A Study on the impact of receptive and productive vocabulary levels on the success of learners on English for Academic Purposes (EAP) programmes

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The British University in Dubai (BUiD)
This paper will focus on the argument that the ability of English L2 students to cope on university foundation programmes is more hindered by limitations in their knowledge of more commonly used ‘higher frequency’ vocabulary as opposed to a lack of academic skills or content-related vocabulary. To investigate the link between lexical richness and academic competency experiments were carried out on English for Academic Studies (EAP) students studying on academic and university foundation courses at a private language college in Oxford, England. Firstly, the learners were tested to see if a link existed between learners’ receptive and productive vocabulary sizes and the lexical requirements of the academic foundation courses they were on. A second experiment was performed on a group of general English learners taking a 6 week intensive vocabulary programme to ascertain if a focus on teaching ‘higher frequency’ vocabulary could have an immediate impact on a learner’s vocabulary size. The experiments found that vocabulary knowledge influenced learners’ linguistic levels, and that higher frequency meaning-based lexical tuition on foundation programmes could have an impact on an EAP student’s vocabulary competence. As a result academic and foundation course syllabus designers could consider offering intensive ‘higher frequency’ vocabulary tuition programmes to give foundation level EAP learners the meaning-based language which would enable them to activate the academic study skills and specialist content vocabulary knowledge they already possessed.
vocabulary levels, English for Academic Purposes (EAP), syllabus design