School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies

Paul Nation

Emeritus Professor
School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies

Phone: 04 463 5628
Location: Room 415, Von Zedlitz Building, Kelburn Pde, Kelburn Campus

Paul Nation

BEdStud MA (Hons) DipTESL

Paul Nation is Emeritus Professor in Applied Linguistics at the School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies (LALS) at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. His specialist interests are the teaching and learning of vocabulary and language teaching methodology.

He has taught in Indonesia, Thailand, the United States, Finland and Japan.

Recent Books

A recent book What you need to know to learn a foreign language is available to download here as a pdf file size 978KB.

The second edition of Learning Vocabulary in Another Language (2014) has now appeared from Cambridge University Press

Two books written for teachers appeared in early 2013. They are called What Should Every ESL Teacher Know (available free in electronic form), and What should Every EFL Teacher Know (for sale). For details go to Compass Media.

The number of free Mid-frequency readers on this web site continues to increase (see below). The plan is to eventually have at last fifty titles, each in three versions.

A book, Making and Using Word Lists in Language Learning and Teaching, will appear in 2016 from John Benjamins. A book written with Stuart Webb, How Vocabulary is Learned, will appear in 2017 from Oxford University Press.


View and download publications by Paul Nation in chronological order.

Most of Paul Nation’s articles are available here for free download. You can also download the latest version of his extensive bibliography on the teaching and learning of vocabulary. The numbers in square brackets after each article in the bibliography refer to the area of vocabulary studies it fits into. The list of areas is available at the beginning of the bibliography.

(1.1KB) Vocabulary Bibliography Database (8 February 2016)

Paul Nation's books include Teaching and Learning Vocabulary (Heinle and Heinle, 1990),New Ways in Teaching Vocabulary (TESOL, 1994), Learning Vocabulary in Another Language (Cambridge University Press, 2001) and Focus on Vocabulary (with Peter Gu) (Macmillan Australia, 2007). His publications include articles and books on teaching and learning vocabulary, language teaching methodology, and curriculum design. Most of his articles can be downloaded from this website. In addition he has written several booklets to be used in the courses he teaches. Paul Nation's most recent books on vocabulary areTeaching Vocabulary: Strategies and Techniques (2008) Heinle Cengage Learning, Boston; and Researching and Analyzing Vocabulary (2011) (with Stuart Webb) Heinle Cengage Learning, Boston.


There are four books from Routledge Teaching ESL/EFL Listening and Speaking (with Jonathan Newton), and Teaching ESL/EFL Reading and Writing, Language Curriculum Design (with John Macalister) and Case Studies in Language Curriculum Design (with John Macalister).

He was involved in the development of a set of course books with Casey Malarcher calledReading for Speed and Fluency and a six-book set called 4000 Essential English WordsCompass Media, Seoul.

He has written a web-based course on teaching and learning vocabulary for the ELT Advantage series through TESOL International.

Vocabulary Resources for Download

Download the Range program with either the GSL/AWL lists or with the British National Corpus lists, plus instructions for using the program.

Range Program FilesFile sizeFile type
Range program with GSL/AWL list521 KBZIP
Range program with British National Corpus list 14,000701 KBZIP
Range program with BNC/COCA lists 25,000590 KBZIP
PDF Icon Information on the BNC/COCA lists156 KBPDF
 Headwords of the first 10,000 words40KBZIP

Download the Vocabulary Resource Booklet. This contains the Vocabulary Levels Test, bilingual 1000 and 2000 versions of the Vocabulary Levels Test, the survival vocabulary in various languages, and other tests and resources.

Vocabulary Resource BookletFile sizeFile type
Vocabulary Resource Booklet1,215 KBZIP

Download the Vocabulary Size Test. It is also available from Tom Cobb's website. The 2007 article by Nation and Beglar (available in the list of publications above) describes the making and use of this test.

All PDF documents require Acrobat Reader.

