Vocabulary acquisition from extensive reading: A case study

Date
2006-04
Authors
Pigada, Maria
Schmitt, Norbert
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Publisher
University of Hawaii National Foreign Language Resource Center
Center for Language & Technology
Abstract
A number of studies have shown that second language learners acquire vocabulary through reading, but only relatively small amounts. However, most of these studies used only short texts, measured only the acquisition of meaning, and did not credit partial learning of words. This case study of a learner of French explores whether an extensive reading program can enhance lexical knowledge. The study assessed a relatively large number of words (133), and examined whether one month of extensive reading enhanced knowledge of these target words' spelling, meaning, and grammatical characteristics. The measurement procedure was a one-on-one interview that allowed a very good indication of whether learning occurred. The study also explores how vocabulary acquisition varies according to how often words are encountered in the texts. The results showed that knowledge of 65% of the target words was enhanced in some way, for a pickup rate of about 1 of every 1.5 words tested. Spelling was strongly enhanced, even from a small number of exposures. Meaning and grammatical knowledge were also enhanced, but not to the same extent. Overall, the study indicates that more vocabulary acquisition is possible from extensive reading than previous studies have suggested.
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Keywords
vocabulary acquisition, extensive reading, incidental learning, word frequency, testing, French as a foreign language
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