English Teaching & Learning

, Volume 43, Issue 4, pp 353–368 | Cite as

Academic Spoken Vocabulary in TED Talks: Implications for Academic Listening

  • Chen-Yu LiuEmail author
  • Howard Hao-Jan Chen
Original Paper


Although TED talks are commonly used as supplementary listening materials in English classrooms, whether they are suitable materials for academic listening is still arguable. This study thus employs the Academic Spoken Word List (ASWL) and the British National Corpus and Corpus of Contemporary American English (BNC/COCA) lists to analyze TED talks’ vocabulary profiles in a corpus consisting of transcripts of 2085 such talks from six main topics. The analysis reveals high coverage of the ASWL over TED talks at approximately 90%. The coverage figure is similar to that of the ASWL over academic speech, suggesting that TED talks should be suitable materials for academic listening. Learners are also likely to learn high-frequency academic spoken vocabulary from such talks. This study also discovers that learners can reach the same coverage of TED talks by studying either the 1741 word families in the ASWL or the first 2000 word families in the BNC/COCA lists. The learning load is lower for learners to study the ASWL, thus making it a more suitable vocabulary support for comprehending TED talks. Based on the findings, this study provides several useful suggestions regarding how TED talks can be used in EAP courses.


TED talks Vocabulary profile Lexical coverage Academic listening Academic spoken vocabulary 

TED Talks中的學術口語詞彙:對英語聽力教學之意涵


儘管TED talks經常被用來當作英語課堂的聽力補充教材,但是它們是否為合適的學術聽力教材仍有爭議。因此,本研究基以學術口語字表(ASWL)和英國國家語料庫及美國當代英語語料庫(BNC / COCA)字表來分析包含六大主題、共2,085個TED talks中的詞彙。分析結果顯示學術口語字表對TED talks有相當高的詞彙覆蓋率(約90%), 亦接近於該字表對學術演講的詞彙覆蓋率, 顯示TED talks應可做為合適的學術聽力教材, 學習者也很可能從TED talks中學習到許多高頻學術詞彙。本研究亦發現不論是學習學術口語字表中的1,741個字族或是BNC / COCA字表中的前2,000個字族, 學習者皆可在TED talks中達到相同的詞彙覆蓋率。相較之下, 學習學術口語字表的學習負擔較低, 因此顯示其較適合做為學生在理解TED talks上的詞彙輔助。本研究亦根據研究結果針對TED talks在學術英文課程中的使用提出教學建議。.


TED talks 詞彙概述 詞彙覆蓋率 學術聽力 學術口語詞彙 



This work was financially supported by the “Chinese Language and Technology Center” of National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU) from The Featured Areas Research Center Program within the framework of the Higher Education Sprout Project by the Ministry of Education (MOE) in Taiwan.


