Vocabulary Size, Reading Proficiency and Curricular Design: The Case of College Chinese, Russian and Spanish

  • Jane F. HackingEmail author
  • Fernando Rubio
  • Erwin Tschirner
Part of the Educational Linguistics book series (EDUL, volume 37)


A key goal of college foreign language study is L2 literacy development and literary texts from the target culture form the backbone of upper division curricula. Much of the empirical research to date on vocabulary size and reading proficiency has focused on learners of English. This article presents data on the reading proficiency level of 155 college students of Chinese (N = 46), Russian (N = 48) and Spanish (N = 61) and considers these results in terms of these same students’ receptive vocabulary knowledge in the language. The study shows very high correlations between reading proficiency and receptive vocabulary size and that, in general, the vocabulary sizes of the college students participating in the study were not sufficient to read at the Advanced level. We suggest that programs and instructors consider a more intentional approach to vocabulary learning across the curriculum.


Reading Proficiency Vocabulary Postsecondary Assessment Chinese Russian Spanish 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jane F. Hacking
    • 1
    Email author
  • Fernando Rubio
    • 2
  • Erwin Tschirner
    • 3
  1. 1.World Languages and CulturesUniversity of UtahSalt Lake CityUSA
  2. 2.Second Language Teaching and Research CenterUniversity of UtahSalt Lake CityUSA
  3. 3.Herder InstituteUniversity of LeipzigLeipzigGermany

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