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.


LanguageTitleFile typeFile size
Spanish¿Qué necesitas saber para aprender un idioma extranjero?PDF353 KB

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.

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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. Paul Nation's most recent books on vocabulary are: Teaching Vocabulary: Strategies and Techniques (2008) Heinle Cengage Learning, Boston; Researching and Analyzing Vocabulary (2011) (with Stuart Webb) Heinle Cengage Learning, Boston; Learning Vocabulary in Another Language (Cambridge University Press, 2014 second edition); and Making and Using Word Lists in Language Learning and Teaching (John Benjamins, 2016).


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 called Reading for Speed and Fluency and a six-book set called 4000 Essential English Words Compass Media, Seoul. The three level course Power Reading (with Casey Malarcher)  appeared in 2016 from Compass Publishing.

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

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Vocabulary Analysis Programs

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

The Range program is used for analysing the vocabulary load of texts. It can tell you how much and what vocabulary occurs in a particular text or group of texts. It used to be called VORDS, FVORDS, and VocabProfile. There is a set of instructions that comes with the program. A much simpler web based version can be found on Tom Cobb’s website (Compleat Lexical Tutor), and is called VocabProfile. AntWordProfiler is a much more modern version of the program with numerous extra features and is available from Laurence Anthony’s Website. AntWordProfiler will also run on Macs and can work with any language providing there are word lists.

The Frequency program turns a text or texts into a word list with frequency figures. It is in the zip file with the Range program.

 File 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

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Vocabulary lists

Survival vocabulary

The survival vocabulary lists available here are based on Nation, P., & Crabbe, D. (1991). A survival language learning syllabus for foreign travel. System, 19(3), 191-201 (available under Publications on this web site). They provide a beginning list of useful words and expressions for someone who is going to spend some time in another country and who wants to quickly begin speaking the local language to greet and thank people, to go shopping, to travel, and to deal with common problems. It takes around a total of four hours of using bilingual word cards to learn most of this vocabulary for a particular language. Read the Nation and Crabbe article to get advice on learning the vocabulary.

Balinese (25KB)German (14KB)Korean (214KB)Samoan (14KB)
Chuuk (Truk) (13KB)Greek  (15KB)Mandarin (121KB)Spanish (14KB)
Danish (13KB)Hebrew  (12KB)Norwegian (13KB)Swedish (13KB)
Dutch (14KB)Indonesian  (13KB)Polish (49KB)Turkish (119KB)
English (57KB)Italian  (13KB)Portuguese (13KB)Tuvaluan (13KB)
French (21KB)Japanese (14KB)Russian (22KB) 

The BNC/COCA headword lists

The BNC/COCA lists with all their family members come with the Range program. The following lists contain only the headwords of the 25,000 word families. The first 2000 or 3000 of the BNC/COCA lists are an alternative to the General Service List. The lists are described in a file that comes with the lists - Headwords of the first 10,000 words

Headwords of the First 10,000 WordsFile SizeFile Type
1st 1000 words230 KBPDF
2nd 1000 words230 KBPDF
3rd 1000 words230 KBPDF
4th 1000 words230 KBPDF
5th 1000 words230 KBPDF
6th 1000 words230 KBPDF
7th 1000 words230 KBPDF
8th 1000 words230 KBPDF
9th 1000 words230 KBPDF
10th 1000 words230 KBPDF
Headwords of the first 10,000 words40 KBZIP

The General Service List

This classic word list by Michael West of the most useful 2000 words of English is now out of print.

(239KB) Headwords of the General Service List

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Vocabulary tests

There are two kinds of proficiency tests on this web site – those that measure total vocabulary size (How many words someone knows), and those that measure knowledge of particular frequency levels of words (for example, the first 1000 and second 1000 words). The Vocabulary Size Test which covers 20,000 word families can be used with native speakers and non-native speakers. The 14,000 version is best used with only non-native speakers. There are some bilingual versions of the tests and these should be preferred ahead of monolingual versions especially for lower proficiency learners. See Nation, P., & Beglar, D. (2007). A vocabulary size test. The Language Teacher, 31(7), 9-13 for information on the test (available under Publications on this web site).

The Vocabulary Size Test is also available from Tom Cobb's website. The 2007 article by Nation and Beglar (available under Publications on this web site) describes the making and use of this test.

