CRAL
Centre for Research in Applied Linguistics
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Beatriz González Fernández

Research Student, Faculty of Arts

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Teaching Summary

2011-2012/2014: Full-time teacher of English language and culture for adult students at the Language Centre of the University of León, Spain.

2013-2014: Part-time volunteer teacher of Spanish language and culture as a foreign language for adult immigrants and refugees, at the NGO Accem León, Spain.

Research Summary

A theory of vocabulary acquisition: how do second language learners acquire the different types of word knowledge?

Learning vocabulary is an essential part of mastering a second language, as vocabulary is a fundamental component of language use. However, at present little is known about how words are learnt over time. In fact, there is currently no theory of vocabulary acquisition that is generally accepted, in spite of its importance in language learning and use. Therefore, there is an overall need to study the vocabulary acquisition process and to develop a general explanatory theory of that acquisition, and that constitutes the starting point of this research project. The study will use Nation´s (2001) word knowledge framework as its theoretical foundation, by focusing on the different aspects which are considered necessary for complete knowledge of a word (e.g. spelling, meaning, pronunciation, prefixes and suffixes, collocation). I will explore whether some of these aspects are 'easier' or 'more difficult' than others, and if some are mastered before others. The description of a potential sequence of acquisition will: 1) contribute to our understanding of overall vocabulary acquisition, 2) allow more principled vocabulary teaching, and 3) inform the development of a new generation of vocabulary tests. In particular, the following questions will be considered:

  • How are the different word knowledge aspects acquired, in sequence or in parallel?
  • What is the order of acquisition for the different word knowledge aspects?
  • How does the acquisition of each aspect relate to the acquisition of the others?

The methodology employed in this study will be driven by a set of pen-and-paper tests adapted or developed to assess the knowledge that participants have regarding the different aspects of word knowledge. For data analysis I will use both quantitative and qualitative methods; statistical software (SPSS) will be employed to analyze the various word knowledge tests to determine which word knowledge aspects are known by the participants, and how well. Then, the data will be further examined from a qualitative point of view, examining how individual learner differences can affect the results.

The objectives of this study are relevant since there is a gap in knowledge regarding how these lexical dimensions are learnt, and knowledge about the learning of these components are important both for teaching a language and for developing research in this field. My findings can provide novel insights into overall vocabulary acquisition by pursuing this component approach, in contrast to the previous dichotomous 'knows/does not know' approach to vocabulary knowledge. This study will have practical applications for second language practitioners responsible for materials´ design, teaching and testing of a second language. If it is found that these components are learnt in a systematic sequence, knowing the sequence stage which students are at would tell us their vocabulary proficiency level. If, on the other hand, these individual components are found to be learnt in parallel, this would also be informative and would add to vocabulary theory building. Regardless of the findings, this study will provide insights into the internal relationship among the different components of vocabulary knowledge.

University of Nottingham:

  • Economic and Social Research Council (+3)
  • School of English Maintenance Grant (Year 3)

Obra social la Caixa:

University of León:

  • Premio Extraordinario Fin de Carrera, in Linguistics
  • Premio Extraordinario Fin de Carrera, in Education

Recent Publications

  • GONZÁLEZ FERNÁNDEZ, B. and SCHMITT, N., How much collocation knowledge do L2 learners have?: The effects of frequency and amount of exposure.: ITL International Journal of Applied Linguistics. ITL International Journal of Applied Linguistics.. (In Press.)
  • GONZÁLEZ FERNÁNDEZ, B. and SCHMITT, N., How much collocation knowledge do L2 learners have?: The effects of frequency and amount of exposure.: ITL International Journal of Applied Linguistics. ITL International Journal of Applied Linguistics.. (In Press.)

Centre for Research in Applied Linguistics

The University of Nottingham
Nottingham
NG7 2RD

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 5900
fax: +44 (0) 115 951 5924
email: cral@nottingham.ac.uk