The article “Exploring the Relationship between Language Aptitude, Vocabulary Size, and EFL Graduate Students’ L2 Writing Performance” in TESOL Quarterly by Yingli Yang, Ya Sun et al. of the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing, China examines the relationship between language aptitude and L2 writing performance. The study tested sixty-seven Chinese grad students on a battery of language-aptitude and vocabulary tests.

One interesting outcome relates to modes of vocabulary fluency. Yang et al. report significant correlation regarding receptive vocabulary:

It is interesting to note that receptive vocabulary size showed a stronger correlation with L2 writing score than productive vocabulary size. One possible reason is that the limited time and the fixed content of the narrative task did not allow students to use a variety of productive vocabulary.

(Yang et al., 2019)

They also point out that limitations in vocabulary corpora may fail to capture the benefits of advanced vocabulary competency:

It is possible that higher proficiency graduate students in our study whose receptive vocabulary size reached beyond this threshold are more adept at timed writing and therefore their vocabulary size could predict the variance in their L2 writing scores.

(Yang et al., 2019)

Overall, Yang et al. found that skills related to analysis and vocabulary play integral roles in developing L2 writing proficiency. They also point out the benefits of activities designed to activate vocabulary schema before a writing task; thereby, stimulating receptive vocabulary faculties. Lastly, they suggest that “teachers could design tasks that train learner’s analytical thinking ability, which will facilitate the process of retrieving lexical items, formulating syntactic structures, and organizing ideas into a coherent text” (Yang et al., 2019).



Yang, Y., Sun, Y., Chang, P., & Li, Y. (2019) Exploring the relationship between language aptitude, vocabulary size, and EFL graduate students’ L2 writing performance. TESOL Quarterly, 0(0): doi:10.1002/tesq.510

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