Vocabulary breadth in French L2 learners

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  • This article was downloaded by: [Harvard College]On: 19 August 2013, At: 06:27Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

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    Vocabulary breadth in French L2learnersAnnabelle David aa School of Modern Languages, Newcastle University, Newcastle,UKPublished online: 27 Oct 2008.

    To cite this article: Annabelle David (2008) Vocabulary breadth in French L2 learners, TheLanguage Learning Journal, 36:2, 167-180, DOI: 10.1080/09571730802389991

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  • Vocabulary breadth in French L2 learners

    Annabelle David*

    School of Modern Languages, Newcastle University, Newcastle, UK

    Vocabulary is one of the building blocks of language and is a necessary component oflearners development. This paper aims to describe the development of the L2 lexiconfrom the rst year of learning French as a foreign language at school to the last year ofundergraduate studies at university by setting out what learners know and how thisrelates to academic results. This study focuses on vocabulary breadth. The denition forvocabulary breadth we use in this study relates to vocabulary size (i.e. the number ofwords learners know). Data were collected as part of the French Language Learner OralCorpora (FLLOC) project using X_Lex a yes/no vocabulary test in which students areasked to tick the words they know out of 100 words and 20 non-words. Analysesrevealed that learners lexicon size increased throughout the study period. Learning islinked to word frequency for all learners at all stages. However, no signicantcorrelation was found between A-level exam grades (taken at the end of the nal year ofschooling, prior to university entry, at approximately age 18) and receptive vocabularyscores. The reasons for this are explored. The analysis also included comparisons withother recently collected data sets of the same nature (in other parts of the UK)suggesting possible regional dierences. The paper contributes to the rapidly expandingbody of literature on vocabulary acquisition.

    Introduction

    The aim of this paper is to describe receptive vocabulary breadth using a self-report yes/notest with learners between their second and their eleventh year of learning French,amongst some L1 French speakers, in the North of England. In the rst section a brieftheoretical background is outlined. The details and results of the current study are thenlaid out: receptive lexicon size is analysed in relation to word frequency and general examresults. Some comparisons are drawn with other similar studies in other parts of the UK.Finally, a discussion of the results is provided.

    Background

    Vocabulary is one of the building blocks of language, one of the basics of communicationand a necessary component in learners development. Second-language learners, however,often see it as the greatest source of problems. As Krashen observes: When studentstravel, they dont carry grammar books, they carry dictionaries (cited in Lewis (1993, iii)).

    *Email: annabelle.david@ncl.ac.uk

    Language Learning Journal

    Vol. 36, No. 2, December 2008, 167180

    ISSN 0957-1736 print/ISSN 1753-2167 online

    2008 Association for Language LearningDOI: 10.1080/09571730802389991

    http://www.informaworld.com

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  • Therefore, it is vital for researchers to understand its acquisition. Fortunately, this area ofinvestigation has developed since Meara (1980) described vocabulary acquisition researchas a forgotten area of second-language acquisition research.

    Vocabulary breadth

    Vocabulary breadth relates to the number of words learners know or the size of onesvocabulary. This is the aspect of vocabulary acquisition on which L2 researchers havetypically focused. Researchers have focused, for example, on establishing how manywords learners know or have to know at certain milestones of the learning process (e.g.,Nation 2001). Vocabulary breadth or size has the advantage of being easier to measurethan other aspects of vocabulary knowledge such as vocabulary depth (i.e. how wellwords are known). Establishing vocabulary size can focus on two dierent aspects ofthe lexicon: productive and receptive. Productive vocabulary is more dicult to assess(Fitzpatrick 2007) as it is more complicated to elicit in its entirety (if not impossible).Receptive vocabulary, on the other hand, is larger but easier to measure and analyse.Researchers have produced a number of tests assessing receptive vocabulary breadth(e.g., Vocabulary Levels Test (Nation 1983) and the Lexical Frequency Prole (Lauferand Nation 1995)) which are easy and quick to administer and mark, produce anumerical score and are extremely attractive to teachers. The present study willmake use of one form of receptive vocabulary test in order to assess learners lexicalbreadth.