All PDF documents require Acrobat Reader.

Vocabulary Size TestsFile sizeFile type
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
Vocabulary Size Test, 14,000 answers306KBPDF

The Vocabulary Levels Test is not a measure of vocabulary size, but is a diagnostic test which measures selected frequency levels. It is most useful for measuring how well learners know the Academic Word List, and that part can be used separately.

The 1000 level True/False test can be used as an oral test for learners who cannot read. See Nation, I. S. P. (1993). Measuring readiness for simplified material: a test of the first 1,000 words of English. In M.L.Tickoo (Ed.), Simplification: Theory and Application. RELC anthology series no. 31 (pp. 193-203). Singapore: SEAMEO-RELC (available under Publications on this web site).

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Readers and speed reading

This part of my web page contains reading material written in a controlled vocabulary. It includes the Mid-frequency readers adapted for learners with vocabulary sizes of around 4000, 6000, and 8000 word families, out-of-print graded readers, and a speed reading course written within a 1000 word family vocabulary. To learn more about Mid-frequency readers, read Nation, I.S.P. & Anthony, L. (2013). Mid-frequency readers. Journal of Extensive Reading, 1(1), 5-16. To learn more about speed reading, read Nation, I.S.P. (2005) Reading faster. Pasaa 36: 21-37.

A Speed reading course at the 1000 word level.

All PDF documents require Acrobat Reader.

Speed Reading CourseFile sizeFile type
Speed Reading Course445 KBPDF

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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.

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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.


word level
word level
word level
A Christmas CarolCharles DickensPDFPDFPDF
A Modest ProposalJonathan SwiftPDFPDFPDF
Alice's Adventures in WonderlandLewis CarrollPDFPDFPDF
Jane EyreCharlotte BrontëPDFPDFPDF
MetamorphosisFranz KafkaPDFPDFPDF
More WilliamRichmal CromptonPDFPDFPDF
The Adventures of Sherlock HolmesSir Arthur Conan DoylePDFPDFPDF
The Garden Party and Other StoriesKatherine MansfieldZIPZIPZIP
Wuthering HeightsEmily BrontëPDFPDFPDF

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word level
word level
word level
Free CultureLawrence LessigPDFPDFPDF
Glimpses of an Unfamiliar JapanLafcadio HearnPDFPDFPDF
The Art of WarSun TzuPDFPDFPDF
The PrinceNiccolo MachiavelliPDF  

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Tom Cobb's webpage

Extensive Reading Foundation


Word part levels test (Yosuke Sasao's Website)

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.

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This section of my web site contains family history relating to the Nation and Ashwell families. My nominal great-grandfather (William Charles Nation) wrote his family history in the 1920s and this handwritten document is reproduced here as a pdf file and has also been transcribed into computer readable form. His account of spiritualist events in his home is described in a book he published called The Unseen World.

My grandmother on my mother’s side (Harriet Ashwell) wrote her family history and I transcribed the several hundred handwritten pages and had 125 copies published. An electronic copy of this book is on this web page along with an MS-Word version with minor errors corrected.  Hard copies of the book are held by each of her descendants as well as the Raetihi Public Library and the New Zealand National Library.

I am writing a history of my immediate family starting with my grandparents, and will keep this file on this web site as I make progress.

DocumentFile SizeFile type
PDF Icon My Life by Harriet Ashwell1.84MBPDF
  My Life by Harriet Ashwell5.8MBDOCX
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
The Unseen World5.5MBPDF

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Synopses of Mid-frequency graded readers


A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
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.

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A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift
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”.

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Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
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'.

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Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
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.

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Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
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.

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More William by Richmal Crompton
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.

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The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
This 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.

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The Garden Party and Other Stories by Katherine Mansfield
These stories 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 above 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.

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Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
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 on the genealogy of Wuthering Heights can be found on the website, The Reader's Guide to Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights. Switching angles of narration and the time span of this novel are also quite complex, so this summary of the novel may also be useful.
Readers who are new to the works of the Brontë sisters, are advised to start with Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë. 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 Brontë novels.

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

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Glimpses of an Unfamiliar Japan by Lafcadio Hearn
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.

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The Art of War by Sun Tzu
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 Art of War

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The Prince by 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.

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