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L2 French lexical development of undergraduate students in a UK university

L2 French lexical development of undergraduate students in a UK university
L2 French lexical development of undergraduate students in a UK university
Growing a vocabulary of thousands of words is an essential part of foreign language learning (Milton, 2008: 236) and it is widely acknowledged that vocabulary size “plays a crucial role for L2 learners’ communicative competence” (Stæhr, 2008: 139). And improving communicative competence itself is often what motivates L2 learners to persist with language learning to an advanced level. Therefore it is important to understand not only the trajectory of lexical development among advanced learners, but also its evolving relationship with overall proficiency and L2 motivation.

Whereas across the whole of Europe the teaching of foreign languages is increasing, particularly the teaching and learning of English, in the UK, foreign language learning is decreasing (Busse and Walter, 2013: 435). It is in this particular linguistic context, where learning a language other than English (LOTE) is not always considered useful, that the present study aims at investigating the lexical development of advanced L2 French learners at university, a language and an educational setting that are still seldom the focus of SLA studies. To determine the lexical development of first, second and final year undergraduate students, receptive and productive vocabulary tests were given to forty participants at the beginning and at the end of the academic year. The relationship between their L2 French lexical development on one hand and motivation, L2 proficiency and L2 exposure on the other was further investigated through the use of a motivation questionnaire, an Elicited Imitation test and a language learning background questionnaire. Based on these empirical data, this cross-sectional study presents some of the key findings on vocabulary development over the 3 years of the undergraduate degree, examining this development with reference to vocabulary known at different levels of frequency in French and the extent to which motivation, L2 proficiency and L2 exposure might explain L2 vocabulary variation. Findings from the study reveal that the development of receptive vocabulary is closely related to the development of overall L2 proficiency. L2 vocabulary development does display a frequency pattern, with increases in low frequency bands as proficiency develops. However, the lack of statistically significant difference at the end of the academic year between the year groups’ receptive vocabulary size suggests that it is the quality rather than the size of vocabulary that improves over time. A period of one year living in a French-speaking country boosts overall proficiency and reduces intra-group variation. Factors positively influencing L2 vocabulary development were identified and include instrumental-prevention motivation and input frequency and quality. The study also reveals an imbalance in incidental activities undertaken by participants in the home setting, with little meaning focused output (writing and speaking) and fluency activities overall. The results of the study contribute to an understanding of L2 vocabulary development amongst L2 French advanced learners in relation to proficiency, motivation and input. Practical suggestions for pedagogy and future research were also identified.
University of Southampton
Pignot-Shahov, Virginie
1db305bb-a9fc-4aae-bd46-57f1699ebf17
Pignot-Shahov, Virginie
1db305bb-a9fc-4aae-bd46-57f1699ebf17
Mitchell, Rosamond
de2eabed-7903-43fa-961a-c16f69fddd7e
Patino, Adriana
6a3c90b1-c110-4c9e-8991-afb409e76ef7

Pignot-Shahov, Virginie (2018) L2 French lexical development of undergraduate students in a UK university. University of Southampton, Doctoral Thesis, 290pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

Growing a vocabulary of thousands of words is an essential part of foreign language learning (Milton, 2008: 236) and it is widely acknowledged that vocabulary size “plays a crucial role for L2 learners’ communicative competence” (Stæhr, 2008: 139). And improving communicative competence itself is often what motivates L2 learners to persist with language learning to an advanced level. Therefore it is important to understand not only the trajectory of lexical development among advanced learners, but also its evolving relationship with overall proficiency and L2 motivation.

Whereas across the whole of Europe the teaching of foreign languages is increasing, particularly the teaching and learning of English, in the UK, foreign language learning is decreasing (Busse and Walter, 2013: 435). It is in this particular linguistic context, where learning a language other than English (LOTE) is not always considered useful, that the present study aims at investigating the lexical development of advanced L2 French learners at university, a language and an educational setting that are still seldom the focus of SLA studies. To determine the lexical development of first, second and final year undergraduate students, receptive and productive vocabulary tests were given to forty participants at the beginning and at the end of the academic year. The relationship between their L2 French lexical development on one hand and motivation, L2 proficiency and L2 exposure on the other was further investigated through the use of a motivation questionnaire, an Elicited Imitation test and a language learning background questionnaire. Based on these empirical data, this cross-sectional study presents some of the key findings on vocabulary development over the 3 years of the undergraduate degree, examining this development with reference to vocabulary known at different levels of frequency in French and the extent to which motivation, L2 proficiency and L2 exposure might explain L2 vocabulary variation. Findings from the study reveal that the development of receptive vocabulary is closely related to the development of overall L2 proficiency. L2 vocabulary development does display a frequency pattern, with increases in low frequency bands as proficiency develops. However, the lack of statistically significant difference at the end of the academic year between the year groups’ receptive vocabulary size suggests that it is the quality rather than the size of vocabulary that improves over time. A period of one year living in a French-speaking country boosts overall proficiency and reduces intra-group variation. Factors positively influencing L2 vocabulary development were identified and include instrumental-prevention motivation and input frequency and quality. The study also reveals an imbalance in incidental activities undertaken by participants in the home setting, with little meaning focused output (writing and speaking) and fluency activities overall. The results of the study contribute to an understanding of L2 vocabulary development amongst L2 French advanced learners in relation to proficiency, motivation and input. Practical suggestions for pedagogy and future research were also identified.

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Published date: June 2018

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 432082
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/432082
PURE UUID: e2febc66-b09c-4f70-8579-313923622e6e

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Date deposited: 01 Jul 2019 16:30
Last modified: 01 Jul 2019 16:30

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Contributors

Author: Virginie Pignot-Shahov
Thesis advisor: Rosamond Mitchell
Thesis advisor: Adriana Patino

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