УДК 37

Role of the extensive reading in learning vocabulary for intermediate level students

Мәмбетова Мәншүк Құдайбергенқызы – кандидат филологических наук кафедры Тюркологии и теории языка Казахского национального университета им. Аль-Фараби

Есеева Гаухар Бауржанқызы – студент магистратуры кафедры Тюркологии и теории языка Казахского национального университета им. Аль-Фараби

Сатыбалды Айжан Бақтыбайқызы – студент магистратуры кафедры Тюркологии и теории языка Казахского национального университета им. Аль-Фараби

Abstract: Learning English and developing speaking skills become the main requirements in contemporary society. From the decades there were used various methods and techniques used to teach English to learners. Some methods were effective in developing speaking, some of the grammar and vocabulary, and another one reading skills. This study is going to discuss the effectiveness of extensive reading in learning Vocabulary and identifying the benefits and drawbacks of it. To achieve this aim the researcher used qualitative data analysis, which helps to gain a subjective point of view of different learners with different language learning backgrounds. This method is also used to get a full answer to the research questions and collect additional data that will be used in further investigations. This research will help readers to understand the potential of extensive reading in learning Vocabulary and by showing advantages and disadvantages. Also ways of how Vocabulary is learned during extensive reading.

Keywords: extensive reading, vocabulary, attitudes, interest, interview.


Reading is part of every individual's life. It assists to broaden human boundaries and open new gates to the world of knowledge and discoveries. It is widely accepted that reading also promotes the development of identity, improves empathy and well-being. Besides, it contributes to the learning of the second language. William introduces some advantages of reading, they are:

  • Learners be able to practice target language;
  • Learners also be able to develop writing and speaking skills [1].

There are two types of reading: intensive and extensive reading. The role of each of them is crucial in the sphere of education and upbringing. Usually, learning a language occurs in the classroom, because it needs instructions from the educator. This type of reading used only in the classroom environment, with specialized text prepared according to the level of the learners is identified as intensive reading. On the other hand, it is possible to learn outside of the classroom if students are correctly oriented. This type of reading is independent of the school program and learners can choose the material according to their preference and read for pleasure. It is defined as extensive reading. Extensive reading is not always included in the learning, as some teachers prefer to follow the only syllabus without adding extra tasks. Besides, it also may be harder to assess it.

The opportunities for extensive reading are always underestimated in learning the language. Being able to choose reading according to the taste, which in the first place, defines as free voluntary reading, promotes achieving foreign language proficiency. Besides, reading according to interest facilitates learning and motivates learners to study more. According to Krashen, reading improves foreign language competence. He supports that claim by demonstrating a case study that indicates the strength of reading for progression. Reading for pleasure also promotes the development of vocabulary [2]. Grabe stated that reading can improve learners` language competence and ability to automatically recognize words and symbols in the text [3].

The aims and goals of this research:

The purpose of this research is to identify the benefits and drawbacks of extensive reading and its influence on learning Vocabulary for Intermediate level students.

The significance of this study is an estimation of the extensive reading opportunities and their role in learning vocabulary among Intermediate level students. In this contemporary century reading for pleasure is able to broaden youth knowledge about the world and at the same time improve understanding of the meaning of the context, as it focuses more on getting the meaning, rather than language.

Research questions:

  1. What are the benefits and drawbacks of extensive reading for Intermediate level learners?
  2. In what ways does extensive reading improve the Vocabulary performance of Intermediate level students?

Concluding all the gained information it is possible to assume that extensive contributes to learning and improvement of the vocabulary of the language learners.     

Literature review

Extensive Reading

Extensive reading refers to one of the reading types that provide several reading materials that allow learning independently [4]. The main aim of extensive reading is to understand and interpret the general meaning of the text, getting information, and reading for enjoyment [5]. It allows learners to improve the student's reading skills, improve vocabulary and develop positive attitudes to the reading activity. During independent reading, learners are usually faced with a lot of unfamiliar words, which allows understanding the usage of specific words in context.

In comparison with intensive reading, extensive reading is not an obligatory reading text that focuses on understanding certain grammar that occurs only with teacher guidance. According to Brown, learners are not attracted by the certain grammar or meaning of the single words. However, by getting a general idea of the text.  By using this type of reading, students started to read more [6]. In addition, Yamashita states that extensive reading doesn`t need high concentration as in intensive reading so that students are able to read in any comfortable environment, for instance, on the trip, on the bus, or anywhere else [7].

