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Perfecting language: experimenting with an online language learning vocab tool Matthew Absalom & Andrew McGregor The University of Melbourne.

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Presentation on theme: "Perfecting language: experimenting with an online language learning vocab tool Matthew Absalom & Andrew McGregor The University of Melbourne."— Presentation transcript:

1 Perfecting language: experimenting with an online language learning vocab tool Matthew Absalom & Andrew McGregor The University of Melbourne

2 Where are we going today? Learning vocab – what the research says What we did How we did it What did we find out? What does it mean? Where to next?

3 What the research says Surprisingly little ‘The relative neglect of studies of vocabulary acquisition and related areas of lexical research in second language acquisition has often been commented on within the fields of language teaching and applied linguistics’ (Long & Richards, 1997, p. ix) Recent trends in language pedagogy (e.g. communication language teaching) have seen a ‘reduction both in the volumes of vocabulary presented to learners and in the volumes of vocabulary learned’ (Milton, 2009, p.3) It is impossible to be ‘an accurate and highly communicative language user with a very small vocabulary’ (Milton, 2009, p. 3)

4 What the research says In Nation’s (2006) study it was found that ‘much more vocabulary than previous estimates: 6,000–7,000 word families for spoken discourse and 8,000– 9,000 families for written discourse’ is needed’ to function well. …the need for learners to master more vocabulary than previously thought necessary… Explicit teaching often deals with high frequency vocabulary Low frequency vocabulary is unproblematic due to infrequency This leaves mid-frequency vocabulary ‘which often receives little attention’ (Pellicer-Sánchez & Schmitt, 2010, p. 31)

5 What we did A four- week experiment in two beginners languag e subjects (French 1 and Italian 1) at The University of Melbourne comparing the use of Language Perfect with traditional approaches to voca bulary learning Research question: how is student learning affected by different approaches to voca bulary learning?

6 How we did it? Four treatments: – Custom: customised content (textbook and top 200 words) using Language Perfect – Online: access to preloaded content using Language Perfect – Pen: vocabulary lists distributed weekly for four weeks – Control: normal instruction Blind experimental design

7 How we did it? Random selection/assignment of groups Customised content: frequency list (top 200 words) plus textbook vocab (custom and pen groups) Pre- and Post-test Three weekly vocab pop quizzes

8 What did we find out? Italian Control group significantly lower Both Language Perfect groups show improvement Pen group shows most improvement (p=0.003)

9 What did we find out? French Custom group shows significant improvement compared to all other groups Pen and control groups show least improvement

10 What does it mean? Preliminary findings/implications Effect of instructed setting Student autonomy Any intervention leads to improvement

11 Where to next? Complete the analysis – French post-test still to come Compare final written pieces across groups to explore wider effects on language Consider a longer study with more participants Reconsider teaching practices in relation to vocabulary learning

12 References Long, Michael H. & Richards, Jack C Series editors’ preface. In J. Coady & T. Huckin, Second language vocabulary acquisition: A rationale for pedagogy, pp. ix-x. CUP. Milton, James Measuring second language vocabulary acquisition. Multilingual Matters. Pellicer-Sánchez, A. & Scmitt, N Incidental vocabulary acquisition from an authentic novel: Do Things Fall Apart? Reading in a foreign language, 22 (1),


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