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emk
Diglot
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 Message 161 of 295
23 September 2014 at 8:06pm | IP Logged 
daegga wrote:
If you take the scale from the XLex test, this doesn't look bad at all. If it were English, that would put you at a high B1/low B2. In French it would put you in the C1 area. I think German should be somewhere in between in terms of vocabulary needed, so it looks like a solid B2 to me.

The XLex/CEFR numbers in Milton are junk, for two reasons:

1. The students' CEFR levels were assessed by what course sections their teachers had put them into. And we know how dubious those assessments can be.
2. XLex only measures the top 5,000 words, which potentially runs into a ceiling effect for B2 and above.

In fact, CEFR vocabulary estimates are total mess, with virtually no agreement between researchers, as you can see from this chart from Kusseling & Decoo:



Clearly, researchers are using wildly different methodologies, and a lot of these studies are less rigorous than I might desire. In particular, it's far from clear if anybody actually made students sit down and take a well-calibrated CEFR exam when doing these studies.

patrickwilken wrote:
For German however, I do really quite badly. For the 1000, 2000, 3000, 4000, 5000 word levels I get: 28/30; 17/30; 20/30; 18/30; 13/30 (didn't finish all the questions for the last so perhaps that would have been a bit higher).

patrickwilken wrote:
Thanks. According to the test homepage, this puts me below A2, which doesn't make any sense to me.

I passed 5/5 sections for French, and it was pretty tricky. They're not measuring passive vocab as such—some of the clues were quite tricky, and you needed to know quite a bit about how some words are used in the real world.

But I totally disagree with their interpretations:

Quote:
The results achieved on the vocabulary tests allow conclusions as to participants' reading proficiency level as laid down in the CEFR. Successful completion of levels 1000 and 2000 indicates a reading level of A2. Knowledge of the most frequent 3000 words suggests a reading level of B1. Completing all five levels implies a reading level of B2.

I passed my DELF B2 exam by a very comfortable margin (over half again as many points as I needed), and I doubt I would have passed levels 4 or 5 back then. It's possible I might even have missed level 3. And as Serpent and I have often discussed, we think the DELF B2 actually runs a little bit hard for a B2 exam.

Now, I'd be the first person to suggest a 5,000+ word vocabulary for the DELF B2. But you don't need to know the nuances of the words nearly as well as this exam demands—you don't need solid knowledge of 27 out of every 30 words in each band.

Still, despite my problems with their interpretation, their French passive vocab test is really well done.
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daegga
Tetraglot
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Austria
lang-8.com/553301
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 Message 162 of 295
23 September 2014 at 10:10pm | IP Logged 
patrickwilken wrote:

Can you explain why different languages show different levels? I would have assumed that
French, English and German would have all been approximately the same.


I would assume that it depends on the number of common (near-)synonyms and how nuanced the
meaning of the words is. English is pretty rich in that regard, which means you need to
know more words than in other languages in order to get the same coverage, especially at
the higher levels.


emk wrote:

But I totally disagree with their leipzig.de/static/informationeneng.html">interpretations:

Quote:
The results achieved on the vocabulary tests allow conclusions as to participants'
reading proficiency level as laid down in the CEFR. Successful completion of levels 1000
and 2000 indicates a reading level of A2. Knowledge of the most frequent 3000 words
suggests a reading level of B1. Completing all five levels implies a reading level of B2.

I passed my DELF B2 exam by a very comfortable margin (over half again as many points as I
needed), and I doubt I would have passed levels 4 or 5 back then. It's possible I might
even have missed level 3. And as Serpent and I have often discussed, we think the DELF B2
actually runs a little bit hard for a B2 exam.


I guess they assume that people would learn vocabulary by reading through a frequency
list. They ignore the fact that holes in the top5000 can be filled by knowing vocabulary
outside this range (in order to get to the 95+% coverage of word tokens in a text). This
is better handled in the Milton scale but yeah, it has its problems too. I prefer the
test in DIALANG (and I do not mean the lexical decision test, just to be clear), at least
they gave it some thought and did not just sample a frequency list.

