and Lexical/Semantic Skill in Foreign Language Reading: Importance
Marva A. Barnett
In The Modern Language Journal 70 (1986): 343-349.
Winner of the 1987 Paul Pimsleur Award for Research in Foreign
Language Education awarded by ACTFL.
studies of the second/foreign language reading process, a number
of factors are pertinent, including perception of print, reader's
background knowledge and interest in the text, individual facility
with various reading strategies, and knowledge of language, including
grammar control and vocabulary range. This experiment with second-year
university-level students of French reading original short stories
examines the role of vocabulary and grammar for these readers.
Is it true, as certain theorists have maintained, that vocabulary
is the most important factor for success in foreign language reading
comprehension? How much do readers depend upon syntax to get meaning
from a text?
study shows that, as expected, both syntactic and vocabulary proficiency
affect reading comprehension. Still, unduly stressing vocabulary-building
or inferencing skills may very well not help those students who
lack adequate syntactic knowledge. Both sets of skills appear
to be necessary to these English speakers' reading comprehension
of French, and they interact with each other, independent of difficulty
level of the texts. Recommendations for further study and consideration
of pedagogical applications are included.