  1. 1.
    Anthony, L. (2014). AntWordProfiler (version 1.4.1) [computer software]. Tokyo: Waseda University. Retrieved from Accessed 5 Mar 2019.
  2. 2.
    Bauer, L., & Nation, I. S. P. (1993). Word families. International Journal of Lexicography, 6, 253–279.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Brezina, V., & Meyerhoff, M. (2014). Significant or random? A critical review of sociolinguistic generalisations based on large corpora. International Journal of Corpus Linguistics, 19, 1–28. Scholar
  4. 4.
    Cettolo, M., Girardi, C., & Federico, M. (2012). Wit3: Web inventory of transcribed and translated talks. In M. Cettolo, M. Federico, L. Specia & A. Way (Eds.), Proceedings of the 16th Annual Conference of the European Association for Machine Translation (EAMT 2012) (pp. 261–268). Retrieved from Accessed 27 Dec 2018.
  5. 5.
    Cobb, T. (2010). Learning about language and learners from computer programs. Reading in a Foreign Language, 22, 181–200.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Coxhead, A. (2000). A new academic word list. TESOL Quarterly, 34, 213–238. Scholar
  7. 7.
    Coxhead, A. (2011). The academic word list 10 years on: research and teaching implications. TESOL Quarterly, 45, 355–362. Scholar
  8. 8.
    Coxhead, A. (2016). Reflecting on Coxhead (2000) “a new academic word list”. TESOL Quarterly, 50, 181–185. Scholar
  9. 9.
    Coxhead, A., & Walls, R. (2012). TED talks, vocabulary, and listening for EAP. TESOL ANZ Journal, 20, 55–65.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Dang, T. N. Y., Coxhead, A., & Webb, S. (2017). The academic spoken word list. Language Learning, 67(4), 959–997.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Dang, T. N. Y., & Webb, S. (2014). The lexical profile of academic spoken English (Vol. 33, pp. 66–76). English for Academic Purposes.
  12. 12.
    Dang, T. N. Y., & Webb, S. (2016). Evaluating lists of high-frequency words. ITL-International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 167, 132–158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    De Chazal, E. (2014). Prepare English language students for academic listening. British Council. Retrieved from Accessed 9 Apr 2019.
  14. 14.
    Erten, I., & Razi, S. (2009). The effects of cultural familiarity on reading comprehension. Reading in a Foreign Language, 21, 60–77.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Flowerdew, J., & Miller, L. (1997). The teaching of academic listening comprehension and the question of authenticity. English for Specific Purposes, 16(1), 27–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Floyd, M., & Jeschull, L. (2012). Teaching with TED talks: authentic and motivational language instruction. Newsletter of the Video and Digital Medial Interest Section. Retrieved from 12.html. Accessed 19 Mar 2019.
  17. 17.
    Gardner, D., & Davies, M. (2014). A new academic vocabulary list. Applied Linguistics, 35(3), 305–327. Scholar
  18. 18.
    Hu, M., & Nation, I. S. P. (2000). Vocabulary density and reading comprehension. Reading in a Foreign Language, 13(1), 403–430.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Hyland, K., & Tse, P. (2007). Is there an “academic vocabulary”? TESOL Quarterly, 41(2), 235–253.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Jeon, J. (2007). A study of listening comprehension of academic lectures within the construction-integration model (unpublished doctoral dissertation), The Ohio State University, IL.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Kobeleva, P. (2012). Second language listening and unfamiliar proper names: Comprehension barrier? RELC Journal, 43, 83–98. Scholar
  22. 22.
    Lynch, T. (2011). Academic listening in the 21st century: Reviewing a decade of research. Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 10, 79–88. Scholar
  23. 23.
    Nation, I. S. P. (2004). A study of the most frequent word families in the British National Corpus. In P. Bogaards & B. Laufer (Eds.), Vocabulary in a second language: Selection, acquisition, and testing (pp. 3–14). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Nation, I. S. P. (2006). How large a vocabulary is needed to reading and listening? Canadian Modern Language Review, 63, 59–82. Scholar
  25. 25.
    Nation, I. S. P. (2012). The BNC/COCA word family lists. Retrieved from Accessed 9 Apr 2019.
  26. 26.
    Nation, I. S. P. (2016). Making and using word lists for language learning and testing. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Nurmukhamedov, U. (2017). Lexical coverage of TED talks: implications for vocabulary instruction. TESOL Journal, 8(4), 768–790.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Nurmukhamedov, U., & Sadler, R. (2011). Podcasts in four categories: applications to language learning. In B. Facer & M. Abdous (Eds.), Academic podcasting and mobile assisted language learning (pp. 176–195). Portland: Book News.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Roche, T., & Harrington, M. (2013). Recognition vocabulary knowledge as a predictor of academic performance in an English as a foreign language setting. Language Testing in Asia, 3(1), 12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Schmitt, N., Cobb, T., Horst, M., & Schmitt, D. (2017). How much vocabulary is needed to use English? Replication of van Zeeland & Schmitt (2012), Nation (2006) and Cobb (2007). Language Teaching, 50(2), 212–226.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Schmitt, N., & Schmitt, D. (2014). A reassessment of frequency and vocabulary size in L2 vocabulary teaching. Language Teaching, 47(4), 484–503.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Stæhr, L. T. (2009). Vocabulary knowledge and advanced listening comprehension in English as a foreign language. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 31, 577–607. Scholar
  33. 33.
    Thompson, P. (2006). A corpus perspective on the lexis of lectures, with a focus on economics lectures. In K. Hyland & M. Bondi (Eds.), Academic discourse across disciplines (pp. 253–270). Frankfort: Peter Lang.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Townsend, D., & Collins, P. (2009). Academic vocabulary and middle school English learners: An intervention study. Reading and Writing, 22(9), 993–1019.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    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. Scholar
  36. 36.
    Vongpumivitch, V., Huang, J., & Chang, Y. (2009). Frequency analysis of the words in the academic word list (AWL) and non-AWL content words in applied linguistics research papers. English for Specific Purposes, 28(1), 33–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Wang, Y. (2012). An exploration of vocabulary knowledge in English short talks: a corpus driven approach. International Journal of English Linguistics, 2, 33–43.Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Webb, S., & Nation, P. (2013). Computer-assisted vocabulary load analysis. In C. Chapelle (Ed.), The encyclopedia of applied linguistics (pp. 1–10). Malden: Wiley-Blackwell.Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    West, M. (1953). A general service list of English words. London: Longman, Green and Co.Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    Wingrove, P. (2017). How suitable are TED talks for academic listening? Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 30, 79–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© National Taiwan Normal University 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EnglishNational Taiwan Normal UniversityTaipei CityTaiwan

Personalised recommendations