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Current Perspectives in Second Language Vocabulary Research

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David Hirsh

Reflecting growth in research interest in second language vocabulary over the past 30 years, this edited volume explores the current themes and possible future directions in second language vocabulary research. The collection brings together review papers and quantitative studies, and considers vocabulary in the contexts of teaching, learning and assessment. Key themes explored in the volume include multidimensionality of vocabulary knowledge, the nature of word learnability, the interface between receptive vocabulary knowledge and productive vocabulary use, the partial-to-precise continuum of vocabulary knowledge, conditions favouring vocabulary learning and use, and the use of corpora to develop word lists to inform second language teaching. The themes presented in this volume reflect current thinking and research avenues at the interface between research enquiry and second language teaching practice.

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WARREN MATSUOKA Searching for the Right Words: Creating Word Lists to Inform EFL Learning 151

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WARREN MATSUOKA Searching for the Right Words: Creating Word Lists to Inform EFL Learning 1. Introduction Although many English as a foreign language (EFL) students have studied the target language for at least six years as a core subject in their secondary and even primary education years, a substantial pro- portion upon commencing their tertiary studies still find themselves struggling with reading academic texts in English due to their lack of vocabulary knowledge. Second language (L2) studies (Hui 2004; Joyce 2003; Li 2008; Nurweni/Read 1999; Ward 2009a) have consis- tently shown EFL university students’ vocabulary knowledge falls short of the vocabulary size needed to not only comprehend written academic texts but also successfully guess the meanings of unknown words in the texts. The reason for this difficulty in comprehending texts at the ter- tiary level may not only be due to the students’ small vocabulary size but also specifically to the types of words they had been exposed to and learned through written texts such as their primary and secondary English language teaching (ELT) school textbooks. In other words, the problem may be a matter not only of not knowing enough words but also of not knowing enough of the ‘right’ or most useful words. But what words exactly should the university-bound L2 learner be taught or exposed to? In order to identify and create lists of what may be the most useful words for L2 learners, many researchers have taken advantage of the most recent computer technology to create...

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