    Milestones in L2 (French) vocabulary acquisition

    Estimating receptive vocabulary breadth has yielded many dierent results. Goulden,Nation and Read (1990) have determined that the vocabulary size of an average nativeEnglish-speaking university student is about 17,000 word families (a word family being aword together with its derived forms, e.g., happy, unhappy, happiness), or as many as40,000 dierent word types. As far as L2 learners are concerned, Milton and Meara (1998)suggested that Greek and German learners of English know about 1680 and 1200 wordsrespectively at about 14 years old, after roughly 660 and 400 hours of instructionrespectively, and that these scores are higher than British learners of French and Germanat the same age (Milton and Meara 1998). As far as the acquisition of French as a secondlanguage is concerned, Miltons (2006) study is one of the very few to date that havefocused on providing a detailed picture of the receptive lexicon size. He studied instructedlearners of French in secondary schools in Wales. He concludes that an A-level studentaged 18 (at the end of his/her secondary education after electing to specialise in French)knows, on average, 2000 words after learning French for 7 years. He found that GCSElearners (aged around 16 years) have a receptive knowledge of about 850 words. He alsonoticed a slower period of lexical growth between the second and fourth year of teaching(with less than two new words learnt per classroom hour on average). There are (to myknowledge) no published estimates for university-level learners of French. Estimates suchas Miltons (2006) are essential to our understanding of lexical development of L2 learners,as they are the basis for further work looking to inform teaching practices throughresearching incidental or explicit learning, for example (Laufer 2006). This study willcomplement existing data and document learners lexicon size not only in secondary-school learners but also in university undergraduates. Comparisons with native speakerswill also be drawn.

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  • Inuences on lexical acquisition

    Among the factors inuencing lexical acquisition (in L1 as well as L2), frequency is oftencited as a major one (Laufer and Nation 1995). This is based on the idea that the morefrequent a word is in a language the more easily and the earliest it is likely to be learnt.This idea has been widely accepted and is held as a common assumption (Mackey 1965).In terms of receptive vocabulary, word frequency is included in many tests designed tomeasure vocabulary knowledge (e.g., X_Lex (Meara and Milton 2003)). There is reliableempirical evidence that conrms that learners tend to learn the high-frequency words rstand then shift focus onto the lower-frequency items (Milton 2007). However, coursebooks used in classrooms are organised thematically and not necessarily according tofrequency, thus providing a potential discrepancy or decit (Milton 2007, 51) in learnerslexical proles. For example, a learner could know a large number of words which are notthe most frequent in the target language because the course material is based on themesthat are relevant to language learners (but not to native speakers). This might beespecially true at beginner levels where limited vocabulary knowledge is available.This study will look at word frequency in early learners as well as more advancedlearners.

    Previous research has shown that vocabulary size is a good indicator of generallanguage ability. Meara and Jones (1990a, 1990b) claim that there are good correla-tions between vocabulary size and writing skills, reading comprehension andgrammatical knowledge. Expectations of achievement are frequently expressed interms of vocabulary and some syllabuses provide word lists. For example, corevocabularies in French GCSE syllabuses are about 1000 words (e.g., Edexcel 2003,5973). One of the bases of the Common European Framework (CEFR) is wordlists(Van Ek and Trim 1990). The French B1-level wordlist for French, equivalent toGCSE in Britain, contains around 2000 words. This would suggest that a learner atthat stage is expected to have a lexicon of that size and there is an obviousdiscrepancy between expectations for vocabulary size at B1-level in Britain and thatof the CEFR. In addition, Milton (2006) found that learners vocabulary scorescorrelate with GCSE and A-level grades. This is not surprising as it has been shownthat vocabulary development is related to some aspects of syntactic development inL1 acquisition (Bates and Goodman 1997). However, this general area requires moreattention. For example, David, Rogers and Myles (2007) found only very weakcorrelations between specic measures of morphosyntactic complexity (e.g. verb-raising) and lexical knowledge.

    Objectives

    The main objectives of the current study are to describe learners vocabulary sizes andanalyse inuences on vocabulary (i.e. word frequency) and possible links with generalprociency by answering the following questions:

    . Are the vocabulary sizes of early school learners of French as small as previousresearch suggests?

    . Is there a plateau in their vocabulary acquisition after the rst year oflearning?

    . How do university learners develop?

    . How does frequency inuence vocabulary proles?

    . Is there a link between GCSE or A-level grades and vocabulary size?

