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Volume 4 Number 1, Spring 2007, Pages 1-200   


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An Exploratory Study of the English Vocabulary Size of Hong Kong Primary and Junior Secondary School Students

    Eunice Tang


There is growing evidence to show a strong and positive correlation between language proficiency and vocabulary size. However, the study of vocabulary size of ESL learners and the implications for developing language proficiency is limited. This paper reports an exploratory study which aims to a) find out the English vocabulary size of the ESL primary and junior secondary school students, and b) evaluate the extent of perceived vocabulary gap among these students with reference to the school levels and types of school. Two primary schools and two secondary schools, with a total of 449 students, took part in the L_Lex of the Lingua Vocabulary Tests v2.01 (Meara, Milton & Lorenzo-Dus, 2001) and the Vocabulary Levels Test (Nation, 1990). Results have shown that these ESL learners have small vocabulary size and impoverished vocabulary knowledge. Although perceived vocabulary gap does exist when measuring the vocabulary size, students at higher level of schooling, i.e. with longer English learning experience, do not necessarily possess a larger vocabulary size than those at junior levels. Systematic vocabulary development and curricular and instruction measures which take into the account of vocabulary size and knowledge of the ESL learners are suggested in order to tackle individual differences observed across school levels or between school types.