Converging Evidence on Vocabulary Acquisition: Another Look at Reynolds (2016)

In a previous post, I reviewed a recent study by Reynolds (2016) on the impact of frequency and “congnativeness” in vocabulary acquisition. It is worth discussing his data a bit further in order to compare his findings with Paul Nation’s (2014) estimates on the time efficiency of vocabulary acquisition through reading. Nation analyzed a series […]

I Know What You Shouldn’t Have Done Last Summer

Rachel R. Romeo, Joanna A. Christodoulou, Kelly K. Halverson, Jack Murtagh, Abigail B. Cyr, Carly Schimmel, Patricia Chang, Pamela E. Hook, John D.E. Gabrieli. Socioeconomic Status and Reading Disability: Neuroanatomy and Plasticity in Response to Intervention. Cerebral Cortex, 2017; 1 DOI: 10.1093/cercor/bhx131 (paywall) I admit that the opening paragraph of the MIT press release last week for […]

This Week In Language Education (June 16, 2017)

We’ll try doing This Week In Language Education a bit differently from now on. I find it more useful to post reviews and observations throughout the week rather than in one post, so I’ll use this weekly post for very short comments and quick takes/links that may be of interest. What is “Translanguaging”? I have come […]

Frequency and Cognate Effects in Vocabulary Acquisition

Reynolds, B. (2016). The effects of target word properties on the incidental acquisition of vocabulary through reading. TESL-EJ, 20(3), 1-31. Reading is the most powerful tool available to language acquirers for expanding and broadening vocabulary knowledge. Studies have found that while you have a low probability (around 5-15%) of picking up the meaning of an unknown […]

Does Vocabulary Instruction Improve Reading Comprehension?

Elleman, A. M., Lindo, E. J., Morphy, P., & Compton, D. L. (2009). The impact of vocabulary instruction on passage-level comprehension of school-age children: A meta-analysis. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 2(1), 1-44. One of the most widely-cited articles in the past 40 years on the impact of first-language vocabulary instruction on English reading […]

The IBM Computer Cloud of Unknowing

This press release is making the rounds this week, announcing a collaboration between Sesame Street and the letters I, B, and M. Big Bird and Big Blue are teaming up to do “learning in the cloud” with Jeopardy! champion Ken Jennings Watson the Super-Computer. Their first project together is called a “cognitive vocabulary learning app”: Watson’s augmented […]

The Existential Fallacy: If It Exists, It Must Be Taught

I stumbled across the following observation this morning from a 1983 technical report on reading comprehension by David Pearson and Margaret Gallagher: Existential Proofs The logic of existential proofs seems to be something like this: “If I can prove that a variable affects reading comprehension, then it becomes a candidate for future instructional manipulation. Even better, if […]

Forced “Pleasure Reading” May Get You Neither

Milliner, B (2017). One year of extensive reading on smartphones: A report. JALT Call Journal, 13(1), 49-58. Back in the 1980s, I spent my first year out of college working as a clerk in small clothing company (I majored in ancient history). There was a sign in the break room meant to provide a little […]

This Week In Language Education – May 19, 2017

An abbreviated edition of TWILE since I’m traveling this week and next. But there’s one study that can’t wait . . . Reading Your Way to a Higher TOEIC® Score Mason and Krashen (2017) present a summary of eight case studies on the effect of free reading (reading for fun) on scores for the Test […]

This Week In Language Education (May 12, 2017)

Can Talking to Your iPad Improve Your German? Schenker and Kraemer (2017) (Open Access) compared the speaking proficiency on the SOPI of two groups of college students studying second-semester German (N=52). Students in one group were given iPads for 13 weeks, and assigned three short (average: 75 seconds) speaking assignments each week which they had to record on their iPad. Assignments talking […]

This Week In Language Education: May 5, 2017

Winners of the Week: Books and Reading A new Dutch study published in Scientific Studies of Reading provides more support for the notion that access to books promotes reading, and reading improves comprehension. The researchers examined relationship between the home literacy environment, a child’s print exposure (amount of reading), and reading comprehension. “Home literacy environment” was a combined measure […]

This Week In Language Education: April 28, 2017

A Reverse Turing Test: Is Good Language Teaching Robot-Proof? The always brilliant Gene Glass provides a list of jobs that are “0% Automatable” (cannot be done by a robot) and “100% Automatable.” He uses the list to examine what schools teach and the future of our economy, but it is a question you may want to ask of your […]

Rakuten, Japan’s 21st Century Online Powerhouse, to Launch 19th Century Language School

One of the leading online retailers in Japan, Rakuten, is getting into the English-teaching business. According to their press release, their “Super English” lessons will use software developed by a new startup in the language teaching “space,” Here’s how Lingvist summarizes its system: Lingvist applies mathematical optimization and statistics to make the language-learning process as fast as it can theoretically […]

Memo to The American Conservative: Bilingual Education Will Not Actually Make Californians Bilingual