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  • Methods

    The data collected for this study are part of a larger project investigating the developmentof L2 French. The corpus (French Learner Language Oral Corpora (FLLOC)) holds datafrom British students learning French from their rst year of secondary school up to nal-year university undergraduates. Most of the data in the corpus are based on oral exercises.However, the focus of this paper will be receptive vocabulary and not based on those oralexercises. We describe in the following sections the participants and the test used for thissection of the data collection.

    Participants

    Four hundred and eighty-three students took part in this study. They were aged roughlybetween 12 and 23 years old. The youngest learners (in year 8) will be in their second year ofstudying French at secondary school and the oldest ones will be in their tenth year of learningFrench (nal-year undergraduates) at university. Those students in their nal year ofuniversity will have previously spent between 6 months to 1 year in a French-speakingcountry as part of their degree. The study also includes data from 15 native speakers ofFrench. Table 1 summarises the number of participants as well as their learning stage and age.

    The number of hours of French teaching per year varies greatly. It ranges from around5060 hours per school year in years 8 and 11 to about 200 hours in years 12 and 13.University-level students received on average 5070 contact hours per year of Frenchlanguage classes. However, a large proportion of other teaching (literature, etc) is alsodone in the target language.

    The vocabulary test

    The students were given a vocabulary test as part of a larger study. This test was a shortpaper adaptation of the French X_Lex. X_Lex is a yes/no test developed by Meara andMilton (2003) which presents the learner with 120 words. Learners had to indicate whichwords they knew. The words were 20 randomly selected words from each of the rst ve1000-word frequency bands of the French language. The frequency list used as the basisfor the test was Baudots (1992), which is a list compiled from a variety of literary, mediaand other sources. In addition, a further 20 non-words that were phonologically andmorphologically constructed to look like real words were added to the test in order for thescores to be adjusted for guessing and overestimation. Students were given the followinginstructions: Please look at these words. Some of these words are real French words andsome are invented but are made to look like real French words. Please tick the words that

    Table 1. Number of learners, their age and years of exposure.

    Number of learners Average age Years of learning French

    Y8 (year 8) 28 1213 2Y11 26 1516 4Y12 40 1617 5Y13 33 1718 6UG1 (undergraduate year 1) 135 1819 7UG2 95 1920 8UG4 111 2122 10NS (native speakers) 15 2024 from birth

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  • you know or can use. The test score was out of 5000. Learners scored 50 points for tickinga real word and lost 250 points for ticking a non-word. X_Lex provides a lexical score foreach learner as well as a lexical prole (i.e. the number of words known in each frequencyband). Students had no time limit imposed, but most took about 10 minutes to completethe test. Three versions of the same test (with dierent words included) were available andthese were randomly selected to avoid copying. There was no signicant dierence in theresults obtained from the three versions (analysis of variance (ANOVA) results: F (2,480) .332, p .717).

    Results

    The results of the X_Lex tests will be described and analysed in the following sections.Students who ticked more than ve non-words were removed from the data since this wasthought to indicate unacceptably high levels of over-estimation. Most learners appeared tobe remarkably honest, however, and recognised that they did not know false words. Butsome were clearly trying to maximise their scores rather than reect their knowledge andwere clearly guessing or nding the exercise extremely dicult. This procedure allowed usto remove from the analyses any results which appeared unreliable (for whatever reason).One student, for example had ticked 16 (out of 20) non-words. In those cases, it is verydicult to judge knowledge accurately. In addition, most of those students ended up witha negative score, as points are deducted for ticking non-words.

    This means that 417 students of the 483 who took part were included in the followinganalyses. Table 2 shows the number of students who were excluded for each year group.

    Vocabulary size development

    Average vocabulary score per school year was calculated (as well as minimum, maximumand standard deviations). The results are illustrated in Table 3, which shows a clearpattern of continuous development.

    Table 3 highlights a clear progression from year 8 until nal-year universityundergraduates. Students mean receptive vocabulary increased regularly throughout thestudy period. Further analyses (as measured by an ANOVA) showed that the dierence inmean scores between the year groups was signicant (F (7, 409) 198, p .00). However,t-tests run on individual groups revealed that the dierence between year-8 and year-11groups was not signicant (p .362). This is surprising as there was a 3-year dierence

    Table 2. Learners excluded from the study (more than ve non-words ticked).