The other benefit of extensive reading students is the ability to select their reading, according to their taste and drop it anytime if the text does not justify their expectations [8]. Every learner has their own pace of reading so that they are able to read slower or quicker without waiting for their peers or teachers` command. In other words, students have the freedom to choose how much and when to read.

Students tend to read about what they are interested in. According to Celik, students have low motivation to read if they are not interested in the text [8]. Because of that reason, learners` interests and language level are considered important when choosing reading material [9]. So that, having extensive reading as a classroom activity, teachers should carefully guide students without interrupting their freedom, when learners choose their reading materials. During an extensive reading period, teachers should not interfere with the learning process [10]. Because it is considered as independent learning time and having fun by discovering something new.

It has been widely accepted that extensive reading promotes the improvement of language proficiency, through mastering grammar and vocabulary. According to Celik, extensive reading is the process of attaining meaning. To master foreign language proficiency, it is important to focus on meaning. Meaningful materials encourage students to learn and facilitate their learning. Extensive reading can provide these materials and assist in strengthening vocabulary knowledge [8].

However, this kind of reading provides too much information that may overload people's brains as it is not focused on certain vocabulary or grammar structures. The human's brain is unable to store all received information, so that non-systemized information may lead to negative effects. For example, low motivation towards reading activities. It is considered as one of the main drawbacks of extensive reading.  In this aspect, intensive reading has more benefits, because all texts are usually selected according to the level of the students where grammar and vocabulary are carefully chosen. That means an amount of information is reduced in intensive reading. In this condition, learners are more relaxed during their reading [7].

On the other hand, it also can be the benefit of extensive reading as learning something that is above the level of the student can positively affect some learners. Every learner has their special preference for reading. Some materials provided by intensive reading may be boring or some learner`s levels may exceed others`. Extensive reading, in this case, is more effective, as it is not concentrated on certain grammar or vocabulary or even specific topics. There are used different genres, have a various set of vocabulary, word combinations and grammar structures in different levels. All these factors made extensive reading more interesting and special.  

Improving Vocabulary through Extensive reading

Learning Vocabulary is knowledge of the word and understanding its meaning. Some studies show that it is not efficient for a teacher to teach vocabulary traditionally as it usually occurs at schools [11]. The traditional method may be effective to provide learners with the knowledge, however, it usually has a short-term effect. In order to eliminate those circumstances, extensive reading is considered a more suitable activity for acquiring vocabulary. Several studies indicate an influence of reading on the development of vocabulary knowledge. Eskey demonstrated the connection between these two variables and described it as “well documented” and “reciprocal” [12]. That means acquiring vocabulary is part of reading comprehension. Extensive reading is a powerful tool that helps to improve vocabulary performance. According to Mart, more reading brings more opportunities to gain vocabulary [13]. Similarly, Grabe states that 10 % of vocabulary is learned through reading activities [14].

There are two components of reading: comprehension and word recognition. [15] Comprehension is understanding and interpretation of the reading materials. Without totally developing comprehension it is hard to gain new knowledge. By frequently encountering unknown words, learners are able to recognize them immediately. Constantly meeting the same words in different contexts promotes the development of reading comprehension. In other words, extensive reading directly affects the growth of vocabulary knowledge. [9]

One of the main areas of learning Vocabulary is mastering spelling ability. Spelling takes an important role in learning words and recognizing them. Extensive reading also contributes to mastering this ability. According to Day and Bamford, learners who read more are good at spelling the words. [17]

 Acquiring a foreign language starts from recognizing the words and understanding their meaning in different contexts. S.K. Folomkina writes that the purpose of reading is to discover the semantic connections (understanding) of the written speech or, in other words, to get the information contained in the written text. [18] It is easier to understand the meaning and interpreting text, when the learner is familiar with as many words as possible. Extensive reading is able to provide a lot of different vocabulary, containing sentences with various grammatical structures.  That is in the first place capable of not only improving language fluency, such as spelling, word usage, but also language performance and the thinking process itself. It promotes motivation towards learning and enhances students` ability to learn autonomy.


Purpose and Significance of the study

Vocabulary is the basis of learning new knowledge and acquiring the target language. There are several methods for learning vocabulary, and each of them does not guarantee significant results. Learning is a more autonomous process, and a big amount of students prefer to learn individually at their own pace. However, standard methods that are almost used at schools and colleges cannot provide this opportunity properly, as these methods are more teacher-guidance oriented, and considered as obligatory learning.  As extensive reading is considered an independent activity, it satisfies both: ensures rich vocabulary and grammar structure, and engages learners to autonomy.

