Dr Nel de Jong, Lecturer at the University of Amsterdam, is the guest speaker at the ACLC seminar on Friday 4 October 2019 from 16:15 until 17:30 (followed by drinks).
The role of vocabulary breadth and depth in second language speaking and writing
Vocabulary knowledge has been shown to correlate strongly with second language proficiency in general (e.g. Milton, 2013) and with each of the four language skills: reading, writing, speaking and listening (e.g. Miralpeix & Munoz, 2018). However, because most research has focused on vocabulary breadth, or the number of words known, little is known about how language skills are related to vocabulary depth, or how well learners know these words. It is likely that the number of associations learners know and the speed with which they can retrieve words will affect their speaking and writing skills. In this talk I will report on two studies that examined the relationship between vocabulary breadth, aspects of vocabulary depth and one of the productive language skills.
The first study examined how second language learners’ vocabulary breadth and depth are related to the fluency of their oral language performance in an open-ended speaking task. High-intermediate English language learners were assessed on their vocabulary knowledge (breadth and precision), processing (lexical retrieval), and articulation (preparation and duration). The learners’ oral fluency on a separate speaking task was measured in pause length, number of pauses, and syllable duration. Regression analyses showed that lexical precision predicted pause length, articulation preparation predicted number of pauses, and lexical retrieval time predicted syllable duration. Clearly, vocabulary knowledge, processing and articulation each predicted different manifestations of oral fluency.
The second study examined the relationship between vocabulary knowledge and English academic writing performance of first-year university students in the Netherlands. We assessed the number of words known and the number of associations recognized, and collected the students’ grammar and writing grades. Results showed that vocabulary scores differed between degree programs, that breadth scores correlated with association scores, and that writing grades were predicted by vocabulary breadth score, grammar grade and degree program. Taken together, these two studies show that not only vocabulary breadth but also aspects of depth play a role in language production skills.