Saturday, November 22, 2014

Extensive reading, not study, is the best way to increase vocabulary

Sent to the Korea Herald, November 22, 2014
Prof. Kwang-Yoon ("Proficient process to get linguistic edge, Nov. 20) suggests that programs offer students special texts with "key vocabulary" for students to study to improve their English.  He acknowledges that many studies show that self-selected reading for pleasure is a powerful source of vocabulary knowledge, but argues that a "modified extensive reading program" is called for because it is not realistic: students demand "quick, visible results." 
But self-selected pleasure reading is very fast: only 400 hours of self-selected voluntary reading (an hour a day for one year), will bring English learners to the 6000 word level, enough to recognize 98% of the words in Twilight and John Grisham's novels. Studies also confirm that gradually absorbing words through reading is more effective than direct study and the words are remembered longer.
Also, books we choose ourselves, that we want to read, are very pleasant, sometimes so pleasant it is hard for readers to stop reading.  It is doubtful that students will stick with word study from isolated passages.
The effort and cost of carefully assembling passages for word study would be much better spent making collections of very interesting and comprehensible books for English language students.

Beniko Mason
Shitennooji University Junior College,
Osaka, Japan

Jeff McQuillan
Center for Educational Development
Los Angeles, CA USA

Stephen Krashen
University of Southern California (Emeritus)
Los Angeles, CA USA

Original article:


  1. Everyone needs to learn new vocabulary, because is the key to improve our english or any language, even our mother tongue. English vocabulary is enormous, incorporating words from a multitude of languages. acts as a useful resource to increase vocabulary.

  2. This is an example of a learning strategy and not all learners engage well or self select to use it. When reading students still need to be made aware of strategies of finding out about words and their meanings as they develop their vocabulary base so that they can come to know them, their synonyms, antonyms and other inflections. Reading alone cannot lead students to vocabulary acquisition.