A writer at The American Conservative website has a long discussion on the supposed perils of bilingualism that, he believes, may soon come to pass now that California has voted to allow schools to use bilingual education in the teaching of English. Unhappily, the writer does not appear to have any actual knowledge of bilingual education programs. I […]

This Week In Language Education: April 21, 2017

Note: This post is an experiment in which I link to and comment on recent news and research developments in language education. It’s the sort of thing I’d like to get in my own email box each week, but since no one else seems willing to do it, I’ll give it a go. Why Language Learning Apps […]

What Kaplan and Princeton Review Don’t Want You to Know About the SAT

A recent article in the New York Times recommended that students from low-income backgrounds should prepare for the SAT (Scholastic Achievement Test) “like a rich kid” by spending hundreds of hours studying test prep books, visiting tutors, and taking online cram courses. This is very poor advice, whether you are rich or not. Most studies find […]

How to Eliminate Second Language Reading Anxiety (Without Drugs or Alcohol)

Zhou (2017) looked at what makes second language readers “anxious” when reading. The factors Zhou examined, including amount of study abroad, previous study in the language, heritage language background, and number of foreign languages studied, accounted for only about 15% of the anxiety measured. I think a better way of addressing this issue is to consider that reading anxiety is a […]

How Many Words Can You Acquire in a Year?

There is an exchange in the current issue of Reading in a Foreign Language regarding papers that Paul Nation and I published on the number of words one can acquire through free reading. The original papers are here: Nation (2014) McQuillan (2016) The exchange is here: Tom Cobb’s critique Paul Nation’s response My response I will add […]

In Case You Missed It: What Can Readers Read After Graded Readers?

Earlier this year I published an article in Reading in a Foreign Language about reading your way to fluency in English. Check it out here (free!).

Et tu, Wimpy Kid? What Teachers Get About Language Teaching that College Professors Don’t

There was an article on translating the first book of the popular Wimpy Kid series into Latin in today’s Wall Street Journal. The reporter interviewed a Latin teacher, the book’s publisher, and a college professor of classical languages. This is what the teacher said: “That’s so cool. I can’t wait,” says Ginny Lindzey, a veteran […]

Spelling Nonsense Words Requires Rules Useful in Spelling Nonsense Words

Study Reviewed:  P. Mitchell, N. Kemp, & P. Bryant. (2011). Variations among adults in their use of morphemic spelling rules and word-specific knowledge when spelling. Reading Research Quarterly, 46(2), 119-133. There’s no better way to start a discussion of almost any topic related to reading and writing than a quote from Frank Smith.  Here’s one […]

The Most Studied, Fastest Growing, and “Best Represented” Languages in U.S. Colleges

A recent post by Brad Peterson on the supposed popularity of Chinese language study around the world sent me digging for some data on the whole question of what foreign/modern languages are popular in U.S. schools and, well, what we mean by “popular.” There are at least three ways you could define popular when it […]

Rosetta Stone and “Falling out of Favor”: Claims without Empirical Support

Note: The following guest post by Stephen Krashen concerns an article recently reviewed on TBL. by Stephen Krashen  I comment on two statements in K. Nielson’s paper, “Self-study with language learning software in the workplace: What happens?” published in Language Learning and Technology, 2011, 15 (3): 110-129. The first is the claim that Rosetta Stone is […]

All Correction, All the Time: Is Written Error Correction Worth the Effort?

Studies reviewed: Evans, N., K.J. Hartshorn, R. McCollum, & M. Wolfersberger. (2010). Contextualizing corrective feedback in second language writing pedagogy. Language Teaching Research, 14(4), 445 -463. Hartshorn, K.J., N. Evans, P. Merrill, R. Sudweeks, D Strong-Krause, & N. Anderson. (2010). Effects of dynamic corrective feedback on ESL writing accuracy. TESOL Quarterly, 44(1), 84-109. Evans, N., K.J. […]

And Then There Were None: Surviving Foreign Language Study

Study Reviewed  Nielson, K. (2011). Self-study with language learning software in the workplace: What happens? Language Learning & Technology, 15(3), 110-129. Almost no one who studies a foreign language in the United States gets very far.  Millions of high school and college students show up to their Spanish or Chinese I classes in the hopes […]

Is The Library Important? Multivariate Studies at the National and International Level

Stephen Krashen, University of Southern California Syying Lee, National Taipei University Jeff. McQuillan, Center for Educational Development Citation: Krashen, S., Lee, S., & McQuillan, J. (2012). Is the Library Important? Multivariate Studies at the National and International Level. Journal of Language and Literacy Education [Online], 8(1), 26-38. Available at  Abstract Three multivariate analyses, all controlling for the […]

Welcome to The Backseat Linguist!

The Backseat Linguist is my personal project, allowing me to comment on and post research related to second language acquisition and language education in general.  It has no official association with my job as host of English as a Second Language Podcast, and the opinions expressed here are strictly my own. This blog is “backseat” […]