The Exposure to English Vocabulary for a University-level Learner in Taiwan icon

The Exposure to English Vocabulary for a University-level Learner in Taiwan


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On-line Investigation #1—VocabProfiles of Four Texts:

The Exposure to English Vocabulary for a University-level Learner in Taiwan


The Exposure to English Vocabulary for a University-level Learner in Taiwan

Teaching and Learning Second Language Vocabulary (EDSL-617)

Hsing-fei Huang

Student ID #: 260054036

McGill University

May 18, 2004


Introduction

In this on-line investigation, I choose four different types of texts that could be encountered by a university-level learner in Taiwan and analyze them by using the Lexical Tutor Website’s vocabulary profiling. The analytic result of my vocabulary profiles will then be compared to vocabulary profile figures reported by Nation (2001) and a discussion on the similarities and differences found between these two findings will follow.


Investigation

I chose the four texts based on my own experience of what a university-level learner could encounter regarding the exposure to English vocabulary in Taiwan, an EFL (English as a foreign language) setting. The texts I chose for examples are actually what I was exposed to, as an undergraduate student in Taiwan. Through this investigation, I attempt to know the relationship concerning the exposure to English vocabulary between English-speaking and EFL countries.

The first of the four texts, an example of conversation, is from a transcript of the popular television show, Friends. My university classmates and I were fans of this program and also regarded it as a means to practice English listening ability. Since Taiwan is not an English-speaking country, watching this kind of show can obtain authentic English conversation. The second, an example of fiction, is an extract from Tolkien’s (1978) The

Table 1

^ My Findings from the Lexical Tutor Website’s Vocabulary Profiling

Levels

Conversation

(from Friends)

Fiction

(from The hobbit)

Newspapers

(from Taipei

Times)

Academic text

(from SLA textbook)

1st 1000

82.92%

80.96%

69.17%

72.58%

2nd 1000

4.78%

9.63%

4.15%

2.35%

Academic

1.37%

0.23%

4.15%

14.88%

Other

10.93%

9.17%

22.54%

10.18%

hobbit that I read for pleasure in the past. Taipei Times, one of English language newspapers in Taiwan, is the source where I found a news article as my third text example. Many university students, including me, sometimes read it to improve English reading ability. As for the fourth example of academic text, I excerpt a text from Ellis’s (1985) Understanding Second Language Acquisition, a textbook for the course I took in my third year of university.

The analytic result of my chosen texts is presented in Table 1 (for more analytic details, see Appendix A). To make the comparisons more valid, I control the length of the four texts to be around 400 words (for entire texts I chose, see Appendix B~E).


^ Analyses and Discussion

As Table 1 shows, 82.92% of the vocabulary in the conversational context is in the most frequent 1000 English words, which is in line with Nation’s (2001) findings (for comparisons, see Appendix F). What slightly differs from Nation’s findings appears in the category of ‘Other’. The reason why the proportion of ‘Other’ words in my sample is somewhat larger than Nation’s can be explained by the fact that the actors in Friends often address one another by name (their names turned up 7 times in the list of ‘Other’ words). In addition, in my sample, the actors speak a considerable number of interjections such as uh and um, which are all counted as ‘Other’ words. However, I also felt surprised that the word okay (or ok) that appears 7 times in my sample is placed in ‘Other’ word list, instead of 1st 1000 word list.

As I compared the vocabulary profile of Tolkien’s (1978) fiction to that of Nation’s fiction sample, I found that the findings are quite similar. The only thing I want to mention is that the proportion of 2nd 1000 words in my sample is somewhat larger and that of academic words is smaller. It may be the reason that my chosen fiction is about an adventure, taking place in the Middle Earth thousands of years ago. That is, relatively more least-frequent words (i.e., 2nd 1000 words) camp up to describe and rare academic words got involved.

When it comes to the newspaper samples, 22.54% of the vocabulary in ^ Taipei Times goes to the ‘Other’ category, which has higher percentage than Nation’s sample. As I looked closely at the words in the ‘Other’ category, I found some of them were Chinese names and terms that can be readily understood by people living in Taiwan, such as Chen Shui-bian and AIT. Since the chosen article reported Taiwanese news, it was inevitable that those context-related words plentifully occurred. If we add those context-related words to a ‘most frequent 1000 words used in Taiwan list’, my finding will probably be closer to Nation’s.

With respect to the academic text samples, I found that there is no big difference between Nation’s and my findings. The slight difference took place in ‘Academic’ category. Perhaps the larger proportion of academic words in my sample could be attributed to the fact that I chose the text from an academia-bound book in a very specific domain (i.e., SLA) and that those academic words also repeatedly emerged in my chosen sample.

Conclusion

All in all, the result of the vocabulary profiles of my four texts via the Lexical Tutor Website supports Nation’s (2001) findings, except for the context-related and text selection issues. I think that this on-line investigation is a very interesting task. It is great to learn how vocabulary items in different texts we encounter are categorized, in both English-speaking and EFL settings.

