Measuring receptive collocational competence across proficiency levels

  • Déogratias Nizonkiza North-West University (Potchefstroom Campus) and the University of Burundi School of Languages
Keywords: receptive knowledge of collocations, English as Foreign Language (EFL), linguistic proficiency, word frequency


The present study investigates, (i) English as Foreign Language (EFL) learners’ receptive collocational knowledge growth in relation to their linguistic proficiency level; (ii) how much receptive collocational knowledge is acquired as proficiency develops; and (iii) the extent to which receptive knowledge of collocations of EFL learners varies across word frequency bands. A proficiency measure and a collocation test were administered to English majors at the University of Burundi. Results of the study suggest that receptive collocational competence develops alongside EFL learners’ linguistic proficiency; which lends empirical support to Gyllstad (2007, 2009) and Author (2011) among others, who reported similar findings. Furthermore, EFL learners’ collocations growth seems to be quantifiable wherein both linguistic proficiency level and word frequency occupy a crucial role. While more gains in terms of collocations that EFL learners could potentially add as a result of change in proficiency are found at lower levels of proficiency; collocations of words from more frequent word bands seem to be mastered first, and more gains are found at more frequent word bands. These results confirm earlier findings on the non-linearity nature of vocabulary growth (cf. Meara 1996) and the fundamental role played by frequency in word knowledge for vocabulary in general (Nation 1983, 1990, Nation and Beglar 2007), which are extended here to collocations knowledge.


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Author Biography

Déogratias Nizonkiza, North-West University (Potchefstroom Campus) and the University of Burundi School of Languages
Dr Déogratias Nizonkiza is a Postdoctoral researcher at North-West University (Potchefstroom Campus), South Africa; investigating the relationship between knowledge of collocations and academic literacy. He is also affiliated with the University of Burundi, where he teaches at the Department of English Language and Literature.His research interests include among other things, the relationship between vocabulary knowledge and foreign/second language (L2/FL ) proficiency; collocations growth, testing, and teaching; the role of collocations in academic texts; the role of collocations in academic literacy; and blended learning/teaching.