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Purpose: The present study investigated the extent to which background knowledge of the French language could influence English vocabulary learning among EFL university students in Algeria. More specifically, the possible cross-linguistic influence in this context was researched in relation to the growth pattern of the receptive written vocabulary size across the three years of the undergraduate course.
Methodology: A cross-sectional research design was used for a total number of 184 EFL Algerian university students. The written receptive vocabulary size was measured using Nation's Vocabulary Size Test (2007) which contained many words with similar orthographic forms as their French equivalents. A comparison between the results of the whole population made it possible to establish the progressive growth pattern from Year 1 to Year 3 of the degree course.
Results: Besides a moderate increase of vocabulary size from one proficiency level to the other, and an expected decrease pattern of knowledge from the most frequent English words to the least frequent ones, the positive cross-linguistic influence of French cognates was highly significant as it led to the knowledge of words that were beyond the expected level of most participants.
Conclusion/Implication: The facilitative effect of French cognates for EFL learners in Algerian universities is, therefore, an area that instructors and syllabus designers can make use of to maximize the vocabulary learning process.
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