Vocabulary Knowledge and Comprehension in Second Language Text Processing: A Reciprocal Relationship?

| March 25, 2010
Title
Vocabulary Knowledge and Comprehension in Second Language Text Processing: A Reciprocal Relationship?

Keywords: reading, vocabulary, second language, University of Botswana, comprehension, text

Authors
Faith A. Brown
University of Botswana

Bio Data
Faith A. Brown taught English at Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi, Nigeria for almost two decades. She left the university as a senior lecturer, and acting Director of the university s General Studies Department. Currently, she teaches English for Academic Purposes at the University of Botswana. She is a member (MCoT) of The College of Teachers, London, UK. In addition, she is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Treasure Link Productions, publishers of The Pearl magazine. She has many academic publications, including a textbook entitled English for Tertiary Education. An Integrated Approach. Some of her short stories and poems have appeared in magazines. Her poem Saved was selected in an international poetry competition and published in Transcending Moments, an anthology of the Poetry Institute of Africa, South Africa. Her collection of poems, Endless Seasons is in press. Presently, she is engaged in studying reading strategies used by ESL university students.

Abstract
The overall aim of this study is to determine whether the relationship between vocabulary knowledge and reading comprehension is that of mutual dependency in the reading of expository texts by ESL students at the University of Botswana. Furthermore, the research explores the vocabulary size of first year students in the faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Botswana. A standardized vocabulary level test, comprehension test and questionnaire were used to investigate how the students process information. Fifty (50) first year ESL Social Sciences students were randomly sampled. Data were analysed using percentages, charts, means, standard deviations and t-tests. Findings reveal that gender does not play a significant role in successful reading of texts at university. In addition, the analysis of the data shows that most first year social sciences students possess a large vocabulary size, especially in the academic range but only scored 62% average in the comprehension test. In addition, results indicate that there is no significant difference in the performance of the male and female students in both tests. The investigation shows that the relationship between vocabulary knowledge and reading comprehension is reciprocal in second language reading. It is suggested that the study be broadened to include first year students in all disciplines to factor in possible differences between areas of study, as well as other variables such as test-taking skills, previous knowledge, and level of print exposure. Further studies should also be done to assess correlations between students vocabulary size and performance in content courses.

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Category: Quarterly Journal, Volume 12 Issue 1