Therefore, this research assists in using an alternative way, extensive reading as the method for learning new vocabulary. A. A. Mirolyubov believes that the purpose of reading is to understand the information received visually, to discover meaningful connections, to understand information. [19] By extensive reading students are able to learn more vocabulary; at the same time enjoy reading by self-selected materials. The purpose of this research is to identify the merits and demerits of extensive learning in learning Vocabulary and how it develops vocabulary skills. All the selected methods for collecting information were based on research questions and the purpose of research that were introduced in the introduction part.

Research design

The design that was selected for this research is qualitative data analysis, an interview. Qualitative data analysis assists to understand the situation or phenomena better and focuses on storytelling more than searching for the cause of that situation and its effects. [20] This type of data collection was chosen because of its convenience in this research.  Qualitative data is more focused on the meaning that participants provide by sharing the events and their personal experiences. [21] It allows knowing more data from participants because it is a more subjective opinion towards certain situations or phenomena.  

Data collection

There are several types of techniques for collecting qualitative research. They are observations, interviews, case studies, and others that are widely used among the researchers. This research used the interview as the main tool for collecting qualitative data. For analyzing qualitative data there was used thematic analysis, which allows investigating opinions and thoughts. 

The interview is a conversation between two or more people. During the interview there are two sides, one side conducting the interview and the other side responds to asked questions. The interview has two types: structures and unstructured. [22] A structured interview is defined as a planned and prepared interview, where the interviewer asked a determined question that was prepared in advance. This study used a structured type of interview. During the unstructured interview nine questions from each participant were asked, and additionally some follow-up questions. The main asked questions were:  What do you think about reading for pleasure for a specific purpose? (For example, improving language skills, reading skills, Vocabulary, etc.) What do you consider useful in reading for pleasure? How does reading improve your language skills in terms of Vocabulary?  What kind of tips help you memorize new words from books? What kind of challenges do you face during reading for pleasure for a specific purpose?

Some follow-up questions helped to develop conversation and allowed for participants to feel comfortable and talk more about their cases. In addition to that, the second interview was conducted to discover to what extent extensive reading increases overall reading time. First interview was directed to general information about preference, reading habits and their tips for memorization of the new words.   


 Participants are a group of people who are invited to take part in research. [23] Twenty participants take part in the interview. All selected interviewees are second year students of Al-Farabi Kazakh National University. They were selected according to their interest and experience in extensive reading. The English level of students is intermediate, and ages between eighteen and twenty. All participants were chosen with different language learning backgrounds, to deeply investigate the reading influence on their vocabulary.

Validity and reliability

As each participant was interviewed separately, they could provide detailed information about their reading habits and learning process. Consequently, the researcher was able to create a thematic category according to learners` responses to qualitative data analysis.

All interview questions were carefully considered before asking them from participants. The questions were sent to peers to analyze and improve them in the case if some of the questions might harm or offend the participants of this research. They were checked for biases and stereotypes, which also could make the interviewers feel uncomfortable. Besides, the functions of the interview questions should have been in a way, which can stimulate interviewees to provide longer answers.  


The research started from selecting suitable participants that agreed to contribute to research. Before starting the interview all interviewees were given a consent letter, that guarantees confidentiality of provided personal information and dismissal from participating in research at any time. The sampling process was the quickest one, as the participants were familiar with a researcher.  Interviewing was conducted in January 2023. The structured interview was conducted separately through an online application called "ZOOM". Each interviewer`s responses were recorded for further data analysis convenience. The time for interviewing was selected according to the participant`s preference. Half of the participants were interviewed in one week and the rest of them in two weeks. The Interviewing process was the longest, as each participant was interviewed for about thirty-forty minutes, depending on the length of the answer. Due to technical problems, some interviewees have recorded their responses and sent them to the researcher via Whatsapp messenger.

The second interview was conducted in the same way, but after two months. During this period, participants actively read books according to their preference and pace of reading. 

After the end of the interviewing, all collected data were carefully analyzed and discussed in the discussion part. 

