children learning their native language that abound in the literature e. By any standard this appears to be good progress and suggests considerable learning, more than is usually possible in the foreign language classroom where figures of about words appear Cameron, For comparison with the learners in the Anglin and the Biemiller and Slonim studies, Participant A demonstrates an uptake rate of about 8 words per day in the initial stages of learning, much faster than observed in these studies.

    The angle of the profile suggests, however, that this knowledge may be slight. The learning that occurs is not uniform and tails off as it reaches the 2,word mark so uptake at the end of this period is not as fast as it was at the beginning. The words or so learned each month between February and April is reduced to 50 words between June and July Table and Figure There may be two reasons for this to occur. The urgent pressure to learn more, simply to understand what is going on around him, will not be so great once this level of knowledge is attained. The second reason why the speed of vocabulary acquisition may tail off is that the learners in this study are only 8 and 9 years old and will not, presumably, access the volumes of language material in writing necessary to encounter greater numbers of infrequent words.

    The opportunity to encounter words beyond the 3, word range is more restricted in speech than in writing e. The significance of this plateau effect in vocabulary learning, where the speed of learning is tailing off, is unclear without understanding the vocabulary knowledge of other learners and of the monolingual native speakers this learner will study alongside in school.

    This suggests that although progress was good and Participant A must have been functioning, at least in speech, he was some way short of native speaker levels. Our immersion learner, Participant A, also had a smaller vocabulary in English than the more extended learner and the bilingual speaker in this study. Participant C, who had been in English immersion at school one year longer than Participant A, had an estimated vocabulary size of 2,, that is words more than A.

    It seems quite believable that even with the slowing rate of lexical growth shown by A, this kind of progress might materialise with a further year in a British school. The observations made, for example, by Paradis and Hakuta et al.


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    This is in keeping with other research suggesting that bilinguals may develop their two lexicons slightly more slowly than monolinguals, and may also reflect the absence of a need for all vocabulary to exist in both languages. However, the difference is not uniform across the frequency ranges. Monolingual and bilingual knowledge of vocabulary appears identical in the first 3, to 4,word frequency ranges and the bulk of the difference is located in the less frequent 5,word range.

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    It may be tentatively suggested therefore, that these bilingual and second language EFL learners have the lexical resources to perform comparably with monolingual natives in oral performance. However, the comparative deficiency in the vocabulary levels at and beyond the 5, words level has the potential to impact on writing and academic performance where these words become more frequent and more important to successful communication.

    It is not clear, from this study or the existing literature, at what point this difference in knowledge becomes large enough to impact on academic performance. Conclusion The results of this study suggest that all learners, monolingual, bilingual and second language, acquire vocabulary in a sequence that is strongly related to frequency of word occurrence.

    Tests of this kind are, arguably, applicable to all learners of English and are not subject to the difficulties imposed by methodologies based on the lexis of a particular educational system. The test used in this study appears to have characterised the scale of vocabulary acquisition in an immersion learner well and results confirm the impression that immersion learners can make very fast progress at the outset of learning with very little formal support. To acquire some 2, lemmatised words in a year is really impressive progress.

    Obviously, this conclusion is based on a handful of case studies and this is an area that requires replication and more detailed study. With the growing number of learners in British schools in the position of acquiring the language of the medium of instruction while actually undergoing that instruction, informing teachers, parents and learners alike as to their knowledge and progress is important. Being able to quickly and objectively quantify the scale of such knowledge must provide a useful tool to teachers who work with these children.

    For monolingual and bilingual learners it would appear that a 5, word test will significantly under characterise the volume of word knowledge that these learners have once they progress beyond the reception levels aged about 4 or 5.

    Measuring Second Language Vocabulary Acquisition

    Even with such measures, however, the scale of learning appears, compared to some estimates, relatively modest at the 2 to 3 words per day that Anglin and Biemiller and Slonim found among US learners. This figure is significant since it suggests that the differences between native and non-native users of English, while important in their impact on performance, are not so large that formal intervention to redress the imbalance cannot be considered. Research to investigate this possibility would appear a priority given the number of learners who potentially have need of it.

    References Adolphs, S. Lexical coverage of spoken discourse. Applied Linguistics, 24 4 , Aitchison, J. Words in the mind: An introduction to the mental lexicon 3rd ed. Oxford and New York: Basil Blackwell. Anglin, J. Vocabulary development: A morphological analysis. Beck, I. Social studies texts are hard to understand: Mediating some of the difficulties. Language Arts, 68 6 , Biemiller, A. Vocabulary: Needed if more children are to read well. Reading Psychology, 24 , Estimating root word vocabulary in normative and advantaged populations: Evidence for a common sequence of vocabulary acquisition.

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    Journal of Educational Psychology, 93 3 , Bialystok, E. Receptive vocabulary differences in monolingual and bilingual children. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 13 4 , — Cameron, L. Teaching Language to Young Learners. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Cobb, T. Is there room for an academic word list in French? Laufer Eds. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. Cunningham, A. Early reading acquisition and its relation to reading experience and ability 10 years later.

    Developmental Psychology, 33 6 , D'Anna, C. Toward a meaningful definition of vocabulary size. Journal of Reading Behavior, 23 1 , David, A. Vocabulary breadth in French L2 learners. Language Learning Journal, 36 2 , Duke, N. The development of comprehension. In: M. Kamil, P. Pearson, P. Moje Eds. New York: Routledge. Dunn, L. Peabody picture vocabulary test 3rd ed.

    Circle Pines: American Guidance Services. Edwards, R. Modelling L2 vocabulary acquisition. In: S. Daller Eds. Geay, C.

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    Non-native speakers of English in the classroom: What are the effects on pupil performance? London: Centre for the Economics of Education. Gleason, J. The development of language. Boston: Pearson. Goulden, R. How large can a receptive vocabulary be? Applied Linguistics, 11 4 , Graves, M. The vocabulary book. New York: Teachers College Press.



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