Are Academic English Words Learned Incidentally? A Canadian Case Study
Keywords:Vocabulary, Academic English, Incidental Learning, Academic Reading, English as an Additional Language, English as a Second Language, ESL
This study at a Canadian university grew out of the need to know whether students acquired academic vocabulary incidentally through text exposure (extensive reading) in class. The ability to explicitly teach all the words on the academic word list is an unreasonable expectation for a one-semester course. This study, therefore, investigated whether thirteen English as an additional language (EAL) students in a capstone foundation course (academic reading and writing) acquired vocabulary simply through exposure to a variety of different academic texts (such as policy papers, essays, journal articles, and book chapters) in class. Students assessed their own vocabulary knowledge and development through Paribakht and Weschke’s (1993) Vocabulary Knowledge Scale (VKS) at the beginning of the study (Week 3) and again at the end of the semester (Week 13). Results indicated a vocabulary gain for almost all students, even with word exposure frequencies as low as one to four. Further research on incidental academic vocabulary acquisition is needed using other instrumentation to confirm the findings.
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