Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Education (MSEd)


Education and Human Development

First Advisor

Dr. Robert B. Ribble


The purpose of this study was to investigate the use of information theory as a testing technique to diagnose the different levels of Spanish vocabulary skills. This study is not an attempt to analyze mistakes or to debate which language proficiency test is the best in testing language abilities or expertness. This test was constructed to determine the readability and the validity of information theory as a testing tool. A secondary purpose was to determine whether this technique could help increase a person's ability to comprehend reading material at their level of second language learning.

Vocabulary skills were tested at the beginner, intermediate, advanced and native stages of language proficiency. This study consisted of three experimental groups. The first was composed of fifty students from the Allendale Columbia School who are learning Spanish as a second language. Their ages ranged from twelve to nineteen years old. This group was further categorized as non-native language learners at the beginner, intermediate and advanced levels of language development. The second group consisted of non-educated native Spanish speakers and language trained non-native Spanish speakers and finally, the third group was composed of non-language trained educated Spanish speakers and language trained native Spanish speakers.

The first group was tested with a variety of reading materials in the target language. This was done to verify their language level. The materials presented consisted of two to three paragraphs with part of the information deleted. The objective of the test was for the subjects to encode the missing letters within a five minute time frame.

All three groups were presented with a similar testing procedure at different levels of difficulty. The reading passages consisted of approximately 200 to 250 bits of information each. Shannon's citation for calculating redundancy was used to compute the predictability of the passages, as well as, to determine the level of each subject tested. The subjects in group one made significant improvement on test scores at their instructional level. The second and third group made positive, yet not significant improvements at their level of language proficiency.

Within the limitations of this study the following conclusions can be drawn:

1. The findings of this project suggest that the results of this study must be interpreted with caution and can only be generalized to a similar population.

2. The findings failed to show any significant difference between a language trained non-native Spanish speaker and a non-language trained native Spanish speaker.

3. The findings suggested that for classroom applications and implications further research is warranted.