Vocabulary Size TestsFile sizeFile type
Vocabulary Size Test (bilingual Arabic version)340KBPDF
Vocabulary Size Test Instructions and description180 KBPDF
Vocabulary Size Test (monolingual, 20,000, version A)86 KBPDF
Vocabulary Size Test (monolingual, 20,000, version B)85.5 KBPDF
Vocabulary Size Test (monolingual, 14,000)410 KBPDF
Vocabulary Size Test (bilingual Gujarati version) 47.5 KBPDF 
Vocabulary Size Test (bilingual Korean version)591 KBPDF
Vocabulary Size Test (bilingual Japanese version)539 KBPDF
Vocabulary Size Test (bilingual Mandarin version)541 KBPDF
Vocabulary Size Test (bilingual Thai version)395 KBPDF
Vocabulary Size Test (bilingual Vietnamese version)464 KBPDF
Vocabulary Size Test (bilingual Russian version)129 KBPDF

Answers for Vocabulary Size test

Answers for Vocabulary Size TestFile sizeFile type
Vocabulary Size Test, Version A answers11.7 KBPDF
Vocabulary Size Test, Version B answers11.7 KBPDF

Download the Fluency text for running through the frequency program.

Fluency TestFile sizeFile type
Fluency and Learning7 KBTXT

A Speed reading course at the 1000 word level.

All PDF documents require Acrobat Reader.

Speed Reading CourseFile sizeFile type
Speed Reading Course445 KBPDF

Almost all of Paul Nation's articles are available for free downloading from the list of publications above (chronological order or topic order).

Links to Other Vocabulary Resources

Free graded readers

The following graded readers are now out of copyright and are available free for anyone who wants to use them. They must not be offered for sale, but can be distributed free.

Fire on the Mountain by Gerry Meister and Paul Nation (within a vocabulary of 700 words)
Indonesian Love Story by Paul Nation and Gerry Meister (within a vocabulary of 1200 words)

Mid-frequency graded readers

(Click here for more information about mid-frequency readers)

The following mid-frequency readers are available free for anyone who wants to use them. They must not be offered for sale, but can be distributed free. Each book is available in three levels – one for learners who know 4000 words, one for learners who know 6000 words, and one for learners who know 8000 words.


A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (4000 level), (6000 level), (8000 level).
This is a novel written in the 19th century. It tells of the transformation of a mean-spirited man, Scrooge, into a generous and kind one. The transformation occurs when one Christmas he is visited by three ghosts who show him visions of Christmas in his past, present and future.  Dickens writes in the style of his time and uses sentence structures and punctuation in ways that may not be familiar to the modern reader. He also uses a lot of descriptive language and some of the comparisons he makes might be unfamiliar. However the story is clear and enjoyable.

A Modest Proposalby Jonathan Swift (4000 level), (6000 level), (8000 level).
This is a satirical essay, written in 1729. It is a bitter attack on the poverty of Irish Roman Catholics under the rule of Protestant England. Its full title is "A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People from Being a Burden to their Parents, or the Country, and for Making them Beneficial to the Public."
Swift’s shocking proposal is intended to arouse disgust against the English government’s lack of concern for the starving children of Ireland.

Jonathan Swift is also the author of the famous “Gulliver’s Travels”.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland(4000 level), (6000 level), (8000 level).
This famous children’s story written in 1865 is an early example of the fantasy or nonsense genre. The story plays with time, imagination, logic and language and for this reason remains popular with adult readers as well as children. You will meet many strange kinds of talking animals as well as characters from the pack of cards, and you will encounter unusual and interesting ways of using English such as 'curiouser' and 'uglification'.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë(4000 level), (6000 level), (8000 level)
Jane Eyre is a classic story of the treacherous path to happiness. After she loses her parents, Jane has a miserable childhood, first under her aunt’s cruel care and then at a harsh boarding school for the poor. However, by gaining an education, Jane enjoys her early adult life working as a governess. Falling in love with the master, though, brings her both joy and terrible heartbreak. Only after facing many difficult choices and overcoming secrets, lies and deception, does Jane eventually find the life she deserves.

This famous novel is written in an intensely descriptive and poetic style, in the gothic tradition. It is set in 19th century rural England.

Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka (4000 level), (6000 level), (8000 level).
Metamorphosis was written by German writer Franz Kafka in 1912. It begins: One morning, when Gregor Samsa woke, he found himself transformed into a horrible giant insect...&;

While Gregor’s physical body has changed, he is still the same person inside.  In the book, Gregor describes his changing relationship with his family and his surroundings, his feelings about his changed state and his final acceptance. While the situation is ridiculous, Kafka writes about it as if it is perfectly normal. This is what has made the story a classic of early 20th century literature.

More William by Richmal Crompton (4000 level), (6000 level), (8000 level).This book is about a very amusing set of stories about a young English boy who is always getting into trouble. The original (available from Project Gutenberg) contains a lot of deliberate mis-spellings to represent dialect pronunciation and children’s writing errors. These have been regularised in this adapted version. I really enjoyed reading this book when I was young and enjoyed reading it again to adapt it.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (4000 level), (6000 level), (8000 level) is a collection of twelve stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a Scottish doctor and writer.  The stories were first published together as a book in 1892. Sherlock Holmes is famous for his ability to use logical reasoning and science to solve difficult and unusual crimes, and also for his ability to take on any disguise. The stories are told by Dr Watson, Sherlock Holmes’ colleague in crime detection.

The Garden Party and Other Stories by Katherine Mansfield. They are thought to be based on recollections of her childhood in New Zealand. There are fifteen stories in the collection. They are available for download in the table below as zip files.  The name of the person kindly adapting the stories to be mid-frequency readers is listed on the first page of reach story.

DocumentFile sizeFile type
The Garden Party and Other Stories 4000 level124KBZip file
The Garden Party and Other Stories 6000 level126KBZip file
The Garden Party and Other Stories 8000 level126KBZip file

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte  (4000 level), (6000 level), (8000 level). One of the most popular 19th century novels, Wuthering Heights is a dramatic and horrifying story of passion and revenge, racial and social discrimination.  This is quite a difficult work, but one which rewards the patient and attentive reader. The relationships between characters and the similarity of many names may cause some confusion for readers. A useful diagram can be found here. Switching angles of narration and the time span of this novel are also quite complex, so a synopsis may also be useful.
Readers who are new to the works of the Bronte sisters, are advised to start with Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte. This has a more accessible style, a single narrator, a more linear plot, and provides a good introduction to the life and times of the Bronte novels.


Free Culture by Lawrence Lessig (4000 level), (6000 level), (8000 level).
This is a non-fiction text subtitled how big media uses technology and the law to lock down culture and control creativity.

Glimpses of an Unfamiliar Japan by Lafcadio Hearn (4000 level), (6000 level), (8000 level).
Lafcadio Hearn visited Japan in the1890s and fell in love with the country. There is a statue of him in Matsue where the house where he stayed is preserved as a tourist attraction. This book is about his stay in Japan, the places he visited and the people he met. In addition to his book he wrote English versions of Japanese folk tales. The book contains quite a few Japanese words but these are explained in the text.

The Art of War by Sun Tzu (4000 level), (6000 level), (8000 level).
This book is an adaptation of a translation from the original in Chinese. It consists of very practical advice on how to conduct war. Recently, the book has been studied so that the general principles can be adapted to the world of business. For further information see the Wikipedia entry:

The Princeby Niccolo Machiavelli (4000 level only).
The Prince by Nicolo Machiavelli is an important text in literature (it influenced many Elizabethan writers like Shakespeare), political science, history, and psychology. It is a partly ironic description of how a leader should behave. Because the advice is largely given for practical purposes, Machiavelli gained an undeserved reputation for giving little consideration of morality.

Useful links

Tom Cobb's webpage

Extensive Reading Foundation


Videotaped Talks

Word part levels test (Yosuke Sasao, PhD student at LALS)

Information on TEFL

Take the Word test. This is a test of vocabulary size used by researchers in the University of Ghent. You will find it interesting and you can help them in their research by sitting the test.

History of the Nation family in New Zealand

DocumentFile SizeFile type
PDF Icon My Life by Harriet Ashwell1.84MBPDF
PDF Icon Waimarino County Call429KBPDF
PDF Icon WC Nation Cemetery77KBPDF
PDF Icon WC Nation family tree82KBPDF
PDF Icon WC Nation Memoirs1747KBPDF
PDF Icon WC Nation Memorial Message1100KBPDF
doc icon WC Nation's memoirs73KBDOC