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Something rotten in the Danish language classrooms? A short overview of research on vocabulary size and depth of Danish learners of English

Gjesteforelesning med Birgit Henriksen, Universitetet i Kjøpenhavn

Birgit Henriksen

Guest Lecturer Birgit Henriksen,

University of Copenhagen                                                                        

Something rotten in the Danish language classrooms? A short overview of research on vocabulary size and depth of Danish learners of English

Danes are generally thought of as being highly proficient in foreign languages, especially in English. English is taught as the first FL already very early on in primary school and is viewed as an important school subject all through the educational system. English is also used in various professional as well as informal contexts outside the classroom, so Danes experience a high degree of exposure to English in their everyday life. We would therefore expect fairly good results on various types of vocabulary measurements, which are known to correlate with general language skills.

Some recent vocabulary studies, however, paint a much bleaker and somewhat unexpected picture of the vocabulary knowledge of Danish L2 learners. The presentation gives an overview of results from a range of studies of the vocabulary size and depth of Danish learners from different levels of the educational system and discusses possible reasons for these discouraging results.

Is something wrong with the teaching approaches in the language classroom, are we simply testing them in the wrong way or are we interpreting the results too narrowly without considering the potentials of different types of compensatory strategies? Or do the learners’ basically feel that their communicative skills are good enough and therefore feel no urge to develop further? The presentation will also discuss various procedures which may be taken to increase language learners’ vocabulary acquisition.