Exploring the importance of vocabulary for English as an additional language learners’ reading comprehension

Main Article Content

Gavin Brooks
Jon Clenton
Simon Fraser


This exploratory study represents an attempt to investigate the factors that may affect the reading comprehension abilities of English as an additional language (EAL) learners. For this study, we examined a participant group of 31 (25 EAL and 6 first language English) learners studying at an international school in Japan. We assessed the participants according to four factors shown to influence reading comprehension: vocabulary knowledge, word decoding skills, reading fluency, and general linguistic ability. Our results show that differences in vocabulary knowledge show more variance in reading comprehension scores than the other factors examined in this study, highlighting the importance of vocabulary knowledge for reading comprehension. However, other factors such as reading fluency and general linguistic knowledge are also shown to be moderate to strong predictors of reading comprehension. Based on these results, we suggest that EAL learners need targeted language support to enhance academic text comprehension.


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Brooks, G., Clenton, J., & Fraser, S. (2021). Exploring the importance of vocabulary for English as an additional language learners’ reading comprehension. Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching, 11(3), 351-376. https://doi.org/10.14746/ssllt.2021.11.3.3
Author Biographies

Gavin Brooks, Kwansei Gakuin University, Sanda, Japan

Gavin Brooks is Associate Lecturer of English at the School of Policy Studies at Kwansei Gakuin University in Japan. His research interests include English as an additional language (EAL), vocabulary development, vocabulary assessment, and corpus linguistics. He has presented on the findings of his research at a number of international conferences, including AAAL, EuroSLA, and the TESOL Annual Convention, and has had his work published in several academic journals and as a chapter in an edited book.

Contact details: School of Policy Studies, Kwansei Gakuin University, 2-1 Gakuen, Sanda City, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan, 669-1337 (gavinbrooks@gmail.com)

Jon Clenton, Hiroshima University, Hiroshima, Japan

Jon Clenton, PhD, is Associate Professor of Applied Linguistics at Hiroshima University, Japan. His main research interests include the assessment of vocabulary knowledge, second language (L2) productive vocabulary development, productive vocabulary knowledge and fluency, second language acquisition, word-association studies, lexical processing, and L2 measurement tools. He has examined several vocabulary measurement tools, with a focus on attempts to isolate the construct of productive vocabulary knowledge. The findings of this area of research have resulted in several international journal article publications. He is also the co-editor of two recent book publications (Routledge): Vocabulary and the Four Skills, and First Language Influences on Multilingual Lexicons.

Contact details: The Graduate school of Humanities, Hiroshima University, 1-7-1 Kagamiyama, Higashi-Hiroshima City, Hiroshima, 739-8521 Japan (jclento‌n‌@‌hiroshima-u.ac.jp)

Simon Fraser, Hiroshima University, Hiroshima, Japan

Simon Fraser, PhD, is Professor at the Institute for Foreign Language Research and Education at Hiroshima University, Japan. His research interests include English for specific purposes (ESP), corpus linguistics, and L2 vocabulary development. His lexical analyses of medical English corpora have led to the development of medical English materials and wordlists, and he has published widely in this area. His interest in vocabulary extends to textbook writing, and he is currently working on a lexically-based course book for medical students.

Contact details: Institute for Foreign Language Research and Education, Hiroshima University, 1-7-1 Kagamiyama, Higashi-Hiroshima City, Hiroshima, 739-8521 Japan (fraser@hiroshima-u.ac.jp)


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