    Original numberof participants

    Number oflearners excluded

    Percentage oflearners excluded

    Adjusted numberof participants

    Y8 (year 8) 28 5 17 23Y11 26 4 15 22Y12 40 3 7 37Y13 33 1 3 32UG1 (undergraduateyear 1)

    135 15 11 120

    UG2 95 13 13 82UG4 111 25 22 86NS (native speakers) 15 0 0 15

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  • between the two groups and exposure to the language was signicantly increased in thistime. However, it is possible that the samples for those two years were too small to be ableto detect a dierence. In addition, three students in year 8 and one in year 11 had anegative score (even though they did not tick more than ve non-words). This need notmean that they did not know any French words. It means that they ticked so few realwords that the non-words outweighed them. Those learners with a negative score musttherefore have found this exercise extremely dicult and maybe a dierent test would tapinto their knowledge more appropriately (an oral test for example). It is also possible thatMiltons (2006) claim for a slow-down or plateau in lexical development between thesecond and fourth year of instruction is visible here too. Figure 1 shows the maximum andminimum vocabulary scores for students in the dierent year groups.

    Variance was equal for all year groups (apart from native speakers). Interestingly, thisgure illustrates that there is a great deal of overlap between year groups. For example, thelearners who score highly in their rst year at university (maximum 4100) were just asgood as the more advanced learners in their fourth year (maximum 4350). Anotherinteresting observation from Figure 1 is the apparent large dierence between year 11 and12. Year-11 learners had a mean of 564, while year-12 learners had a mean of 1577. Themean score for year 11 increased to 600 if the student with the negative score was removedfrom the equation. So, the dierence was still important and signicant. There are severalreasons for this. Year 12 is a crucial stage in the British education system. It is thebeginning of non-compulsory education and students specialise in a small number ofsubjects. Therefore, learners in year 12 are a subset of year 11. Learners who choose tocontinue to learn French (or any other language) beyond year 11 are usually the moreadvanced ones already.

    Lexical proles

    Richards, Malvern and Graham (2008) present lexical proles for their year-12 learnersbased on word frequencies. Here, we complement their data with lexical proles for all ofour year groups. Figure 2 represents the average number of words ticked by students ineach year group. Words were divided into ve categories according to their frequency inthe French language (based on Baudots frequency list). Band 1 (1K) represents the 1000most frequent words in the French language, band 2 (2K) from the thousandth to the two-thousandth most frequent word, etc. There were 20 words in each frequency band.

    As Figure 2 illustrates, vocabulary knowledge was related to word frequency. Averagescores across frequency bands showed a gradual decline from year 12 onwards (from 1K to

    Table 3. Maximum, mean, minimum and standard deviation for X_Lex adjusted scores per yeargroup (adjusted scores mean that points were deducted for ticking non-words).

    Maximum Mean Minimum SD

    Y8 (year 8) 1800 439 7200 532Y11 1650 564 7200 352Y12 2500 1577 350 466Y13 3300 2108 1200 506UG1 (undergraduate year 1) 4100 2524 750 589UG2 4250 2854 1250 523UG4 4350 3359 2200 488NS (native speakers) 5000 4797 4500 178

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  • 5K): the less frequent a word is the later it is acquired. In addition, average scores for eachfrequency band increased consistently from year-12 learners to native speakers. Onceagain, the year-8 and (to a lesser extent) year-11 groups did not follow the overalldevelopmental trend of the other years. Reasons for this will be explored in the discussion.

    Receptive vocabulary and exam grades

    The relationship between receptive vocabulary scores and the two main exams of theBritish educational system is examined in this section. First, we focus on GCSE exams(after 5 years of learning French). This exam takes place at the end of year 11 whenstudents are aged 1516. In order to verify the existence of a link between the exam gradesand receptive vocabulary, we decided to focus on year-12 students (who had recentlypassed that exam). Table 4 summarises the number of learners who obtained each grade.

    Figure 3 illustrates the link between vocabulary scores and the grades the year-12students received for GCSE French.

