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Frequency Analysis of Academic Words in Malaysian Secondary School English as Second Language Textbooks: A Corpus Study

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The development of Academic Word List (AWL) has raised awareness on the usefulness of general academic vocabulary among English as second language (ESL) learners especially in expanding their vocabulary size as well as constructing strong academic language foundation for their university education. This highlights the relevancy and necessity of AWL embedment into ESL reading materials such as textbooks frequently used by learners in their language studies prior to the start of their tertiary study. In this study, we conducted a corpus-based research on the current English language textbooks used in Malaysian secondary schools in order to inspect whether similar standing on the importance of academic words were shared by the authors of the textbooks through the inclusion of the AWL into the textbooks corpus. Using the Range software, the data analysis revealed that 480 (84%) out of 570 AWL words were found in the corpus. However the findings on the frequency of each of the AWL words showed that only 237 (41.6%) word families occurred at least 10 times while the rest consist of 333 word families (58.4%) are found either occurring on average frequency between five to nine times, between one to four times or not found at all in the textbook corpus. These findings indicate the lack of frequency of academic words in the Malaysian English Language Textbooks corpus. Without adequate exposure to academic words, students would not be able to acquire the words fully before the start of their undergraduate studies. Thus, the current textbooks must to be updated to meet the learners’ academic words needs.
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Keywords: Academic Words; Corpus; ESL Textbook; Frequency Analysis

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Language Academy, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia Kuala Lumpur, 54100 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 2: School of Education and Modern Languages, College of Arts and Sciences, Universiti Utara Malaysia, 06010 Kedah, Malaysia

Publication date: April 1, 2017

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