Inadequate Aural Vocabulary Knowledge of High-Frequency Words

Can Mobile-Assisted Language Learning Help Solve the Problem?


  • Joshua Matthews University of New England
  • Kriss Lange University of Shimane Matsue Campus



L2 listening, aural vocabulary knowledge (AVK), mobile-assisted language learning (MALL), English as a foreign language (EFL)


Aural vocabulary knowledge (AVK) of high-frequency words is critical for second language listening comprehension. However, learners of English as a foreign language (EFL), despite considerable periods of language study, often do not have the AVK needed for basic communicative competence. A mixed methods approach is applied to determine whether mobile-assisted language learning (MALL) can help solve this problem. First, a cohort of 33 Japanese EFL students with suboptimal AVK were divided into a treatment group (n = 17) and a control group (n = 16). Over a two-month period, the treatment group used a MALL application that enabled self-assessment and teacher monitoring of learners’ AVK of 1,000 frequently occurring English words. A comparison of pre- and post-test scores between the treatment and control group suggested that the MALL intervention was associated with improvements in AVK. Further, data stored by the application enabled an analysis of the words learners found most difficult, and interviews with a sub-group (n = 5) were undertaken. Results suggested that reduced forms and the influence of Japanese phonotactics were key factors limiting the ability to recognize spoken words. Links to resources that can help learners improve AVK of high-frequency words are provided and pedagogical implications are discussed.

Author Biographies

  • Joshua Matthews, University of New England

    Joshua Matthews is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Education at the University of New England, Australia. His major research interests include computer-assisted language learning, L2 vocabulary, L2 teaching, and language testing. Joshua’s previous publications have appeared in journals including Computer Assisted Language Learning, Language Learning & Technology, Language Testing, and TESOL Quarterly.

  • Kriss Lange, University of Shimane Matsue Campus

    Kriss Lange is an Associate Professor at the University of Shimane Matsue Campus, Japan. His research interests include L2 listening, vocabulary acquisition, and MALL. Based in Japan, his research has been mainly focused on understanding English listening difficulties for Japanese university students and on L2 listening education. His previous research has been published in journals such as TESOL Quarterly, Language Teaching Research, and International Review of Applied Linguistics in Language Teaching.


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How to Cite

Matthews, J., & Lange, K. (2024). Inadequate Aural Vocabulary Knowledge of High-Frequency Words: Can Mobile-Assisted Language Learning Help Solve the Problem?. CALICO Journal, 41(2), 99-121.