    As shown in Figure 3, there appears to be a relationship between GCSE grade andvocabulary: the lower the grade at GCSE, the smaller the learners receptive vocabularywas. However, this link was not statistically signicant (Pearson correlation: r 7.291,p .080) and an ANOVA revealed no signicant dierence between vocabulary sizes as afactor of exam results (F (2, 34) 1.605, p .216). It is possible that the small number(37) of year-12 students was to blame for the lack of statistical signicance. The low

    Figure 1. Maximum, minimum and mean adjusted scores per year group (adjusted scores meanthat points were deducted for ticking non-words).

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  • number of B grades may also have been the cause of the lack of signicant relationshiphere.

    The second exam in question is A-level, taken after 7 years of learning French. For thisanalysis we took into account learners in their rst year of undergraduate study at universitywho had recently taken their A-level exams. Table 5 summarises learners and their grades.

    No correlation was found between A-level grade and receptive vocabulary score inrst-year undergraduates (Pearson correlation r .100, p .296). There was nosignicant dierence in average vocabulary scores as a function of grades obtained inA-level French as measured by ANOVA (F (4, 106) .742, p .566).

    Figure 4 reveals that there was large variability within the dierent groups, especiallythose who obtained A grades. This is surprising if we take into account previous resultsfound by Milton (2006), who demonstrated a signicant relationship between vocabulary

    Table 4. GCSE results for year-12 learners.

    Number of learners Percentage of learners

    A* 22 59.5A 13 35.1B 2 5.4

    Total 37 100

    Figure 2. Mean number of words known per frequency band per year group.

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  • and A-level grades. Even though the mean for grade A was slightly higher than those forgrades B or C, the dierences were not signicant. It is possible that, as Richards, Malvernand Graham (2008) point out, the change of emphasis from high-frequency words inearlier years to low-frequency words in later years might explain the lack of correlation, inparticular for A-level grades; grades would correlate only with low-frequency items, ashigh-frequency items have reached a ceiling level. However, neither of the correlationsbetween Bands 4 or 5 (low-frequency words: 4K and 5K words) and A-level grades weresignicant. Possible reasons for the lack of correlation between exam grades andvocabulary scores are proposed later in the discussion.

    Comparisons with other existing data

    In order to validate the results of this study and to gain an overall picture of an L2learners receptive vocabulary, we compare the results obtained in this study with those

    Table 5. A-level results for rst-year undergraduates.

    Number of learners Percentage of learners

    A* 1 0.8A 74 61.7B 29 24.2C 6 5.0D 1 0.8Missing 9 7.5

    Total 120 100

    Figure 3. GCSE grades and mean X_Lex scores for year-12 students.

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  • from other studies. Two other studies are compared with the current one: Milton (2006)and Graham, Richards and Malvern (2008). Both studies contain data from year-12students, so this is the group we will use to compare results. Figure 5 shows the maximum,mean and minimum X_Lex scores for all three studies for year-12 learners.

    Graham, Richards and Malverns data were collected on two dierent occasions: at thebeginning and at the end of the school year. So the results reported here are based onaverages of the two. Around 150 students were tested in mixed-sex comprehensive schoolsin the south of England (Graham, Richards and Malvern 2008). Miltons data werecollected at the end of the academic year from 10 students from one good school in Wales(Milton 2006, 191). Our data were collected in the middle of the school year (about 45months into it) from 37 students in comprehensive schools in the north of England.Miltons data are very similar to ours with means of 1555 and 1577 respectively. However,Graham, Richards and Malverns data are signicantly higher than those from both theother studies. The reason for the dierent results might be the dierent tests used.Graham, Richards and Malvern (2008) used an earlier, computerised, long version of theX_Lex test. The fact that it is a longer version or that it is computerised should not haveany impact on the scores. It is the fact that it was an earlier version that may be the sourceof the dierence. Graham, Richards and Malverns version had dierent non-words. Inthe shorter version of the test used in the present study and Miltons (2006) study, non-words have been modied to make them look more like pseudo-cognates (i.e. they havebeen made to sound and look more like French words). Those non-words play a verystrong role in the validity of the results. Richards, Malvern and Graham (2008) report veryfew non-words (mean 0.9) ticked by their learners (this is based on the same study reportedin Graham, Richards and Malvern (2008)). Whereas our study (using the more plausiblenon-words) reports a mean of 2.6 (with one instance of 16 non-words being ticked out of

    Figure 4. Maximum, minimum and mean vocabulary scores for UG1 as a function of their A-levelgrade.