Furthermore, I also want to explore the differences between spoken and written language in my samples through the website. However, I could not actually figure out the function word-content word ratio shown in the analytic figures. I just wonder how the ratio camp up. Does it include all tokens or simply the 1st 1000 tokens?


References

Ellis, R. (1985). ^ Understanding second language acquisition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Nation, P. (2001). Learning vocabulary in another language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Tolkien, J. R. R. (1978). The hobbit (4th ed.). London: Allen & Unwin.


^ Compleat Lexical Tutor Website retrieved May 16, 2004 from: http://www.lextutor.ca

Friends transcript retrieved May 16, 2004 from:http://www.eigo-i.com/friends/

transcript/821

News article retrieved May 16, 2004 from Taipei Times Website: http://www.

taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2004/05/16/2003155657


Appendix A

VocabProfiles of Four Texts


(1) Conversation: Friends




Appendix A (Con’t)

VocabProfiles of Four Texts


(2) Fiction: The hobbit




Appendix A (Con’t)

VocabProfiles of Four Texts


(3) Newspapers: Taipei Times




Appendix A (Con’t)

VocabProfiles of Four Texts


(4) ^ Academic text: Understanding SLA




Appendix B

Entire Extract Text from Friends Transcript (Conversation)

Ross!

What?! What?

I am freaking out!

Are ya?

My due date is in one week!

What are you doing up?

That is seven days!

Okay look, I had a lot of water before I went to bed. Can we do this after...

No-no-no-no-no Ross! Please, come on we do not have any of the big stuff we need! We do not a changing table! We do not have a crib! We do not have a diaper service!

It's funny you should mention diapers.

I'm serious.

Okay look, there's nothing to worry about. We have plenty of time. There's a great baby furniture store on west 10th. Tomorrow, we will go there and we will get you everything that you need. Okay?

Okay. Thank you. That's great. Thank you. Wait-wait! Where on west 10th? Because there's this really cute shoe store that has like this little...

Okay. Okay. If uh, if you're gonna do this, then I'm gonna do that. So...

Oh, wait Ross! I'm sorry, one more thing!

Yeah!

Umm, our situation. Y'know umm, what we mean to each other. And I mean we-we're having this baby together, and we live together. Isn't that, isn't that weird?

^ Appendix B (Con’t)

Entire Extract Text from Friends Transcript (Conversation)


Well uh...

I'm just kidding! You can go pee!

Hey uh Monica, I can't remember. Did we say we were gonna meet here or at the movies?

We said at the movies, but...

Okay, I'll see you there.

Joey! Now that you're here...

Sure, I can hang out 'til I have to meet ya. What uh -- How come you're not going?

I have a job interview I have to get ready for.

I thought you already have a job.

And people say you don't pay attention. No, this is a much better job. It's vice-president of a company that does data reconfiguration and statistical factoring for other companies.

Wow! How do you know how to do that?!

That's what I do now.

Hey Joey, come taste this.

What is it?

Remember that guy that gave me a bad review? Well... I'm getting my revenge!

You cooked him?

No. He teaches a course on food criticism at the New School, so before we go to the movies I wanna go by there and make him try my bouillabaisse again. Oh, I cannot wait to read the front page of the Post tomorrow! "Restaurant reviewer admits: I was wrong about Monica."

The front page? You really do live in your own little world, don't ya?

Appendix C

Entire Extract Text from Tolkien’s The hobbit (Fiction)


In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.

It had a perfectly round door like a porthole, painted green, with a shiny yellow brass knob in the exact middle. The door opened on to a tube-shaped hall like a tunnel: a very comfortable tunnel without smoke, with polished chairs, and lots and lots of pegs for hats and coats—the hobbit was fond of visitors. The tunnel wound on and on, going fairly but not quite straight into the side of the hill—The Hill, as all the people for many miles round called it—and many little round doors opened out of it, first on one side and then on another. No going upstairs for the hobbit: bedrooms, bathrooms, cellars, pantries (lots of these), wardrobes (he had whole rooms devoted to clothes), kitchens, dining-rooms, all were on the same floor, and indeed on the same passage. The best rooms were all on the left-hand side (going in), for these were the only ones to have windows, deep-set round windows looking over his garden, and meadows beyond, sloping down to the river.

This hobbit was a very well-to-do hobbit, and his name was Baggins. The Baggins have lived in the neighbourhood of The Hill for time out of mind, and people considered them very respectable, not only because most of them were rich, but also because they never had any adventures or did anything unexpected: you could tell what a Baggins would say on any question without the bother of asking him. This is a story of how a Baggins had an adventure, and found himself doing and saying things altogether unexpected. He many have lost the neighbours’ respect, but he gained—well, you will see whether he gained anything in the end.

