Word knowledge plays an important role in language teaching, it provides the basis for learners to grasp four language skills listening, speaking, reading and writing. Without a certain amount of words, learners cannot expect to understand fully the content of listening and reading and express their meaning clearly in the process of speaking and writing.
What is involved in knowing a word?
Knowing a word involves knowing its form, meaning and use. Summarizing Paul Nation’s list of what this is for both receptive and productive skills:
|Form||Spoken||Receptive||What does the word sound like?|
|Productive||How is the word pronounced?|
|Written||Receptive||What does the word look like?|
|Productive||How is the word written and spelled?|
|Word parts||Receptive||What parts are recognizable in this word?|
|Productive||What word parts are needed to express this meaning?|
|Meaning||Form & meaning||Receptive||What meaning does this word form signal?|
|Productive||What word form can be used to express this meaning?|
|Concept & referents||Receptive||What is included in the concept?|
|Productive||What items can the concept refer to?|
|Associations||Receptive||What other words does this make us think of?|
|Productive||What other words can we use instead of this one?|
|Use||Grammatical functions||Receptive||In what patterns does this word occur?|
|Productive||In what patterns must we use this word?|
|Collocations||Receptive||What words or types of words occur with this one?|
|Productive||What words or types of words must we use with this one?|
|Constraints on use (register, frequency…)||Receptive||Where, when and how often would we expect to meet this word?|
|Productive||Where, when and how often can we use this word?|
Source: Nation, P., 2001, Learning Vocabulary in Another Language, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, p. 27
What aspects of a word should be taught?
There is good evidence that word meanings are acquired in a predictable sequence. Three children from the 2nd, 4th, and 6th grades, each with vocabularies of about 8,000 root word meanings, are likely to know mainly the same meaning. More common words frequently have more than one meaning.
Why teach pronunciation?
Mastering grammar, having a good knowledge of vocabulary, being able to read and write well, are all part of learning a language. However, not being able to pronounce words hugely hinders communication, especially since it is believed that, learners who are unable to pronounce words are also unable to understand them. This means that teaching pronunciation is an important area which should be dealt with regularly.
SYNONYMS AND ANTONYMS
In reading, especially poetry, it will help with understanding the poem. It helps to be able to look at a piece of literature to use the correct terms as learners try and understand what the writer was trying to say. Understanding and recognizing the literature devices the author used will give learners deeper insight into the piece.
It will improve writing. Being able to know what a synonym is will help your student to use them in his writing. We could just say “Use a word that has the same meaning” . But knowing the correct terminology of the craft you are doing makes it a lot easier. I.E. when we crochet, instead of saying single crochet we could say go through loops once, yarn over, go through again, but it is a lot easier to just use the correct terminology and say do a single crochet.
Firstly, collocations, which are assumed to make up 70 % of everything we say, hear, read or write in real life (Lewis 2000, 53) allow learners to process and produce language at a much faster rate. This might suggest that they can listen at the speed of speech and read quickly like native speakers provided that they can recognise multi-word units rather than process everything word by word.
Similarly, using collocations will also enable them to think more quickly and communicate more efficiently.
Thirdly, collocation is being recognised explicitly by examining boards as an element in assessing a learner’s overall proficiency. To illustrate, it is tested in the Cambridge First Certificate (FCE), Certificate of advanced English (CAE) and Proficiency (CPE). So, learning collocations will be a useful preparation for learners who need to take one of those exams.
Finally, collocations have often been a source of student error. Therefore, to provide students with opportunities where they can understand the idea of collocations, and make use of them to their advantage in building their mental lexicons in a systematic way, the aim here will be to do the necessary research into them and adapt the findings into the classroom use.
How should vocab be effectively taught to EFL learner?
Vocab can be effectively taught to EFL learner by using excercise, game and many other activities in class:
Find the core meaning. The learners look at dictionary entries and find the shared meaning in the various senses of the word.
Word card testing
The learners work in pairs. Each learner gives their pack of cards to their partner who tests them on their recall of the meaning by saying the word and getting them to give the translation. This can also be done by giving the translation and getting them to give the word form.
Using the dictionary: When a useful word occurs in a reading text, the teacher trains learners in the strategy of using a dictionary.
Guessing from context. Whenever a guessable word occurs in a reading text the teacher trains the learners in the guessing from context strategy.
The teacher says words or phrases and the learners write them. Pronunciation The teacher writes words on the board and the learners pronounce them getting feedback from the teacher. Each learner picks what word to say.
The teacher writes words on the board and the learners cut them into parts and give the meanings of the parts.
The learners work together in pairs or small groups to list collocates for a given word. Word detectives A learner reports on a word he or she has found in their reading. They talk about the meaning, spelling, pronunciation, word parts, etymology, collocates and grammar of the word.
Choosing the words 1 As words come up in class, one learner (the class secretary) has the job of noting them for future attention. 2 The teacher chooses words that have appeared in work in the last week or two. 3 The teacher chooses words that the learners need to know.
Ways of helping learners remember previously met words:
- Spend time on a word by dealing with two or three aspects of the word, such as its spelling, its pronunciation, its parts, related derived forms, its meaning, its collocations, its grammar, or restrictions on its use.
- Get learners to do graded reading and listening to stories at the appropriate level.
- Get learners to do speaking and writing activities based on written input that contains the words.
- Get learners to do prepared activities that involve testing and teaching vocabulary, such as Same or different?, Find the difference, Word and picture matching.
- Set aside a time each week for word by word revision of the vocabulary that occurred previously. List the words on the board and do the following activities. a) go round the class getting each learner to say one of the words. b) break the words into parts and label the meanings of the parts. c) suggest collocations for the words. d) recall the sentence where the word occurred and suggest another context. e) look at derived forms of the words.