The Myth Around Written Productive Vocabulary Knowledge: The Case Of Native Speakers Versus Advanced English Second Language Learners In Two European Universities

  • TJ Kekana, MJ Mogoboya


This study sets out to analyse and profile the English productive lexical knowledge of the university students who are non-native speakers of English and those who are native speakers of English. The impetus was to make a case and to challenge the tacit and poignant assumption that English Second Language (ESL) learners cannot attain the English lexical knowledge level similar to that of English first language speakers. This idea is nuanced differently in different language research papers. To put this idea to test, an investigation, using a self-designed completion test modelled on Paribakht and Wesche (1993) Vocabulary Knowledge Scale (VKS), was carried out with three different groups of university students. This test contained specifically selected words taken from a commonly used proficiency test for Dutch students in the Netherlands. The learners were intermediate, advanced learners of English, and leaners of English who were first language speakers of English. The crux of this investigation was on the participants’ productive word knowledge at different levels. Therefore, the first level was the Breadth level (Micro) and the second was the Depth level (Macro). Major differences were found between the intermediate, and leaners whose English is their first language. However, no significant differences were found between the advanced, and learners whose English is their first language. It was found that ESL learners could attain a level of word knowledge similar to that of a first language speaker of English. This study, therefore, underscores the importance of meta-linguistic hypothesis in word knowledge acquisition.