How Accessible Are Unsimplified Novels for Advanced Learners of English?


  • August Aldred Manchester Metropolitan University


advanced learners, extensive reading, reading for pleasure, vocabulary, reading difficulties


Research into extensive reading, primarily by Nation (1992; 2000; 2006), suggests that an overall coverage of 98% is required to read a text with ease, further suggesting a vocabulary of 8000 words to achieve this. Through an analysis of advanced learner’s (IELTS 6.5 or above in this study) interpretation of two texts, the researcher sought to uncover whether ‘infrequent’ vocabulary was the main issue in comprehending authentic texts, considering other factors such as polysemy and diction. VocabProfile’s ability to predict the difficulty of texts in regards to frequency was analysed to answer the question, are ‘difficult’ words the same as ‘infrequent’ words?

In order to investigate the above factors, VocabProfile was used to analyse two extracts from vastly different novels – Wuthering Heights (Brontë, 1847) and The Shadow of the Wind (Ruiz Zafón, 2001) – in order to establish which ‘infrequent’ words occurred in the texts. Participants were then asked to read the texts and manually repeat this process by highlighting words they did not know, and to talk about their difficulties. The results suggest there are other difficulties beyond vocabulary for advanced readers and these are discussed further with some examination of why certain participants outperformed others.