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  • 20). Consequently, it is possible that the scores in this study are reduced signicantly whenstudents over-estimated their knowledge. Alternatively, Graham, Richards and Malverns(2008) results may be inated because students who did over-estimate their knowledgewere not penalised. It is also possible that regional dierences are present. This is exploredfurther in the discussion.

    Discussion and conclusion

    This study has shown that second-language learners receptive vocabulary size increasessignicantly from beginner stages through to more advanced stages. We can observe aplateau eect between years 8 and 11 and also a very sharp increase in the lexicon size atyear 12 (in their sixth year of learning), which marks the start of non-compulsoryeducation in the UK. The results appear to show that learners in the UK have a smallerlexicon than those in other European countries (Milton and Meara 1998). The data are,overall, very similar to those of other researchers in the UK. This suggests that we can nowtalk of reliable size estimates of learners receptive vocabularies. However, these dierentstudies all used the same test (X_Lex). So, these results would need to be conrmed usinganother tool (e.g., another vocabulary test) before we can compare the learners from thisstudy with learners of other languages or learners in other countries.

    This study has highlighted the fact that there is a large amount of overlap betweengroups of learners, and that groups are far from homogeneous. This seems to indicate thatsome of the year-8 learners have the vocabulary knowledge of university-level students, forexample. It is possible that these tests (such as X_Lex) provide so much variance that theyfail to assess learners knowledge reliably. Although high false-alarm rates (i.e. learnerswho had ticked a large number of non-words) were eliminated, we do not know howseriously learners took the test. Years 8 and 11 are groups where a high proportion of

    Figure 5. Mean, maximum and minimum X_Lex score for year-12 learners in three dierencestudies.

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  • non-words were ticked. For those groups, the test was handed out to the whole class atonce by their teacher. Although specic instructions had been given on how to ll out thetest, the researcher was not present to verify the delivery of the test. It is possible thatstudents saw it as a bit of fun and just ticked words randomly and rapidly before the lessonstarted. The same method was used for rst- and second-year undergraduate groups,though, and the proportion of learners excluded because of high false alarm was not aslarge. In addition, the nal-year undergraduate group was the one with the largestproportion of high false alarms. And for that group, the researcher delivered the test togroups of a maximum of 10 learners and personally explained what was expected. Thiswould suggest that the method of delivery was not really the problem and that participantsdid take it seriously and responded honestly.

    There are two other issues which have been raised by this study and which need furtherdiscussion. The rst one is the apparently irregular year-8 and -11 results and the other isthe lack of correlation with exam grades. There are several issues with the year-8 and -11data. Firstly, the year-8 lexical prole is irregular when compared with more advancedlearners, even though their overall lexicon size is comparable to that found by Milton(2006). Secondly, the year-11 mean vocabulary score is signicantly lower than that ofMilton (2006), but their lexical prole is more consistent with that of advanced learners.Several explanations are possible. The irregular lexical prole of year-8 learners can beexplained by the fact that beginners vocabularies are more dicult to assess using word-frequency criteria, as their vocabulary barely extends beyond a basic high frequency core(Richards, Malvern and Graham 2008). However, if this were the case, 2K, 3K, 4K and5K band scores would be very low, but they are not low if we compare years 8 and 12.Milton (2007) also proposes that when instruction is based on thematic areas, it is possiblefor learners lexical proles to look distorted. So, one could assume that the instruction theyear-8 students receive consists of low-frequency words according to native speakers. Forexample, many vegetables are not considered common words in French (according toBaudots (1992) wordlist) but most year-8 students should have learnt them. We could alsoassume that the year-11 mean vocabulary score is low only because this was a weak groupof students (this needs to be conrmed with other measures), and then it would mean thatthe near-beginners vocabulary proles can look skewed because of teaching content.These issues need further investigation.