Edited by daegga on 23 September 2014 at 10:12pm

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BAnna
Triglot
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 Message 163 of 295
24 September 2014 at 1:45am | IP Logged 
I found the results for the passive v. active versions of the test to be most revealing (the active version probably does a better job at overcoming the ceiling effect emk mentions).

For English (native) I scored: 5/5 passive 99.3%, active 93.3% (eek,that's bad, but I did this one last and blasted through it as quickly as possible...)
Spanish 5/5 passive 94.7%, active 70%
German 4/5 passive 94.0%, active 56.7%

The gap between passive and active knowledge is what depresses me...

For what it's worth, these results are consistent with my own completely non-scientific assessment of my skills in those languages, so not bad for a quick test to look at progress, but of course it doesn't account for listening skills or free active vocabulary use (writing) and their interpretation seems to lowball a bit. To confirm what others have said, I can easily read B2 materials in German, even if I only got 25/30 on the last level so didn't make the official cutoff. Thanks for sharing the link.




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patrickwilken
Senior Member
Germany
radiant-flux.net
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Studies: German

 
 Message 164 of 295
24 September 2014 at 9:32am | IP Logged 
Daegga, BAnna, and EMK, thanks for taking the time to comment. Much appreciated!

emk wrote:

In fact, CEFR vocabulary estimates are total mess, with virtually no agreement between researchers, as you can see from this chart from Kusseling & Decoo:



Clearly, researchers are using wildly different methodologies, and a lot of these studies are less rigorous than I might desire. In particular, it's far from clear if anybody actually made students sit down and take a well-calibrated CEFR exam when doing these studies.


Wow. What a weird list. Instituto Cervantes was clearly high when they made the their estimates - or more charitably just have a different understanding of what a "word" entails (as does Rolland & Picoche).

My own view, based a lot from the work of Nation and others, is that you need a receptive vocabulary of about 8000-9000 words (at least in English) to understand about 98% of most written text. This figure also interestingly corresponds to the vocabulary range of students doing a higher degree in their L2. Native speakers are in the 20000 word range, and since C2 speakers clearly understand better than 99% of all words in a standard book, it seems that C2 vocabulary must be significantly above >9000 words (perhaps +15000).

So then as total guesstimates:

C2: +15000 words
C1: >8000 words
B2: >4000 words
B1: >2000 words
A2: >1000 words
A1: >500 words

I would curious if anyone things these sorts of figures seem reasonable.

emk wrote:


But I totally disagree with their interpretations:

Quote:
The results achieved on the vocabulary tests allow conclusions as to participants' reading proficiency level as laid down in the CEFR. Successful completion of levels 1000 and 2000 indicates a reading level of A2. Knowledge of the most frequent 3000 words suggests a reading level of B1. Completing all five levels implies a reading level of B2.


I agree with you. They are apparently making the assumption that language learning follows a fairly linear path through all the word levels. That's certainly not my result, which apart from the 1000-word range, was fairly flat with my knowing about 2/3 of the words in 2000, 3000, 4000 and perhaps 5000 range. My wife, who speaks Italian, had a similar result: at ceiling for 1000, but then about 2/3 of words for the other bands. I would estimate her level also B2.

Interestingly we both learnt our vocabulary extensively. She studied in Naples for a year, and lived in a shared-household with eight Italians. Apparently no one spoke either English or German, so she was forced to learn Italian very quickly after she arrived. I learnt my vocabulary by reading novels and watching films.

Our approaches to vocabulary learning could be considered somewhat "narrow", at least in the sense that we didn't read newspapers and the like. Perhaps our missing vocabulary can be explained from this 'narrowish' approach.

Last night I watched Luc Besson's 'The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc' as well as the Coen brother's 'A serious man' with at least 98% understanding. I am also currently reading Jurassic Park with at least 98% vocabulary understanding. There are plenty of books, and certainly some films, where my understanding is weaker, but the estimate that my level is <A2, can't be accurate.



