- Does the EVP cover receptive or productive skills?
- Does the EVP take into account spoken language?
- If the EVP is based on the Cambridge Learner Corpus, to what extent does task affect skew the EVP’s findings?
- Why are compound nouns often at a higher level than the nouns which form them?
- Why are related words often at different levels?
- Should teachers only teach B1 words to B1 students?
- Why do some words not appear in the EVP?
- What constitutes a ‘phrase’ in the EVP?
We have not attempted to separate receptive competence from productive as, in reality, so much will depend on learning styles and priorities. In general, communicative classrooms in the 21st century provide more consistent opportunities for using new language than a generation ago. Added to that is the unlimited access that most students have to the internet, where they will be browsing but also actively participating through English.
Through the Cambridge Learner Corpus, we have direct evidence of when a word begins to be used by learners of English; when it becomes part of their productive repertoire. Productive skills usually follow receptive skills, so that research based on the CLC, coupled with our research into input texts and native speaker frequency, allows us to pinpoint the level of a word.
The EVP is informed by the learner corpus evidence which is currently available, which at the moment does not include spoken data. We have consulted spoken corpus evidence for first language use, however, along with the additional sources mentioned in 3.
3. If the EVP is based on the Cambridge Learner Corpus, to what extent does task affect skew the EVP’s findings?
The EVP is not solely based on the evidence in the CLC. In any case, the sheer size of the CLC, the number of scripts along with the number of different exam questions to which students respond goes some way towards addressing this problem. Some levels have less reliable data than others, e.g the task for the Key exam (A2) generates short answers to a fairly narrow range of topics. This is why additional sources have been used in the compilation of the EVP.
Other sources include:
- wordlists from leading coursebooks, readers wordlists and the content of vocabulary skills books.
- the Cambridge English Corpus, which was used to investigate first language frequency
- the Vocabulary Lists for the KET and PET examinations, which have been in use since 1994 and have been regularly updated to reflect language change and patterns of use.
- the Cambridge English Lexicon by Roland Hindmarsh. Even though it was published thirty years ago, it has proved invaluable as a checking source, where the language has not evolved over time; it too was organised at meaning level.
Finally, reviewers have also given their advice on level based on their classroom experience, and the resource has also been validated by outside experts and users for a period of 12 months, with changes made as a result.
This is largely to do with frequency. Just because a learner knows the word rain and the word forest, that does not mean that s/he will have come across the word rainforest. This is a much less common word than the other two, and therefore lower level learners cannot be expected to know it. Our sources indicate that B1 is the most appropriate level for this compound.
This is a similar question to the previous one and frequency is again a factor, combined with when the different words appear in classroom materials – and in the CLC evidence. Although words like different, differ, difference and differentiate might belong to the same word family, their frequency of use and their lexical complexity are not the same, which will mean that learners acquire them at different levels of proficiency. Just because a learner has grasped the word different does not mean that s/he will even have come across all the other words in that family. Of course, the learner might be able to guess at the meaning of words which are related to those they already know; but they may not be able to produce them themselves, understand the context in which they should be used, or understand nuances of meaning (eg the difference between differ, be different and differentiate).
Similarly, different meanings of the same word are encountered by learners at different levels of acquisition, rather than all at once. One of the important features of the EVP is that it operates at the level of individual meanings, unlike most wordlists. Many common English words are polysemous – that is, they have a number of meanings, some of which are quite distinct from the core meaning of a word, and which will be encountered by learners at different CEFR levels. The adjective cool for example, is used to mean ‘good’ at A2, and ‘slightly cold’ at B1. In the same way, cool used as a different part of speech, e.g. as a verb, ‘to make something less hot’ is at B2 level.
No – this is not a prescriptive syllabus. Students who have reached B1 level should already know B1 words and would therefore benefit from exposure to B2 words. As said, the EVP is descriptive, not prescriptive. The English Profile Programme as a whole aims to 'investigate what learner English is really like’ and describe what learners know and can do at each level. It isn’t meant to restrict teachers, but to help them by giving an indication of teaching and learning priorities.
The EVP is based on various sources, as listed in question 3. Words which either do not appear or are at very low frequency in those sources will not be included in the EVP. We encourage users to give us feedback on perceived omissions and always research these and reply to the feedback. This is a community resource.
Work on phrases in the EVP has been influenced by Ron Martinez, who argues that a ‘phrase’ is a lexical chunk of some kind (ie a group of two or more words which frequently occur together) where the meaning of the chunk differs in some way from the meaning of each word added together. So ‘a number of’ tends to mean ‘a large number of’ or ‘lots of’ rather than any more neutral, literal meaning, which would simply be any number, small or big. This makes ‘a number of’ a phrase.