The mother of our particular hobbit—what is a hobbit? I suppose hobbits need some description nowadays, since they have become rare and shy of the Big People, as they call us. They are (or were) a little people, about half our height, and smaller than the bearded dwarves. Hobbits have no beards. There is little or no magic about them, expect the ordinary everyday sort which helps them to disappear quietly and quickly when large stupid folk like you and me come blundering along, making a noise like elephants which they can hear a mile off.


Appendix D

Entire Text from Taipei Times (Newspapers)


The US has announced that it will send a four-member official delegation to attend President Chen Shui-bian's inauguration and the inaugural activities. The delegation is smaller and by some measures less prominent than expected.

In addition to congressman James Leach, the chairman of the Asia and the Pacific subcommittee of the House International Relations Committee, who had been earlier announced as the leader, the delegation contains a former congressman and former State Department official under the Reagan administration, as well as American Institute in Taiwan Director Douglas Paal.

Joining Leach and Paal will be Alaska Governor Frank Murkowski, who was a leading Taiwan supporter in the Senate, which he left in 2002 after 22 years in Washington, and William Brown, a board member and interim chairman of AIT and former deputy assistant secretary of state for Asia from 1983 to 1985.

There had been speculation that more congressmen and senators would be part of the group, but the inauguration coincides with a crucial period in Congress, a day in which key votes are expected in advance of the lawmakers' weeklong recess for Memorial Day.

The fact that Leach is the head of the delegation contrasts with president Chen's first inauguration in 2000, when no sitting members of Congress attended.

The naming of the delegation comes at a time when Washington has been deeply concerned about Chen's plans for his second term, in the wake of US President George W. Bush's rebuke of Chen last December for actions that could change the status quo in the Taiwan Strait.

The Bush administration is concerned that Chen's reform program could alienate China and raise the specter of a move toward independence, which Washington fears could involve it in an eventual war with China. As a result, Washington-Taipei relations have cooled significantly.

US officials are also worried about what Chen will say in his inaugural address, which Taipei is expected to share with Washington officials before it is delivered.

In addition to the official Washington delegation, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has put together a larger private group, consisting of three former AIT chairmen and eight prominent US Taiwan academics.

That delegation will include former AIT heads Richard Bush, Nat Belocchi and David Laux, as well as a diverse group of specialists in Chinese and Taiwan affairs.

Appendix E

Entire Extract Text from Ellis’s (1985) Understanding SLA
(Academic text)



The principal goal of this chapter is to examine the claims that second language (L2) learners acquire a knowledge of a L2 in a fixed order as a result of a predisposition to process language data in highly specific ways. These claims stand in stark contrast to behaviourist accounts of second language acquisition (SLA), which emphasized the importance of environmental factors and first language (L1) interference. The claims about a fixed order are based on a theory of learning that stresses the learner-internal factors which contribute to acquisition. This theory was first developed with regard to L1 acquisition, which also saw the first attempts to examine empirically how a learner builds up knowledge of a language. The starting point for this chapter, therefore, will also be L1 acquisition. Where SLA was concerned, the key concept in the revised thinking about the process of learning was that of interlanguage. This was used to refer to the systematic knowledge of language which is independent of both the learner’s L1 and the L2 system he is trying to learn. Interlanguage was the theoretical construct which underlay the attempts of SLA researchers to identify the stages of development through which L2 learners pass on their way to L2 (or near-L2) proficiency. This research indicated that there were strong similarities in the developmental route followed by different L2 learners. As a result of this research, it was suggested that SLA followed a ‘universal’ route that was largely uninfluenced by such factors as the age of the learner, the context in which learning took place, or the learner’s L1 background. According to this view of SLA, the controlling factor was the faculty for language that all human beings possess and which was also responsible for L1 acquisition. Inevitably the question arose as to what extent the order of development in SLA paralleled that in L1 acquisition. The validity of the L2=L1 hypothesis has been a recurrent issue in SLA research. However, although learner-internal factors are powerful determinants of SLA, the conviction that they are capable of accounting for the entire process, which in some circles at least has been suggested, is not warranted. This chapter will conclude with an examination of some of the problems of explanations of SLA that rely extensively on internal learner factors.


Appendix F

Comparisons between Nation’s and My Findings on Vocabulary

(Text type and text coverage by the most frequent 2000 words of English and an AWL in 4 different kinds of texts)



Levels

Conversation


Fiction

Newspapers

Academic text

Findings

Nation’s

HF’s

Nation’s

HF’s

Nation’s

HF’s

Nation’s

HF’s

1st 1000

84.3%

82.92%

82.3%

80.96%

75.6%

69.17%

73.5%

72.58%

2nd 1000

6%

4.78%

5.1%

9.63%

4.7%

4.15%

4.6%

2.35%

Academic

1.9%

1.37%

1.7%

0.23%

3.9%

4.15%

8.5%

14.88%

Other

7.8%

10.93%

10.9%

9.17%

15.7%

22.54%

13.3%

10.18%


N.B. HF’s here stands for Hsing-fei’s, referring to my findings.





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