Exploring L2 English Proficiency and Translation of Academic English Vocabulary

  • Kimberly Skjelde University of Bergen


Knowledge of academic English vocabulary is essential for upper secondary L2 English learners preparing for university studies, yet previous research suggests students in Scandinavian settings may need support to acquire this lexis (Edgarsson, 2017; Henriksen & Danelund, 2015). The abundance of Graeco-Latin cognates between European languages and academic English has been shown to lessen the learning burden of academic English vocabulary for speakers of Romance languages (Cobb, 2000; Petrescu et al., 2017). However, less research has been conducted for speakers of Scandinavian languages who also have appropriate translations of Germanic origin for this vocabulary. Interestingly, previous studies have indicated that proficient Norwegian-speaking students taking tertiary studies made extensive use of Graeco-Latin cognates when translating academic English vocabulary, but research has yet to expand this investigation to upper secondary students and across proficiency levels. Therefore, the current study investigated if Norwegian-speaking students (N= 132) in their first year of upper secondary education produced Graeco-Latin cognates when translating academic English. Findings showed extensive use of L1 Latinate cognate forms to translate the English target words. However, less proficient learners had significantly fewer cognate translations and significantly more untranslated target words than more proficient learners. Findings suggest that in-class instruction raising awareness of Graeco-Latin cognates in academic English may be worthwhile, especially for less-proficient learners.

Keywords: Academic vocabulary, cognates, translation, English language learners, vocabulary knowledge, proficiency, educations


Section A