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Asian EFL Journal





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This study examines the relationship between breadth of vocabulary, background experiences in learning English and student skill in the reading of an academic text. The author used the Swansea Levels Tests to estimate vocabulary sizes and collected information on background characteristics via questionnaire from eleven Korean students enrolled in an Intensive English program and five Korean undergraduate students at Utah State University. Eight of the Intensive English students were subsequently trained in a think-aloud procedure and then completed a research task in which they read a 960-word essay. The task required the students to think aloud as they attempted to work out the meaning of the text. Their performances were video-recorded and their verbal reports were transcribed, and these were subjected to quantitative and qualitative analyses. Students with more total hours of high school English instruction tended to score higher on the vocabulary measure, and students with more vocabulary tended to process the text more quickly and rely less on a dictionary. However, students with larger vocabularies did not always appear to be the more skillful readers. The author finds some evidence that the better readers demonstrated superior syntactic knowledge that enabled them to rely more on the text and less on compensatory strategies.


Nolan Weil is Assistant Professor of ESL at Utah State University (USU) where he teaches courses in academic reading, writing, and oral discourse, as well as various content-based topics courses. His current research interests include vocabulary learning and individual differences in language learning.