July, 2022 Newsletter

This is the newsletter for July 2022.

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Incidental vocabulary learning
plus full MSVL, profiler updates + more
Sheldon Smith
July 2022
Some information on incidental vocabulary learning and how it relates to academic and technical vocabulary. Plus, the full MSVL (Middle School Vocabulary Lists), improvements to the vocabulary profiler, and a copy of the BNC/COCA lists.

Coming soon: a YouTube video titled What is academic vocabulary?, currently in post-production. [Early access to Patreon patrons.] More information in the next newsletter!

Incidental vocabulary learning & academic vocabulary

Incidental vocabulary learning refers to learning words as a result of reading, viewing or listening for pleasure, during which there is no explicit intention to learn words, though words are often learned as a byproduct. This kind of learning is essential for second language learners, since the number of words required for comfortable reading (8000-9000) or listening (4000) is too large to be learned through intentional study alone. Additionally, repeated exposure to words is likely to build up detailed knowledge of form, meaning and use, including aspects such as collocation.

Recent research by Clarence Green, published in June 2022 in Language Learning & Technology journal, showed that many academic (AWL) and technical (SVL) words can be learned through incidental vocabulary study. The research also provides a tool to calculate how likely incidental learning of such words is, given speed, amount of reading/viewing per day and how many months extended reading/viewing will take place.

For instance, with a moderate reading rate of 200 words per minute, AWL words such as found, final, job, couple, respond, ignorant, and area could all be encountered at least 6 times within 4 hours of reading or 20 times within 13 hours of reading, all easily manageable with 30 minutes of reading per day over the course of eight days (4 hours) to a month (15 hours).

Conversely, words such as intermediate, whereby, paradigm, empirical, concurrent, aggregate, and qualitative would all need over 600 hours of reading to encounter them a minimum of 6 times, in other words around 2 hours of reading per day for one year, which may be more time than students of academic English have available during their course of study.

This tool provides students and teachers a way to understand which academic (AWL) and technical (SVL) items are likely to be learned incidentally through an extensive reading/viewing programme, and which ones need more intentional study.

MSVL: full lists

I recently received permission from Jennifer Wells Greene and Averil Coxhead to add the full MSVL (Middle School Vocabulary Lists) to the website. The MSVL are a series of five lists of academic and technical vocabulary for middle school (grade 6-8) students, covering five subject areas: (1) English Grammar and Writing, (2) Health, (3) Mathematics, (4) Science, and (5) Social Studies and History. Each list consists of 300-400 words families that occur frequently in each of these areas, but which are not contained in the GSL (General Service List).

The lists presented on the website can be sorted according to frequency or put in alphabetical order. It is also easy to see which other subject each word is in, and whether it is in the AWL or not.

Profiler updates

The vocabulary profiler has been improved by addition of proper nouns, which can be used with the BNC/COCA lists as well as the GSL/AWL profiler. I've also added the AKL (Academic Keyword List) to the profiler, and fixed a few minor bugs.

BNC/COCA lists

The BNC/COCA word family lists are frequency based lists often used for graded readers or selecting vocabulary for study. The lists are one of the options in the vocabulary profiler, and are used extensively in the Enrich Your Vocabulary for IELTS & TOEFL YouTube series to select mid-range vocabulary. This page allows users to quickly find which list a word is in, and therefore make decisions about whether it is worth studying or not.

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Sheldon Smith

Author: Sheldon Smith    ‖    Last modified: 21 July 2022.

Sheldon Smith is the founder and editor of EAPFoundation.com. He has been teaching English for Academic Purposes since 2004. Find out more about him in the about section and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

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