The Contribution of Lexical, Grammatical, and Propositional Knowledge Preparation to L2 Listening Comprehension

Document Type: Research Paper


Imam Khomeini International University, Qazvin


Listening comprehension is a multifaceted L2 skill and its actual mastery has proved challenging for many EFL learners (Matthews, 2018). Pre-listening supports may help us change the dire situation in developing effective listening competence. Therefore, the current study tried to examine the effect of vocabulary preparation, grammar instruction and background knowledge activation as pre-listening tasks on the listening comprehension among 95 Iranian intermediate EFL learners in three experimental groups who were randomly selected from among 142 Iranian EFL learners after administration of a paper-based TOEFL. In group A, the teacher elaborated on the difficult grammatical structures of the listening comprehension (LC) test and the students did some exercises. Group B practiced related difficult words using synonyms, antonyms, and sentence examples. In group C, some topical knowledge about the content of the LC test was given and discussed. After the treatment, a valid researcher-made LC test was given to all groups. This procedure was followed for four more listening texts and after each treatment, a valid researcher-made LC test based on the text was administered. Data analysis using one-way ANOVA and Scheffe test revealed that background knowledge activation and vocabulary preparation significantly improved learners’ listening performances; however, grammar preparation did not exert a significant influence on EFL listening comprehension. These results were confirmed by the experts’ attitudes in the subsequent qualitative phase of the study. These findings suggest that EFL teachers should use background knowledge activation and lexical preparation prior to the main listening tasks.


Adolphs, S., & Schmitt, N. (2003). Lexical coverage of spoken discourse. Applied Linguistics, 24(4), 425–438.

Anderson, J. R. (2009). Cognitive psychology and its implications (7th ed.). New York: W.H. Freeman.

Andringa, S., Olsthoorn, N., van Beuningen, C., Schoonen, R., & Hulstijn, J. (2012). Determinants of success in native and non‐native listening comprehension: An individual differences approach. Language Learning, 62(1), 49–78.

Bonk, W. (2000). Second language lexical knowledge and listening comprehension. International Journal of Listening, 14, 14–31.

Brown, H. D. (2014). Principles of language learning and teaching (6th ed.). New York: Pearson Education ESL.

Brown, H. D., & Lee, H. (2015). Teaching by principles: An interactive approach to language pedagogy (4th ed.). New York: Pearson Education.

Buck, G. (2001). Assessing listening. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Chang, A. C. (2007). The impact of vocabulary preparation on L2 listening comprehension, confidence and strategy use, System, 35(4), 534–550.

Chang, A., & Read, J. (2006). The effects of listening support on the listening performance of EFL learners. TESOL Quarterly, 40(2),375–397.

Daller, H., Milton, J., & Treffers-Daller, J. (2007). Editors’ introduction. In H. Daller, J. Milton, & J. Treffers-Daller (Eds.), Modelling and assessing vocabulary knowledge (pp. 79–92). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Denzin, N. K., & Lincoln, Y. S. (2013). Strategies of qualitative inquiry (4th ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Sage.

Field, J. (2004). An insight into listeners’ problems: Too much bottom-up or too much top-down? System, 32(3), 363–377.

Field, J. (2008). Listening in the language classroom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Flowerdew, J. (Ed.). (1994). Academic listening: Research perspectives. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Flowerdew, J., & Miller, L. (2005). Second language listening: Theory and practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Flowerdew, J., & Miller, L. (2014). Dimensions of academic listening. In M. Celce Murcia, D. M. Brinton, & M. Snow (Eds.), Teaching English as a second or foreign language (4th ed.) (pp. 90–103). Boston: Heinle.

Gebhard, J. (2000). Teaching English as a foreign or second language: A teacher self-development and methodology Guide. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.

Goh, C. M. (2014). Second language listening comprehension: Process and pedagogy. In M. Celce Murcia, D. M. Brinton, & M. Snow (Eds.), Teaching English as a second or foreign language (4th ed.) (pp. 72–89). Boston: Heinle.

Graham, S., Santos, D., & Vanderplank, R. (2008). Strategy clusters and sources of knowledge in French L2 listening comprehension. Innovation in Language Learning and Teaching, 4, 1-20.

Graham, S., Santos, D., & Vanderplank, R. (2011). Exploring the relationship between listening development and strategy use. Language Teaching Research, 15(4), 435-456.

Hallgren, K. A. (2012). Computing inter-rater reliability for observational data: An overview and tutorial. Tutor Quant Methods Psychol, 8(1), 23–24.

Hasan, A. (2000). Learners’ perceptions of listening comprehension problems. Language, Culture and Curriculum, 13(2),137–153.

Hayes, A. (2007). Krippendorff K: Answering the call for a standard reliability measure for coding data. Common Methods Measures, 1(1), 77–89.

Laufer, B., & Ravenhorst-Kalovski, G. C. (2010). Lexical threshold revisited: Lexical text coverage, learners’ vocabulary size and reading comprehension. Reading in a Foreign Language, 22(1),15–30.

