Implementing Incidental or Intentional Vocabulary Learning Strategies: Estimating the Receptive Vocabulary Size of University Level English Language Learners in Malaysia


The notion that we can acquire most of our vocabulary – a core component upon which language proficiency is reliant – through extensive reading (ER) is now entrenched within second/foreign language teaching. The reported benefits of ER are encouraging, specifically in the areas of reading comprehension, grammatical competence, and vocabulary knowledge development. ER on its own mainly draws upon incidental learning, but the claim that ER alone is adequate for vocabulary learning has been challenged. Admittedly, although some lexical gains are certainly acquired incidentally via extensive reading, there are researchers who believe it to be insufficient and even suggest the method to be unsuitable for those with a vocabulary size of below 3,000 word families. According to Davidson, Atkinson and Spring (2011) for instance, it seems fairly conclusive that 3,000 word families are the minimum that a learner needs in order to be able to read effectively in a language other than their mother tongue, and that the first 2,000-3,000 most frequent words may be best dealt with through explicit teaching (Nation and Meara, 2010). The present study focuses on estimating the vocabulary size of English language learners at Universiti Sains Malaysia, and hopes to provide better direction for educators with regards to the implementation of incidental (ER) or intentional vocabulary learning strategies in their respective classrooms/literacy courses.

Author Information
Debbita Tan Ai Lin, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Malaysia

Paper Information
Conference: ECLL2014
Stream: Learning Strategies

This paper is part of the ECLL2014 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon