Receptive Versus Productive Vocabulary 1
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Receptive Versus Productive Vocabulary 2
Receptive Versus Productive Vocabulary
Vocabulary and language have always been related to cognitive functions like learning
and knowledge. Two of the most often used terms for analysis involve receptive and productive.
Such concepts are applied in the application of the first and second language usage. The
definition of both receptive and productive vocabulary would be discussed and analyzed in this
paper before a distinction of their differences would be made.
Using the concept of being the third dimension in the vocabulary knowledge, the term
receptive refers to the ability to be able to provide the first language (L1) translation to the
second language (L2) (Zhong 2011). The order of the languages is important as it will define the
foundation of the learner. Someone whose natural language is English would have a different
receptive vocabulary than that of a person who uses Chinese. Whenever a second language (L2)
is used, both people would rely on their knowledge of the first one for translation. When
someone thinks of a foreign word that is L2, the idea of receptive vocabulary means that this
person would translate it to the initial language or L1. For a person who uses English as the first
language, a Chinese word would have to be translated to English. Such recognition can be
applied to reading or listening. When someone sees the foreign language or hears it, it would be
translated into the mind of the learner using his/her first language. This also involves
memorization wherein such word would have to be recalled using its L1 equivalent. For others,
the definition of this term may vary. It may involve recognition of a specific word and for
someone to find a synonym or antonym for that word as its meaning.
Productive vocabulary would be the exact opposite of the concept discussed above. Using
vocabulary knowledge as the third dimension of learning, it would mean that learner would find
an equivalent for the first knowledge of the word he/she knows and would directly translate it to
Receptive Versus Productive Vocabulary 3
the second language (L2) (Zhong 2011). Similar with the receptive concept, the learner would
also be comparing a word with their language counterparts. Similarly, both concepts would rely
on the foundational language or the first one (L1). However, for the productive vocabulary, a
specific L2 equivalent would have to be recognized. This means that for a Chinese person, he/she
would find and English equivalent for a word he/she already knows, which is in his/her first
language. The same goes with an American who has English for his/her first language (L1). For a
Chinese person, he/she would have to find the Chinese equivalent of the word “apple”. This is
considering the fact that such learner uses such word for his/her first language (L1). Productive
vocabulary can also be defined as a concept that can be used in recognizing the form and
meaning of a foreign word.
The main differences of both receptive and productive vocabularies were already
presented in the discussions of their definition above. However, their distinctions only start from
the concepts mentioned. Aside from meaning and their respective forms, receptive and
productive vocabularies have further differences (Pignot-Shahov 2012). One if it is related to
their hierarchy of use. Although this could be debated, scholars believe that putting one above
the other in terms of priority is an effective way to entice education and application of languages.
Learners develop receptive vocabulary first before productive vocabulary (Pignot-Shahov 2012).
Such arrangement should be noted in terms of their usage. Others may argue that only one of
them can be used for learning. However, some scholars dispute this. Applying only one of them
is not as effective as using both (Eonhee and Yousun 2011).
Receptive Versus Productive Vocabulary 4
Eonhee, J. and Yousun, S. (2011). Receptive and productive vocabulary learning using a word
list in L2. Primary English Education, 17(1), pp.395-416.
Pignot-Shahov ,V. (2012). Measuring L2 receptive and productive vocabulary knowledge.
Language Studies Working Papers, 4, pp.37-45.
Zhong, H. (2011). Learning a word: from receptive to productive vocabulary use. The Asian
Conference on Language Learning Official Conference Proceedings, pp.116-126. 

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