Measuring vocabulary size in English as an additional language

Cameron, Lynne (2002). Measuring vocabulary size in English as an additional language. Language Teaching Research, 6(2) pp. 145–173.



The paper reports findings from a study in two stages to trial tests of vocabulary size in English as an additional language (EAL). The first, pilot, stage trialled the Levels test (Nation, 1990) and the Yes/No test (Meara, 1992) with secondary students aged 15 years, with an average of 11 years of education in the target language. The Levels test was found more useful, mainly because the inclusion of non-words in the Yes/No test produced unreliable results.
In the second stage, the Levels test was used with students aged 13 and 14 years, 63 students for whom English was an additional language, and 84 monolingual English speakers. The results of the tests show a different profile of scores for EAL than occur in typical EFL contexts. EAL students, who have had on average 10.5 years in English medium education, show gaps in their knowledge of the most frequent words and more serious problems with less frequent words, with important implications for educational achievement. Comparison of mean scores of EAL students and their native speaker peers using t-tests reveal significant differences at 3K and 5K levels.
The study shows that the Levels test offers a useful research and pedagogic tool in additional language learning contexts, yielding an overall picture of receptive vocabulary learning across groups. The test also produces information about individual language development that may help teaching. Implications include the need for further research into the effects of learning environments on language development, andvthe need for skilled intervention in additional language development to continue throughout secondary schooling.

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