CercleS International Conference edition:13 location:Fribourg, Switzerland date:4-6 September 2014
In Michael East (2008) a number of questions are raised concerning the usefulness of dictionaries in writing tasks. Although his studies yielded interesting (qualitative) results, several dictionary-related parameters were not tightly controlled.
In the present investigation, we measured the effect of the availability of the online version of a translating dictionary on the performance of native speakers of Dutch on a timed writing task. Data were gathered from intact classes of English, French, German and Spanish in higher education. In a first session, students were trained in using the dictionary by means of piloted looking-up exercises. In a second session, students wrote a 300-word summary of a Dutch text in the foreign language and were asked to include translations for a number of target items. One subgroup had access to the dictionary, another did not. A vocabulary levels test was taken by all students.
Data consisted of the score on the vocabulary levels test, the lexical richness of the writing task, and the score on the target items. Students were asked to provide information about which words they had looked up (dictionary group), and which of the target words they did not know (non-dictionary group).
Preliminary analyses of the EFL-data confirm East’s finding that there is no significant effect of the use of the dictionary on the lexical sophistication of the students’ writings as measured by RANGE, neither on the scores on the target items. However, the results are not the same for all languages involved.
Therefore, after a brief introduction into the findings by East (2008), we will present our own research questions and conclusions based on a first analysis of the data of English and Spanish.
East, Michael (2008). Dictionary Use in Foreign Language Writing Exams. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.