The Acquisition of Vocabulary Through Extensive Reading in Second Language Acquisition: A Study in Beginner's Spanish Course at College Level
Jimenez, Jennifer Segado
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This study was undertaken with the goal of increasing the available information for the debate around the best teaching strategies to use in the learning of lexical items in Second Language Acquisition. Its purpose was to determine the extent that extensive reading, compared to wordlists that provide students with the translation from their first language, fostered lexical acquisition and retention in a group of beginning college students learning Spanish. The 30 voluntary subjects in this study were enrolled as freshmen in a beginner’s Spanish course at a private liberal arts college in the Midwest. This class was taken as part of their language requirement. They were unmotivated and held negative attitudes towards Spanish. The study consisted of a two-group, pre/posttests design. The results were analyzed using a Student’s t-test. There were 31 target words selected according to the criteria established by the researcher. They were extracted from the text ‘Don Quijote, el último caballero’, an adaptation of the classic work of Miguel de Cervantes by Karen Rowan. The instrument used to prepare the participants in the control group was a 50-item wordlist that included the target words. They were merely told to commit to memory as many words as possible. The experimental group was instructed to read once the text focusing on the story. The immediate posttest was administered after they completed the treatment, whereas the delayed test took place a week later. Both types of tests were assessed in terms of right (+1) or wrong answer (0). The results and data analysis confirmed the hypotheses tested. In this study extensive reading did benefit vocabulary acquisition. As the data analysis showed, after the treatment the voluntary participants in the experimental group learned an average of 53.33% of the 31 target words that were selected by the researcher. This means they increased their vocabulary an average of 6.89% by the end of the study. That is, they at least retained 2 new words after reading the text only once. When compared to the control group, the results found that extensive reading was a more efficient method to acquire vocabulary than wordlists, as the final gain of the control group was 0.63%, which translates into only an average of 0.1953 new words learned. Likewise, given that the higher results in the delayed posttest were those of the experimental group, it was concluded that extensive reading led to better results in terms of word retention. Finally, the study supports the claim that beginner readers can benefit from extensive reading and overcome the so-called beginner’s paradox.
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