Data analysis

Data analysis is the main part of qualitative research. Firstly, interview responses were transcribed into the written text. Transcript was checked for accuracy to avoid disinformation.  All data analysis processes conducted by the researcher, which includes transcription and coding. The researcher found similar responses and highlighted determining phrases that have significance for research. Then, responses were compared among themselves and divided into categories. Each category was named and transcripts were coded.  Coding is one of the main steps in analyzing qualitative data that occurred by dividing them into parts with symbols or specific words (Creswell, 2015). Coded interviews were gathered and the connection between data was analyzed. To compare different interview codes a table was used.  Finally, according to the last results, information was allocated into themes. Thematic analysis was analyzed in an inductive way, which means themes were taken from collected data during the interview.

Data was analyzed according to the research questions that related to participants` personal experience, gained during the extensive reading.  The researcher compared the collected interview answers and divided them into categories of interviewee`s attitudes towards extensive reading, challenges, and advantages, ways of learning vocabulary, and finally word memorization techniques. Additionally, data from the second interview was compared with results of the first, in order to test hypotheses about extensive reading positive influence to elevation of the reading time.  


All school and college education programs focused more on intensive reading that usually occurred in a classroom environment with rigid control of the teacher. That factor prevents having extensive reading as learners please and the amount of homework does not allow having an extra reading time for self-pleasure. Consequently, there are few people who have experienced extensive reading. Besides, due to the current situation, where students spend most of their time in front of the computer or at university by attending lessons, the number of people interested in extensive reading decreases. 


This study aimed to identify the advantages and disadvantages of extensive reading in learning vocabulary and in what way extensive reading influenced the vocabulary skills of the learner.

As mentioned above the finding is divided into several themes: the student's perception for learning vocabulary through extensive reading, challenges, and advantages of extensive reading, ways of learning vocabulary in other words, word memorization techniques.

Almost all interviewees` perception of the utility of extensive reading to learning vocabulary is positive. No response claimed the uselessness of the reading for pleasure to Vocabulary.

According to collected data, the advantages of extensive reading were: Improvement of reading skills, gathering of the general useful knowledge, and mastering usage and understanding of the vocabulary. The challenges are choosing the appropriate reading material, understanding words in context, and motivation to continue reading. 

There are some ways of learning vocabulary: through learning the translation, example-based, and constant repetition. Word memorization techniques introduced by participants are: writing down unknown words with translation, usage of a learning game application as “Quizlet”, and finally usage of definition. 


Students` perception towards extensive reading

Student's perception of extensive reading takes a key role in using this type of reading in their lives. Because the motivation and interest of the students are very important, to start reading a book as an autonomous learning activity, that has no teacher control.  This data also was mentioned in the LR part in the work of Celik (2019).  To find the student's attitudes towards it, they used several introductory questions at the beginning of the interview. The first question was about how often the participants read a book. Analyzing this data showed that some participants read every day from thirty minutes to two hours. The other participants finish one book from two weeks to one month depending on the length of the book. It means participants are interested in reading for pleasure. 


Graph 1. Analysis of students’ reading time.

From the gathered information that was the result of both interviews, it is possible to highlight students` progress of raising their time for overall reading activity in one day (Graph1). Reading more contributes to encountering more new words, and probability to memorize their meaning and application in the sentences.    

 The second question was about interviewees` preference for the genre. Participants A, E, F, G,J replied they were interested in psychological books, which help them develop self-cognition. Participants B and D prefer to read scientific and business books that are related to their professional development. Finally, Participants C,H,I adore romantic books from modern and classical literature. These data represent the interviewees` preference in choosing the reading material and complexity of the language of these books. 


Graph 2. Students` preference for the genre. 

The languages that the learners frequently prefer to read are Russian and English. According to the responses, the Russian language was used to read complicated works of literature and for a better understanding of materials. The English language is frequently used for discovering scientific studies, business literature, and just for reading classic books. As these reading materials are chosen by the participant`s preference, it is possible to assume that there are more positive attitudes to extensive reading. According to Participant B, extensive reading or reading for pleasure helps to broaden the knowledge and rest from the other aspects of life and enjoy reading new materials and developing personal skills. Participants H, I and J also indicated reading comics books, which have everyday conversation phrases, help them a lot for acquiring new words and use them in daily life conversations. It is widely accepted that comics are extra, authentic material which may have rich vocabulary especially in the colloquial layer of the language. Comics which were mentioned by participants were “Lost man” by Shinnosuke Kuji, “Superman” by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster and others. 

Challenges and advantages of extensive reading in learning Vocabulary

The advantages of extensive reading are identified as improvement of reading skills, gathering of the general useful knowledge, and mastering usage and understanding of the vocabulary. Improvement of the reading skills mentioned by Participants B and D. They claimed that extensive reading improved their reading comprehension. According to Alderson (2000), mentioned in the LR part, the improved reading skills promote better understanding. The other advantage is gathering more useful knowledge through reading. It is widely accepted that extensive reading not only provides useful knowledge, but also interesting and meaningful knowledge for learners. As learners read the things that interest them, they also receive the necessary vocabulary skills to develop their understanding and improve critical thinking skills. The third advantage mentioned by participants was mastering usage and understanding of the new vocabulary. Participant D mentioned: "New vocabulary appeared in every sentence, so I wrote them in my notebook and tried to memorize it by repeating this word for myself". The response of Participant B also supports the fact that extensive reading improves Vocabulary. B claims "I have started studying when I already became an intermediate and it completely fixed me on an intermediate, I can say. That is… it helped me to finish the intermediate level. I am now a graduate of the intermediate and the beginner of the upper, and therefore I can say that it still allows me to express my thoughts correctly. Because there are a lot of words or complex words in context. I can use them in real life. And so I can say that it improved me by 30%, reading books exactly”. From other participants` responses it is also noticeable students' improvement in terms of Vocabulary.

Challenges during the extensive reading and learning Vocabulary were choosing the appropriate reading material, understanding words in context, and motivation to continue reading. According to Participant B, choosing the appropriate material is very important. As some texts, books sometimes are not suited to the language level of the student. That may cause a dislike towards reading, especially if the reading material is in the target language. The other challenge mentioned by Participants A and D. They claimed that sometimes it is very hard for them to understand the meaning of words and phrases. As meaning constantly changes according to the context. For example, one of the participants mentioned the word “good” which usually means “pleasant”, or “not bad.” In business literature the same word has the meaning of “product” in some sentences, which at first confused the reader.  To understand the exact meaning of the words in sentences, it is necessary to read this sentence several times. Finally, during the reading process motivation to continue reading disappeared. Participants C and F report that motivation dies when the material becomes boring and they do not have the motivation to continue the reading nor the learning process. 

Ways to learning Vocabulary

During the interview, the interviewees introduced several ways of learning new vocabulary that show the progress of their language: Learning through translation, example-based, and using additional tools for learning. The first way that all interviewees reported is using translation or memorization through constant repetition. It was one of the most common ways to learn new words. According to the responses, extensive reading allows meeting the same words, many times which helps readers learn words quicker. The second technique is through making examples using new Vocabulary, which promotes quick memorization. Participant A mentioned that this strategy has a good effect on learning new words. Finally, using additional applications for better learning and applying is also having a good effect when memorizing new words. Some participants commented on the usage of special visualizers, graphics, and illustrations in their notes. For instance, Participant H described how she used her personal illustration to remember the parts of the ship like: deck, mast, canvas and so on.   Participant B, especially reports the help of the online application called “Quizlet”, which provides more practices and definitions for better learning, and Participant J indicated the advantage of using “Wordwall” and “Word checker” in learning new words by gamification of the learning process.         


The main things that are concerned for this research are to identify the advantages and disadvantages of extensive reading and its effect on learning Vocabulary. During the investigation process, qualitative data collection was used. More information was collected through interviewing each participant. Based on collected data and secondary data, which were discussed in the LR; the purpose of the study was achieved.

During the analysis, data was found on the advantages and challenges of extensive reading from the subjective experience of each interviewee, which also matched with the already existing theories from different experts. According to research findings, the effectiveness of extensive reading to learn Vocabulary was demonstrated. Extensive reading is reading that focuses on the personal interest of the learner, which motivates them to learn all new structures and words to satisfy their curiosity towards a certain thing.  So, the key element of learning through extensive reading is the learner`s interest. The findings show that "Participants do not tend to learn when the book is boring or too complicated so that it is important to choose appropriate materials. According to the participants` responses, those factors were considered as the main challenge. The other challenge is understanding the meaning of the word in a context. 

On the other hand, the main advantage is a constant repetition of certain unknown words, which allows learning the Vocabulary quicker than drilling activity. Also, improvement of the reading skills and broadening of the general knowledge are other advantages of extensive reading. That hypothesis was also confirmed in secondary works of literature that were provided in the LR part.

Since the researcher has limited responses, due to few people with extensive reading experience, it is recommended to test this hypothesis through interviewing more people and analyzing more information through observation and portfolio, to be confident in conclusion.


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