Paul Nation Interview from darren elliott on Vimeo.

Paul Nation is  a researcher, teacher and teacher trainer best known for his research into vocabulary learning and acquisition. This interview was conducted by Darren Elliott for www.livesofteachers.com

He presented twice at the ETJ Chubu Expo on Sunday, and between presentations was kind enough to answer a few questions. As you would expect we discussed vocabulary, and Paul’s answers were thoughtful and optimistic for the directions that language teaching is taking. The book we refer to in the interview is Michael West’s “A General Service List of English Words“, a hand counted and analysed list of high-frequency words, published more than fifty years ago and in many ways not yet bettered.

I also attended the first of Paul’s presentations,  in which he emphasised the importance of a balanced curriculum of four strands. Teachers need to ensure that students participate in meaning focused input and output, in language focused learning (deliberate study) and in fluency development activities in equal measures. Although Paul is primarily a researcher, he is a great communicator of serious ideas with humour and clarity (a point I was trying to make in the interview, but listening back it sounds like I told him he needs to buck up a bit…. sorry!). If you get a chance to see him present, then please do so!

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5 Thoughts on “an interview with paul nation

  1. Regarding West’s GSL, which was mentioned several times in the interview, recent research shows that the first thousand words of the GSL (also referred to as K1) are still relevant and valid. However, the second thousand words of the GSL (also referred to as K2) are much more problematic. This was picked up on early by Engels (Engels, L.K. (1968). The fallacy of word counts. IRAL 6: 213-231.) A much more recent analysis into the problems of the GSL, and new approaches to word lists, can be found in Hancioglu, N., Neufeld, S., & Eldridge, J. (2008). Through the looking glass and into the land of lexico-grammar. English for Specific Purposes 27/4, 459-479 doi:10.1016/j.esp.2008.08.001 Of course, there were attempts along the way to improve the deficiencies in K2 and the idiosyncracies of the GSL (See Bauman’s revised GSL list at http://jbauman.com/), and there are some really good examples of a fresh approach, such as the ‘GLOBISH’ approach (dealing with the English spoken between non-native speakers of English) and Joachim Grzega’s Basic Global English (http://www.basicglobalenglish.com/). The lexitronics group was nominated for the 2009 BC ELTons awards in innovation in EFL for their work on the BNL2709 (see http://lexitronics.edublogs.org) and has a web-based vocabulary profiler for BNL2709 hosted by Tom Cobb at this famous Lextutor site (http://lextutor.ca). BNL2709 seems to have inspired several other similar projects, such the OUP3000 at http://www.oup.com/elt/catalogue/teachersites/oald7/oxford_3000/oxford_3000_list?cc=global – the principles behind this list are less clear than the GSL, BGE or BNL2709, but it is nice to see a big publisher like OUP get behind the wordlist movement. Some recent research by lexitronics has lead to a draft lexical syllabus (known as the Common English Lexical Framework) of interest to any teacher involved in CLIL. Anyone interested can see and download the CELF and the research principles behind it at the Lexitronics SCRIBD channel at http://scribd.com/lexitronics.

    With regard to the ‘re-issue’ of the GSL–I’m surprised Mr Nation didn’t mention that the complete version of the GSL is available at Dickins, J. Extended version of a General Service List of English words [Data file]. Retrieved from . A remarkable effort by Dr Dickins that seems to have largely been ignored. Not quite sure what would be gained want to publish another version of this list, especially as the GSL is now much more of historical interest as an artifact of the research and is largely being superseded by the corpus-informed revolution. We do owe a lot to Michael West, but I suspect that if he were alive today, he would be the first to put his 1953 edition on the shelf and turn on his computer. ;) A fascinating biography of Micheal West can be found at http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/al/research/collect/elt_archive/halloffame/west/life – well worth a read.

    Of course

  2. Oooppssss….the link to the version of the GSL was lost in my previous post. Here is the second paragraph with the link intact.

    With regard to the ‘re-issue’ of the GSL–I’m surprised Mr Nation didn’t mention that the complete version of the GSL is available at Dickins, J. Extended version of a General Service List of English words [Data file]. Retrieved from http://www.languages.salford.ac.uk/staff/dickins/GSLlist2.xls. A remarkable effort by Dr Dickins that seems to have largely been ignored. Not quite sure what would be gained want to publish another version of this list, especially as the GSL is now much more of historical interest as an artifact of the research and is largely being superseded by the corpus-informed revolution. We do owe a lot to Michael West, but I suspect that if he were alive today, he would be the first to put his 1953 edition on the shelf and turn on his computer. ;) A fascinating biography of Micheal West can be found at http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/al/research/collect/elt_archive/halloffame/west/life – well worth a read.

  3. darren on October 28, 2009 at 4:58 pm said:

    Thanks Steve, these links should keep me busy for a few days. I can answer one of your points though – I don’t doubt the huge job that Dr. Dickins has put in, but having held an actual paper copy of the original I can certainly see how it beats an excel document for usability.

    That Warwick site is something else though!

  4. Pingback: the lives of teachers » Blog Archive » an interview with scott thornbury

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