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Summary and Comment of The Effect of Exposure Frequency on Intermediate Language Learners’ Incidental Vocabulary Acquisition and Retention Through Reading

The importance of reading for L2 learners’ lexical development is generally acknowledged by researchers and theorists and has been repeatedly verified by studies that found that learners incidentally gained a statistically significant amount of unfamiliar words while reading text for global comprehension. Research has been investigating the role of reading, as one source of input, in language learners’ vocabulary development.

Vocabulary acquisition

The present study was designed to examine whether intermediate learners incidentally (a) acquire and (b) retain unknown vocabulary as a result of reading. The study further assessed (c) the effect of the text variable of exposure frequency.

The effectiveness of reading as an important source of L2 vocabulary development has been questioned because a number of learner and text variables have been identified that aid, but more often impede, beginning L2 readers’ word inferencing process. The four major factors that can have an impact on the outcome of inferencing are: (a) learners’ knowledge about the linguistic properties of an unknown word (Bensoussan & Laufer, 1984; Haynes, 1993; Na & Nation, 1985), (b) context properties in which the unknown word appears (Bensoussan & Laufer, 1984; Haynes, 1993; Huckin & Bloch, 1993; Mondria & Wit-DeBoer, 1991), (c) the approach taken by the language learner to infer meaning (Chern, 1993; Lee & Wolf, 1997; Walker, 1983), and (d) cognitive processes that influence L2 readers’ awareness of and attention to unfamiliar words (Coady, 1993, 1997; Ellis, 1994; Perry, 1993; Schmidt, 1995).

Subjects participating in this study were 95 learners of German as a foreign language enrolled in fourth-semester classes at the University of Illinois. However, 28 subjects’ data had to be excluded from the final analysis because they were either familiar with the TWs or did not complete all treatments or measures.

For the materials, the 12 lexical items selected as TWs. Two sets (set I and set II) of TWs, each with three nouns and three verbs. Each set was distributed to a different experimental group to limit the quantity of reading to six paragraphs per treatment day. This procedure furthermore allowed comparing acquisition and retention across the two-word sets for greater generalizability of the result.

For testing materials vocabulary Checklist Test. A vocabulary pretest in the form of a checklist was developed to verify that the selected TWs were unfamiliar to all subjects. Learners received a list of 50 lexical items (12 TWs and 38 distracters). They were instructed to attempt a translation of each of the words and skip only those items they had never encountered before  To assess word acquisition and retention, two types of vocabulary tests were administered in order to measure different levels of word learning, to prevent a task effect, and to receive more generalizable data. 

For scoring, two points were allotted for an entirely correct answer, one point for a definition showing partial knowledge, and zero points for an incorrect answer. The raters were in full agreement in all instances. The select-definition multiple-choice task was scored as follows: A correct answer received two points and an incorrect answer received zero points.

For study design, Subjects were divided in two treatment groups, one for word set I and one for word set II. Each treatment group was further divided into three groups of two, four, or six TW exposure frequencies. The study was conducted over a period of 13 weeks.

Data collection took place during regular class time. During week 1, subjects were asked to participate in a study on second language acquisition and signed a participation agreement. In week 2 a vocabulary checklist test was administered to ensure that the TWs were unfamiliar to all participants. Treatment and posttests took place during weeks 4–13.

The descriptive statistics (means, standard deviations, and number of subjects) of acquisition (immediately after reading), retention 1 (1 week after reading), and retention 2 (4 weeks after reading) scores for the supply-definition scores. The statistical analyses of the research questions were based on two repeated-measures ANOVAs with a mixed 2 (word set) × 3 (time) × 4 (exposure frequency) design. The first ANOVA analyzed select-definition task vocabulary scores, and the second ANOVA analyzed supply-definition task vocabulary scores (dependent variables). The independent variables were word set (I and II), time of vocabulary assessment (immediately after reading, 1 week later, and 4 weeks later), and exposure frequency (zero, two, four, or six exposures). 

The overall result of the present research study—namely, that L2 learners in cidentally acquired vocabulary during reading—replicated and confirmed findings of previous investigations (Day et al., 1991; Dupuy & Krashen, 1993; Hulstijn et al, 1996; Knight, 1994; Pitts et al., 1989). Present findings expanded the existing research through a controlled setup that ensured that learners did not have any previous knowledge of the selected TWs and established reading as a source for word gain by comparing word knowledge of learners who had encountered the TWs in text with word knowledge of learners who had not encountered the TWs in text. L1 researchers who have established lexical acquisition during reading as a cumulative incremental process (e.g., Nagy, Anderson, & Herman, 1987) showed that the probability of gaining receptive word knowledge of an unfamiliar word during reading ranged between 0.08 and 0.22 when measured immediately after text exposure (e.g., Nagy, Herman, & Anderson, 1985; Shu, Anderson, & Zhang, 1995). 

