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Standardized and tailor-made tests probe different factors influencing the acquisition of second language vocabulary by children

Marta Marecka ORCID logo, Agnieszka Otwinowska ORCID logo and Anna Jelec ORCID logo


Studies investigating the relationship between phonological short term memory, phonological awareness and vocabulary in L2 child learners yield mixed results. Those differences may be caused by the vocabulary assessment tools used in research. Tailor-made vocabulary tests based on the input the L2 learners receive may deliver different results than standardized tests based on L1 norms. To investigate this assumption, we examined the effect of phonological short-term memory and phonological awareness on L2 vocabulary size in child learners using a standardized and a tailor-made test based on L2 participants’ textbooks. The results of both tests were correlated, indicating that they measured the same construct. Results of both tests were influenced by children’s English phonological awareness scores, but while the Standardized Test was related to phonological short-term memory scores, the Textbook Test was related to nonverbal IQ. We suggest that standardised and tailor-made tests tap into two different modes of vocabulary acquisition.

Funding statement: This work was support by the Narodowe Centrum Nauki, Grant Number: 2012/07/N/HS6/00415.


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Appendix: The items from the Textbook Test along with the naming accuracies in Polish and English as recorded in the pilot studies

Naming accuracy in Polish Naming accuracy in English
Dog 100.00 % 100.00 %
Ball 95.00 % 97.00%
Cat 100.00 % 97.00%
Egg 100.00 % 97.00%
Fish 100.00 % 94.00 %
T-shirt 100.00 % 92.00%
Swim 95.00 % 91.00%
Computer 94.00 % 86.00%
Dress 89.00 % 86.00%
Grandma 84.00 % 86.00%
Ice-cream 100.00 % 86.00%
Jump 95.00 % 83.00%
Chair 95.00 % 80.00 %
Hat 100.00 % 80.00 %
Horse 100.00 % 80.00 %
House 100.00 % 80.00 %
Salad 100.00 % 80.00 %
Kitchen 100.00 % 77.00 %
Run 100.00 % 77.00 %
Bird 89.00 % 72.00 %
Mouth 100.00 % 72.00 %
Leg 100.00 % 71.00 %
Chicken 84.00 % 69.00 %
Eye 100.00 % 69.00 %
Ear 100.00 % 66.00 %
Fly 84.00 % 63.00 %
Sun 94.00 % 61.00 %
Bathroom 94.00 % 56.00 %
Princess 89.00 % 53.00 %
Food 84.00 % 46.00 %
Animals 94.00 % 44.00 %
Spaghetti 78.00 % 42.00 %
Play football 79.00 % 40.00 %
Cake 100.00 % 39.00 %
Living room 78.00 % 35.00 %
Rain 84.00 % 34.00 %
Walk 95.00 % 31.00 %
Eat 100.00 % 23.00 %
Read 89.00 % 22.00 %
Sing 100.00 % 22.00 %
Write 89.00 % 17.00 %
Painting 84.00 % 9.00 %
Bedroom 32.00 % not used in the final test
Grandpa 63.00 % not used in the final test
Play tennis 67.00 % not used in the final test
Snow 63.00 % not used in the final test
Published Online: 2019-02-06
Published in Print: 2021-09-27

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