    Overall, year-8 and -11 groups have a very dierent lexical prole from the other groupsof learners. They have low numbers of the most frequent words. These most frequent wordsof the French language include functional and structural words (i.e. prepositions, verbs,adverbs, etc). This would indicate that learners may struggle to communicate up until year12 beyond a limited range of structures and expressions (which might be chunks, and thosechunks might contain low-frequency words). This would also indicate that those learnersare exposed to a dierent type of vocabulary than that of native speakers. This suggests thatnot only are learners learning a type of French which is qualitatively dierent to nativeFrench but also that their French vocabulary is quantitatively decient compared withwhat other studies have suggested is learnt in other countries.

    I would also like to raise a potential issue which needs to be veried by further studies.The results in this study seem to indicate that there are signicant regional dierences inthe vocabulary learnt by students (if we assume that the dierences were not due to thedierent non-words used). It appears as though learners in the north-east of England andWales score comparatively lower than those in the south of England in vocabulary tests.

    The last issue to be discussed here is a lack of correlation between exam grades andvocabulary scores. This is important as researchers have claimed links between vocabulary

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  • and syntactic development (in L1 in particular) and between vocabulary and generallanguage prociency (see above). The correlations are not statistically signicant betweenGCSE or A-level grades and vocabulary. This means either that A-level (and GCSE)grades are not representative of vocabulary knowledge, so that learners can get an A gradeeven if their vocabulary is small (i.e. their grammar or other aspects of their languagedevelopment might be excellent), or that the students know what is at stake with theA-level exam (i.e. their future) but were less concerned about the eects of the vocabularytest when it was handed out to them. Although these are reasonable explanations, it is alsopossible that X_Lex is measuring receptive knowledge and that exams are measuringproductive knowledge. Even if it has been shown that there are generally correlationsbetween the two types of knowledge, X_Lex is measuring only a very small aspect ofreceptive language knowledge, and hence might not be sucient to correlate with moregeneral exam results. Further studies are necessary to examine this question.

    Acknowledgements

    The research reported here is based on data collected during the FLLOC (French learner languageoral corpora) project (directed by Florence Myles and Ros Mitchell) funded by the Arts andHumanities Research Council (AHRC) AR112118. Special thanks go to all of the participants. Theauthor would also like to thank Vivienne Rogers for making available her year-8 and -11 data, SarahRule and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions.

    References

    Bates, E., and J.C. Goodman. 1997. On the inseparability of grammar and the lexicon: Evidence fromacquisition, aphasia, and realtime processing. Language and Cognitive Processes 12: 50784.

    Baudot, J. 1992. Frequences dUtilisation des Mots en Francais Ecrit Contemporain. Montreal,Canada: Les Presses de lUniversite de Montreal.

    David, A., V. Rogers, and F. Myles. 2007. Developpement morphosyntaxique et lexical chez lesapprenants du francais L2. Paper presented at AFLS, in Boulogne-sur-Mer, France, 35September 2007.

    Edexcel. 2003. Edexcel GCSE in French (1226) June First Examination 2003: Specication. London:London Qualications Ltd.

    Fitzpatrick, T. 2007. Productive vocabulary tests and the search for concurrent validity. InModellingand assessing vocabulary knowledge, ed. H. Daller, J. Milton, and J. Treers-Daller, 11632.Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

    Goulden, R., P. Nation, and J. Read. 1990. How large can a receptive vocabulary be? AppliedLinguistics 11, no. 4: 34163.

    Graham, S., B.J. Richards, and D.D. Malvern. 2008. Progress in learning French vocabulary in aone-year advanced course at school. Journal of French Language Studies 18, no. 3.

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    Laufer, B., and P. Nation. 1995. Vocabulary size and use: Lexical richness in L2 written production.Applied Linguistics 16: 30722.

    Lewis, M. 1993. The Lexical Approach. Hove, UK: Language Teaching Publications.Mackey, W. 1965. Language Teaching Analysis. London: Longman.Meara, P. 1980. Vocabulary acquisition: A neglected aspect of language learning. Language Teaching

    and Linguistics: Abstracts 13: 21146.Meara, P., and G. Jones. 1990a. Eurocentres Vocabulary Size Test. Zurich, Switzerland: Eurocentres.. 1990b. Vocabulary size as a placement indicator. In Applied Linguistics in Society, ed.

    P. Grunwell. London: CILT.Meara, P., and J. Milton. 2003. X_Lex. The Swansea Levels Test. Newbury, UK: Express.Milton, J. 2006. Language lite? Learning French vocabulary in school. Journal of French Language

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