To summarize: Present findings suggest that reading can have a similarly favorable long-term effect on adult L2 vocabulary growth as on child L1 lexical development, given texts that are sufficiently rich as to allow readers to assign meaning to unfamiliar words. Although two exposures during reading already result in word knowledge gain, the likelihood of speeding up lexical growth is considerably increased through six encounters.

First, concerning the treatment and the materials, neither the texts used nor the reading tasks were part of the treatment groups’ class syllabi. Each treatment took about half a class session per week. A potential impact of heightened attention to the treatment or fatigue of participation was especially strong for six-exposure groups who read texts for the study once a week over 6 consecutive weeks. Moreover, the interpretation of the present findings is limited in that the texts used for the treatment were specifically created for the investigation and furthermore provided readers with contextual clues to assign meaning to the TWs. But, as summarized in the review of literature, texts are not always sufficiently rich to allow learners to assign the correct meaning to unfamiliar words. To further underscore the effectiveness of reading for L2 readers’ vocabulary growth, future research needs to use authentic readings or textbook readings that are fully integrated into the L2 curriculum.

Second, concerning the assessment of word knowledge, future research needs to apply a more refined and varied instrumentation to assess the effect of reading on the depth of L2 readers’ incidental word knowledge gain (as for example in Joe, 1995; Paribakht & Wesche, 1996). Summarizing previous studies, Melka (1997) explained that there are different degrees of recognition and production skills ranging from recognizing visual features to being able to use a word appropriately in all possible contexts and situations. On a word-knowledge continuum scale, the assessment tasks used for the present study measured a low degree of both receptive and productive word knowledge. Although the multiple-choice recognition task emphasized only semantic difference, the production task required learners to produce the TW out of context.

Third, concerning the effects of learner and text variables on L2 vocabulary development through reading, research on incidental word acquisition has so far separately investigated the process of word inferencing and the product of word inferencing, namely, acquisition.

Moreover, the present findings were based on data from 12 treatment groups of intact fourth-semester language classes. Thus, for logistical reasons, this study did not randomly assign learners to treatment groups nor did the study ensure that the treatment groups were equally equivalent intermediate L2 learners. 

Vocabulary is one of the language components that can affect macro skills. Some definition of vocabulary is proposed by some experts. Nunan (1999: 101) states that vocabulary is a list of target language words. Furthermore, Jackson and Amvela (2000: 11) say that the terms vocabulary, lexis, and lexicon are synonymous. In addition, Richards and Schmidt (2002: 580) state that vocabulary is a set of lexeme, including single words, compound words, and idioms. Vocabulary is the total number of words in a language; all the words known to a person or used in a particular book, subject, etc; a list of words with their meaning, especially one that accompanies a textbook (Hornby, 8 1995: 1331). Those definitions show that vocabulary is the first element that the English learners should learn in order to master English well besides the other English components and skills. The vocabulary of language always changes and grows. As life become more complex, people devise or borrow new words to describe mans’ activities. No one knows exact numbers of words in the English vocabulary today. From the interpretation above, we can conclude that vocabulary is the core component of language proficiency that consists of a set of lexeme, including single words, compound words, idioms; provides much of the basis for how well learners speak, read, listen,and write; and has similarities with the term lexis‟ and lexicon‟. In language learning, vocabulary takes place in building the language proficiency. The objective of the vocabulary mastery is to make the students have a good language proficiency in the language skills. It depends on the quality and quantity of the vocabulary that they have mastered. The richer the vocabulary that can be mastered by the students, they will get the better skill that can be reached in using language.

The most often become to complain is the teachers ability in applying appropriate approaches, methods, strategies or techniques in teaching or learning. So, many students are not interest in learning English. Therefore, the English teach suggested in order to be able mastering of method, such as, Nababan (1991: 4) notices that a qualified teacher is the teacher who is able to suit best method or technique to the material that is being taught.

In English, there are four skills that should be mastered, they are: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. The reading skill becomes very important in the education field, students need to be exercised and trained in order to have a good reading skill.

Reading is also something crucial and indispensable for the students because the success of their study depends on the greater part of their ability to read. If their reading skill is poor they are very likely to fail in their study or at least they will have difficulty in making progress. On the other hand, if they have a good ability in reading, they will have a better chance to succeed in their study. One of English skills that must be mastered by the learners is reading. Reading is the way the learners can comprehend and understand the content of the text in order to get the implicit and explicit information. Beside the learners also can improve their vocabulary. The learners can know the meaning of familiar vocabulary, but how if the learners meet with unfamiliar vocabulary? It is being able to be answered if someone does the research for this case. 