Matthews, J. (2018). Vocabulary for listening: Emerging evidence for high andmid-frequency vocabulary knowledge. System, 72,23–36.

Mecartty, F. (2000). Lexical and grammatical knowledge in reading and listening comprehension by foreign language learners of Spanish. Applied Language Learning, 11, 323–348.

Milton, J. (2010). The development of vocabulary breadth across the CEFR levels. In I. Bartning, M. Martin, & I. Vedder (Eds.), Communicative proficiency and linguistic development: Intersections between SLA and language testing research (pp. 211–232). Eurosla Monographs Series 1. Retrieved from EM01/ EM01 home. html.

Milton, J. (2013).Measuringthecontributionofvocabulary knowledgetoproficiencyin thefour skills. In C. Bardel, C. Lindqvist, & B. Laufer (Eds.), L2 vocabulary acquisition, knowledge and use: New perspectives on assessment and corpus analysis (pp. 57-78). Eurosla Monographs Series, 2. EM01/ EM01 home. html.

Milton, J., & Hopkins, N. (2006). Comparing phonological and orthographic vocabulary size: Do vocabulary tests underestimate the knowledge of some learners. The Canadian Modern Language Review, 63(1), 127–147.

Milton, J., Wade, J., & Hopkins, N. (2010). Aural word recognition and oral competence in a foreign language. In R. Chacón-Beltrán, C. Abello-Contesse, M. Torreblanca-López, & M. López-Jiménez (Eds.), Further insights into non-native vocabulary teaching and learning (pp. 83–98). Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

Nation, I. S. P. (2001). Learning vocabulary in another Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Nation, I. S. P. (2006). How large a vocabulary is needed for reading and listening?. Canadian Modern Language Review, 63(1),59–82.

Pan, Y., Tsai, T., Huang, Y., Liu, D. (2016). Effects of expanded vocabulary support on L2 listening comprehension. Language Teaching Research, 16(1), 1–19.

Qian, D. D. (2002). Investigating the relationship between vocabulary knowledge and academic reading performance: An assessment perspective. Language learning, 52(3), 513–536.

Qian, D., & Schedle, M. (2004). Evaluation of an in depth vocabulary knowledge measure for assessing reading performance. Language Testing, 21(1), 28–52.

Read, J. (2000). Assessing vocabulary. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Richards, J.C., & Rodgers, T. (2014). Approaches and methods in language teaching (3rd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Rost, M. (2002). Teaching and researching listening. London, UK: Longman.

Rost, M. (2013). Teaching and researching: Listening. Rutledge.

Roulston, K. (2010). Reflective interviewing: A guide to theory and practice. Los Angeles, CA: Sage.

Rubin, J. (1994). A review of second language listening comprehension research. The Modern Language Journal, 78(2), 199–217.

Seidman, I. (2006). Interviewing as qualitative research: A guide for researchers in education and the social sciences. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Staehr, L. S. (2007). The relationship between vocabulary knowledge and listening comprehension in English as a foreign language. Copenhagen Business School.

Staehr, L. S. (2008). Vocabulary size and the skills of reading, listening and writing. Language Learning Journal, 36(2), 139–152.

Staehr, L. S. (2009). Vocabulary knowledge and advanced listening comprehension in English as a foreign language. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 31(4), 577–607.

Tyler, M. D. (2001). Resource consumption as a function of topic knowledge in nonnative and native comprehension. Language Learning, 51(2), 257–280.

Vandergrift, L. (2004). Learning to listen or listening to learn. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 24, 3–25.

Vandergrift, L. (2006). Second language listening: listening ability or language proficiency?. The Modern Language Journal, 90(1), 6–18.

Vandergrift, L. (2007). Recent developments in second and foreign language listening comprehension research. Language Teaching, 40(3), 191–210.

Vandergrift, L. (2011). Second language listening: Presage, process, product and pedagogy. In E. Hinkel (Ed.), Handbook of research in second language teaching and learning (2nd  ed.) (pp. 455–471). New York: Routledge.

Vandergrift, L., & Baker, S. (2015). Learner variables in second language listening comprehension: An exploratory path analysis. Language Learning, 65(2), 390-416.

Vandergrift, L., & Goh, C. (2012). Teaching and learning second language listening. Metacognition in Action. New York: Routledge.

Vandergrift, L., Goh, C., Mareschal, C., & Tafaghodtari, M. H. (2006). The metacognitive awareness listening questionnaire (MALQ): Development and validation. Language Learning, 56(3), 431-462.

van Zeeland, H. (2013). Vocabulary in listening. In J. I. Liontas (Ed.), The TESOL encyclopedia of English language teaching (pp. 1–6). New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

van Zeeland, H., & Schmitt, N. (2013). Lexical coverage in L1 and L2 listening comprehension: The same or different from reading comprehension?. Applied Linguistics, 34, 457-479.

Wang, Y., & Treffers-Daller, (2017). Explaining listening comprehension among L2 learners of English: The contribution of general language proficiency, vocabulary knowledge and metacognitive awareness. System, 65, 139-150.