Language Frequency Profiling of Written Texts by Students of German as a Foreign Language
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The present work contributes to the ongoing discussion of the factors involved in perfecting foreign language learning through a close examination of vocabulary use. Motivated by Laufer’s (1991) argument that the use of less frequent vocabulary items is a sign that a language learner is approximating the lexical competence of a native speaker, I set out to model Laufer and Nation’s (1995) study that assessed lexical frequency. The first goal of this work was to assess the usefulness of the lexical frequency profile (Laufer and Nation, 1995) in evaluating written texts produced by learners of German. This lexical frequency profile had mostly been used to examine vocabulary use of learners of English. Instead of using frequency bands of German, this work relied on three generated word frequency lists. The second goal of this work was to examine how the language repertoire of aspiring bilinguals varies at the lexical level by comparing vocabulary use at three competency levels (Introductory German I, II and Intermediate German). The analysis revealed that the lexical frequency profile is a valuable tool for evaluating lexical use by language learners, although the tool was difficult to adapt for research of texts in German. Furthermore, learners in all three courses relied heavily on vocabulary from learning materials used in their courses, and they were more likely to use less frequent words as they progressed from the introductory to the intermediate language course.