Learning vocabulary in another language

The following activities are designed to be used with Learning Vocabulary in another Language. They are organised according to the chapters of the book and are ordered according to the sections of each chapter.

Some activities revise what is covered in the book and some provide experience in applying the ideas.

  1. Take a text about 500 words long and run it through the Range program. Examine the results to see the vocabulary difficulties the text would contain for your learners.
  2. Look at the following scores on the Vocabulary Levels Test (Appendix 3) to see what kind of vocabulary the following learners should be focusing on.
T 13 13 0 0 0 26
R 22 15 7 7 3 54
P 25 17 12 22 3 79
E 30 30 25 5 8 98
W 30 29 27 27 13 126
Z 30 30 30 29 23 142
  1. 3 Rehearse the arguments you would use to justify spending a lot of time on high frequency words. For example, they make up a relatively small (2000 words) group of words that could feasibly be dealt with in a school programme.
  2. Look at Table 1.7 and work out how many word families would be needed for 95% coverage for each of newspapers, fiction, and informal spoken English.
  3. Why is the high frequency/low frequency distinction important for vocabulary learning and teaching?
  4. Look closely at the GSL to see the range of information available and what other information could be usefully included in such a list.
  5. How would you use a high frequency word list in the preparation of a course book for teaching English to beginners? Consider its use across the four strands of a course.
  6. What advice could you give to learners who know the high frequency words of English and want to continue direct study of low frequency words?

Counting words

  1. Make a list of about 12 items that could be used to check the criteria a computer program uses to distinguish tokens. For example, one item would be 123 to see if figures are counted as words.
  2. Look at the following list of proper names from a graded reader and decide which ones could be assumed to offer little learning burden to the reader and which ones would need to be known before reading
  • Alan
  • Alex
  • Alexandra
  • Alizon
  • Anna
  • Ashlar
  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Austrian
  • Aziz
  • Barley
  • Belgium
  • Berkshire
  • Bromley
  • Brook
  • Brychta
  • Carol
  • Carr
  • Cheng
  • Colne
  • Czech
  • Czechoslovakia
  • Dandy
  • Demdike
  • Device
  • Dinon
  • Duckworth
  • Edmund
  • Elizabeth
  • England
  • English
  • Englishwoman
  • Eva
  1. What unit of counting (types, tokens, lemmas, or families) would you use when doing a count of spoken language to decide how large a vocabulary a learner needs to take an active part in informal conversation?
  2. You want to design a corpus from which to make a general service word list to provide a basis for a beginners' course. What would the main divisions of your corpus be?

Chapter 2: Knowing a word

  1. Analyse a dictionary entry using Table 2.1 to see what aspects of vocabulary knowledge are dealt with by the dictionary and which are not.
  2. Looking at each aspect in Table 2.1 estimate the learning burden of some words. For each word, decide (1) what aspects are regular and predictable, and (2) where the learning burden of the word will be heaviest.