Many studies had been done to find the effectiveness reading in improving the learners’ vocabulary. One of the studies was THE EFFECT OF EXPOSURE FREQUENCY ON INTERMEDIATE LANGUAGE LEARNERS’ INCIDENTAL VOCABULARY ACQUISITION AND RETENTION THROUGH READING by Susanne Rott. This jurnal is very useful for the teachers to know (a) learners’ knowledge about the linguistic properties of an unknown word, (b) context properties in which the unknown word appears (c) the approach taken by the language learner to infer meaning, and (d) cognitive processes that influence L2 readers’ awareness of and attention to unfamiliar words. In this jurnal we can know these answers completely from the background of the study, review of literature, method, discussion, and suggestion.

In the background of her study, Susanne Rott stated many previous theories and studies. It was used to strengthen her study. Here, she stated many previous theories about intensive reading, meaningful and contextualized input integrating, lexical and the important of reading. Improving vocabulary by doing intensive reading is one of the ways to understand meaning of the familiar or unfamiliar vocabularies. The learners shouldn’t find the meaning of the vocabulary in the dictionary but they can know the meaning by guessing them or using their own phrase or sentences. In second language acquisition, this way is influenced by the learners’ habit. If the learners have good habit in reading, automatically they will memorize the vocabulary and will easy to find the meaning. But, if they never read any book, they will get difficulty in finding the meaning of the vocabulary. Here, she also stated the important of intensive reading to strengthen her statements.

In the part of method, Susanne Rott had explained in detail. How she took the population and the sample also had explained by her. Here, there were treatment and experimental group in other to get a good result by using experimental research. In treatment group result will be known the validity and reliability of the test. So, we can measure each item of the test appropriately. After knowing that the test is validity and reliability, she gave the test to experimental group. Next step was analyzing and scoring the learners’ test answer. Here, Susanne had explained how the result obtained by using descriptive statistic. It will make easy if the researchers use SPSS because they will get the result correctly and fast also in detail information. The data can be obtained in form of table by using Anova. 

The findings of the present study have demonstrated:
1. Reading text for meaning is a significant source of intermediate L2 learners’ vocabulary growth. Students who encountered an unfamiliar word two, four, or six times during reading demonstrated significantly more word knowledge than students who had not encountered the words during reading. The effect of reading for word learning had measurable effects immediately after reading exposure, 1 week later, and 1 month later.

2. Furthermore, the data presented mixed results for the retention of word knowledge gained incidentally during reading.

3. Again, mixed support was found for the impact of exposure frequency on incidental vocabulary growth.

By doing intensive reading we can many new vocabularies. According to Grellet (1981) reading may be classified as four simply categories, intensive reading, extensive reading, skimming and scanning (Cited in Ommagio, 1986) Suhirman (2002) further mentions as follows:

1. Firstly, intensive reading is reading activity that is being related to further progress in language learning under the teacher guidance. In this type of reading, control from a teacher is compulsory and it will provide a basis for elucidation of difficulties of structure, and for the extension of vocabulary. To the same extent, Finnonchiro (1983) also glanced that the intensive reading when the student’s attention should be focused on all expression, nations sound, structure and cultural allusions will be unfamiliar to them in passage.

2. Secondly, extensive reading is developed at the student’s own pace according to his individual ability (Rivers, 1968 and Suhirman, 2002). In this extent, the activity is not completely controlled by the teacher. The students have learner to read without the teacher’s role. The extensive reading activity is mostly concerned with the purpose of training students to read directly and fluently by his/her own employment, without the aid of the teacher. Structures in the test will be already familiar to him and new vocabulary will be introduced slowly in such a way that its meaning can be deduced from the context.

3. The third is skimming, There are great many materials related to each professional area, the students must be taught to be selective. Skimming techniques will enable them to select the worth reading.

From linguistics point of views, reading is recording and decoding process. Not like speaking which just involves an encoding process reading applies decoding process by which a reader must grasp and guess the meaning of written words used in writing scripts, reading the symbols to the oral language meaning (Anderson in Tarigan (1991) and Suhirman (2002)). In short, reading can be defined as “bringing meaning to and get meaning from points or written materials” (Finnochiro and Banama in Tarigan, 1987, and Suhirman, 2002). It is true by reading people get to know the other people scientific achievement, or some happening in other region of the country. Through reading we can improve our skill and enlarge our human development achievement.

Although the research base for the use and effectiveness of reading environments with English-speaking students is growing, interventions specifically targeting non-native English speakers are almost nonexistent. Such an endeavor requires merging the existing research on technology and literacy with the knowledge base around bilingualism, biliteracy, and second language acquisition. Indeed, many of the supports already described, although monolingual in application, are best practice in nature, and thus have a place in the education of language minority learners. So, it can be concluded that improving vocabulary through reading will help the learners to get and know the new vocabularies. A good habit for reading should be had by the learners in order to improve their vocabulary.

That is about the analysis of Journal International about Vocabulary Acquistion. Read also Vocabulary Knowledge on listening comprehension.

Written by
Suhartatik, Islamic University of Malang
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