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Volume 6 Number 1, Spring 2009, Pages 1-214   

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Exploring Chinese EFL Learners' Receptive and Productive Vocabulary Knowledge: Implications for EFL Vocabulary Teaching

    Yongyan Zheng

Vocabulary knowledge has attracted much attention from both EFL learners and teachers, as it consists of the building block of language learning. This study investigated 88 Chinese EFL learners' receptive and productive vocabulary knowledge at five word frequency levels, and the change of the receptive-productive relationship with the shift of word frequency and of the learners' receptive vocabulary size. The Vocabulary Levels Test and Productive Vocabulary Levels Test were administered to the participants, and test scores were collected and analyzed. The participants' knowledge of words at the 3,000, 5,000 and Academic Word Level was found to be closely related with one another and with the vocabulary knowledge as a whole, but the participants were particularly weak in word knowledge at the 5,000 level. The results also showed that the receptive-productive gap gradually narrowed with the enlargement of the participants' receptive vocabulary size, which is incongruent with what was documented in the literature. The findings suggest that the receptive-productive relationship may vary across different learning contexts, affected by the quantity and quality of the L2 input and the specific vocabulary teaching approach featuring the given context. Pedagogical implications for EFL vocabulary teaching are laid out in light of the findings.

Keywords: second language vocabulary acquisition, EFL vocabulary teaching, receptive-productive gap