Toru's TESOL Life

My Reflective Thought on TESOL-related Lecture,Books,and Articles. Also, Useful Information Links. This blog stops posting new articles now. My current blog is as follows. This blog is mainly on thought about my teaching days and private life.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Native Speaker Vocabulary Acquisition

Nagy, William E. and Anderson, Richard C (1984) How many words are there in printed school English? Reading Research Quarterly 19(3) 304-330

Today I read their article above.They made an attempt to estimate the number of words school children are likely to encounter from grade 3 to grade 9 through a variety of stats methods most of which i cannot understand. Just reading was frustrating with complicated estimation! How about researching it? It must have made authors mad! But it ends up with the result that

1) printed school English contains 88,500 distinct word families.
2)at least 1000 words families, for active reader, around 3000 or 4000 words families are encountered in a school year. In A school year! I was surprised at the big number! And they also commented that
3) the least able and motivated children in the middle grades might read 100,000 words a year. Though it includes already known, familiar words,the number is also big!

I heard from Prof. Nation, and Prof. Laufer, that educated native speaker learn 1000 words per year until they become 20 with thier vocabulary size 20,000. Though the way of defining "word" and "word family" is different from researcher to researcher,it is clear that native speaker receive tremendous exposure of input. This article make it clear that written input school children take is incredibly big.

What is interesting is they also suggest that direct vocabulary instruction is not worth doing because time and energy available for such direct instrcution is limited and they cannot cover the marvelous size of vocabulary school children encounter in their 6 years. Of course L2 vocabulary learning is different from L1 vocabulary learning, but it is intriguig suggestion.

Native speakers may learn tremendous vocabularies through comprehensible input big enough to connect words with other words to establish a kind of semantic mapping (lexis network) in their brain.



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