Role of Learners’ Subjective Difficulty Rating Toward a System for Practicing English-Speaking


This preliminary study on how to develop a system for English-speaking practices explores the role a subjective difficulty rating should play in such a system, using a questionnaire and a level-based vocabulary list. By selecting 75 English verbs from the five difficulty levels in the list, 72 Japanese university students rated the difficulty of answering questions in English verbally on a five-point Likert scale. The results suggest that words of difficulty Levels 4 and 5 should be targeted in designing a speaking practice system for the participating students. Moreover, all the selected words in Level 3 offered some response variance in difficulty rating, with standard deviation (SD) scores of 1.0 or higher, suggesting that the choice in the selection of Level 3 words depends on the individual student. Considering the detailed results, all words with SD scores of difficulty ratings lower than 1.0 in Levels 4 and 5 were evaluated as difficult or relatively difficult by more than 80% of the students. This indicates that any speaking practice system should consider words from Levels 4 or 5 for which SD scores in difficulty ratings are lower than 1.0 as difficult words for these students. Although further studies are needed, these results indicate that the average subjective difficulty rating scores can likely provide an indication of the ideal difficulty level to target in an English-speaking practice system. Moreover, SD scores could help customize the target vocabulary for each student.

Author Information
Harumi Kashiwagi, Kobe University, Japan
Min Kang, Kobe University, Japan
Kazuhiro Ohtsuki, Kobe University, Japan

Paper Information
Conference: ACL2021
Stream: Language and Technology

This paper is part of the ACL2021 Conference Proceedings (View)
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