If you think of the entire corpus of a language as a tree, with each point in the tree corresponding to a word, the height of the tree its relative frequency across the whole corpus, then the words at the base of the trunk represent the most frequent words, and the branches, and twigs more specialized vocabulary. You could imagine a particular genre like crime fiction starting at the trunk and working it's way up through a particular set of branches. I think the assumption made by the developers of this test is that there is no branching in the tree until after at least the 3000 (and perhaps 5000) word level. I think my results somewhat undercut this, and that the trunk of the tree starts branching much earlier on, perhaps at the 1000-2000 word range.




Edited by patrickwilken on 24 September 2014 at 11:33am

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patrickwilken
Senior Member
Germany
radiant-flux.net
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Studies: German

 
 Message 165 of 295
25 September 2014 at 12:38pm | IP Logged 
Here is a very nice resource for those looking for new contemporary German literature:

New Books in German
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BAnna
Triglot
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Speaks: English*, German, Spanish
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 Message 166 of 295
25 September 2014 at 8:58pm | IP Logged 
From a blog about vocabulary (has also information of the importance of reading lots of fiction to improve one's vocabulary):
Test Your Vocabulary

Lots of cool graphs there, but to quote a summary from their survey results:

"(Note that "native" here is short for "native speakers of English", or people who speak English as a first language, and "foreign" is short for "non-native learners of English." And remember that these statistics are based on self-selected survey participants who are the kind of people who take vocabulary tests on the Internet, and not necessarily representative of the population as a whole.)

    Most adult native test-takers range from 20,000 to 35,000 words
    Average native test-takers of age 8 already know 10,000 words
    Average native test-takers of age 4 already know 5,000 words
    Adult native test-takers learn almost 1 new word a day until middle age
    Adult test-taker vocabulary growth basically stops at middle age

    The most common vocabulary size for foreign test-takers is 4,500 words
    Foreign test-takers tend to reach over 10,000 words by living abroad
    Foreign test-takers learn 2.5 new words a day while living in an English-speaking country

    Native adult vocabulary size appears to be principally determined by
    reading habits between ages 4 and 15
    For native vocabulary growth, reading fiction specifically is just as important as reading in general
    Native test-taker children who read "lots" learn 4 new words a day
    Native test-taker children who read "somewhat" learn 2.5 new words a day
    Native test-taker children who read "not much" learn 1.5 new words a day"

So, yes, many us even after a lot of effort have the vocabulary level of a 4 to 5 year old native speaker...at least you live in the country whose language you're learning, so you have a good chance to achieve the vocabulary level of an 8 year old. ;)
Somewhere on that site they also talk about how non-natives when speaking tend to use more sophisticated vocabulary, typically academic or cognates with their native language(lower frequency words), but use much simpler sentence structures than a native speaker would when using the same level of vocabulary.

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Serpent
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Russian Federation
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 Message 167 of 295
25 September 2014 at 9:44pm | IP Logged 
BAnna wrote:
I found the results for the passive v. active versions of the test to be most revealing (the active version probably does a better job at overcoming the ceiling effect emk mentions).
...

The gap between passive and active knowledge is what depresses me...

The active test has its own limits, since it assumes that the context will make you think of the word. But I found at least the Portuguese sentences terribly boring and too subtle. I think the active test has a bias towards formal learning and especially vocabulary exercises.

as for doing it again, it seems like the words are always the same, so eventually you'd get used to the specific test. i'd wait longer than 6 months tbh.
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patrickwilken
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Germany
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Studies: German

 
 Message 168 of 295
25 September 2014 at 11:57pm | IP Logged 
BAnna wrote:
From a blog about vocabulary (has also information of the importance of reading lots of fiction to improve one's vocabulary):
Test Your Vocabulary


Thanks so much for the link. Since we are both basically learning languages through reading these results are really reassuring. It's amazing how big a difference reading makes to vocabulary learning in children or for that matter adults.

My English estimate is 34300 words, so at least I know a fair number of words in English if not German (yet).

In one of the other graphs they show that years of living in the country really helps, with people living for 10 years in an English speaking country having an estimated vocabulary just under 18000 words. So there is hope, it just takes years to get there. :)

Edited by patrickwilken on 26 September 2014 at 12:09am



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