Words are the building blocks in a language. By learning the lexical items, we start to develop knowledge of the target language. Based on our experience of being a language learner, we seem to have no hesitation in recognizing the importance of vocabulary in L2 learning. Meara (1980) points out those language learners admit that they encounter considerable difficulty with vocabulary even when they upgrade from an initial stage of acquiring a second language to a much more advanced level. Language practitioners also have reached a high degree of consensus regarding the importance of vocabulary. The findings in Macaro’s survey (2003) indicate that secondary language teachers view vocabulary as a topic they most need research to shed light on to enhance the teaching and learning in their classrooms. Therefore, it may be claimed that the role of vocabulary in L2 learning is immediately recognized and implications for teaching from substantial research are in great demand.Words are the building blocks in a language. By learning the lexical items, we start to develop knowledge of the target language. Based on our experience of being a language learner, we seem to have no hesitation in recognizing the importance of vocabulary in L2 learning. Meara (1980) points out those language learners admit that they encounter considerable difficulty with vocabulary even when they upgrade from an initial stage of acquiring a second language to a much more advanced level. Language practitioners also have reached a high degree of consensus regarding the importance of vocabulary. The findings in Macaro’s survey (2003) indicate that secondary language teachers view vocabulary as a topic they most need research to shed light on to enhance the teaching and learning in their classrooms. Therefore, it may be claimed that the role of vocabulary in L2 learning is immediately recognized and implications for teaching from substantial research are in great demand.
2.1.3. EFL Vocabulary
Beginners are more in need of vocabulary than any other level of students. This section explores the different types of vocabulary and the role of effective vocabulary learning in teaching FL in addition to the principles of vocabulary selection.
2.1.3.1. Definition of Vocabulary
Oxford dictionary (1991) defines vocabulary as “the body of words used in a particular language”. Merriam –Webster dictionary defines it as “a list or collection of words and phrases usually alphabetically arranged and explained or defined”. Cambridge dictionaries on line define vocabulary as” all the words which exist in a particular language or subject”. Hornby (1995: 331) asserts that vocabulary is “the total number of words of a language.”
The researcher defines vocabulary as a group of words or phrases that form a language.
2.1.3.2. Types of Vocabulary
In teaching FL vocabulary, it is essential to distinguish between different types of vocabulary. Open University (1995:151-156) specifies the following types of vocabulary:
1- ESP Vocabulary
English for Specific Purposes (ESP) is concerned with the use of English in particular scopes whether they are academic or technical. It is best learned through the practice of a certain profession.
2- Active and Passive Vocabulary
Active vocabulary is utilized in everyday speech. It is learned through day to daycommunication. Passive vocabulary is not used on daily basis. FL learners are expected to use the active vocabulary in speaking and writing. On the other hand, the passive vocabulary is essential for general comprehension when occurring in context.
3- Content Words
Content words are lexical items that convey a certain meaning. Content words could be main verbs, nouns, adjectives, adverbs, etc.
4- Function Words
Function words are part of the grammatical system of a language. Structure or function words do not convey meaning. They serve the structure of the sentence and usually change nothing in its meaning.
2.1.3.3. The Role of Vocabulary in TEFL
Harmer (1991:153) observes, “if language structures make up the skeleton of language, then it is vocabulary that provides the vital organs and the flesh.” Vocabulary plays a vital role inlanguage learning. After all, vocabulary remains the tool of thought, self-expression, and communication.
Kohli (1997:156) asserts that students should be able to read with speed and prepare notes on the material they read. However, to reach level of students must have a wide knowledge of vocabulary. While speaking and listening, one makes use of a minimum vocabulary of (30,000) words. Writing and reading on the other hand require a larger set of vocabulary.
Thornbury (2002:13) asserts that “without grammar very little can be conveyed, without vocabulary nothing can be conveyed.” WU (2009:128) indicated that the native English speaker can understand language material of those with correct vocabulary but not so in grammar rules rather than these materials with correct grammar rules but not so proper in vocabulary use. Lewis (1993) suggests that vocabulary acquisition is the main task of second language acquisition. Listening, speaking, writing, reading, and translation do not stand without vocabulary.
Scrivener (1994:75) draws the following conclusions on the role of vocabulary in language teaching in classrooms: 1. Vocabulary is very important and needs to be dealt with systematically in its own right; it is not simply add -on to grammar or skills lessons.2. Teachers’ job does not finish as soon as a learner has first met new vocabulary; we need to help them practice, learn, store, recall, and use the learnt items.3. Training to use English – English dictionaries provides learners with a vital tool for self – study. 4. We need to distinguish between vocabulary for productive use and for receptive recognition and adapt our class room work appropriately.5. We need to deal not only with single word lexical items, but also with longer, multi –word items.
From the previous views, the researcher concludes that:
1. Student will not be able to listen, speak, read, nor write without a somewhat wide scope of vocabulary.2. Students will not be able to convey a certain message without a proper knowledge of vocabulary. 3. Vocabulary development is vital to the development of other aspects of language learning.4. Choosing a proper vocabulary syllabus that matches students’ levels and needs contribute to the success of the learning process.
2.1.4. Factors Affecting Vocabulary Learning and Retention
Many researchers proposed various factors affecting vocabulary learning which can be organized and classified into three main categories-teachers’ teaching methods, students’ responsibility for their own learning, and the nature of foreign words. First, Schmitt (2000) maintained that teaching the pairs of antonyms (e.g., deep/shallow, long/short, and rich/poor) posed great learning difficulties for learners, because students often get confused matching the form with its corresponding meaning (i.e., cross-associated) when a word was taught together with its opposite. For example, when long and short sharing many semantic features were presented at the same time by the use of similar actions, pictures, or objects to convey their meanings, such a teaching method could not help students distinguish one word (long) from the other (short) and make correct connections between form and meanings.
Second, Sanaoui (1995) claimed that learners who had a structured learning approach were more successful in L2 vocabulary learning than those who had an unstructured learning approach. This means that good learners planned for their vocabulary learning, used a variety of vocabulary learning strategies, found the semantic relationships between newly learned and previously learned L2 words, self-created opportunities for learning L2 words outside classrooms, and often reviewed and practiced learned L2 words; however, poor learners generally lacked act
ive management of their L2 vocabulary learning.
Third, the foreign language vocabulary itself affects the success in foreign words learning. Ellis and Beaton (1993) proposed that the less the overlap between the native and foreign language, the harder it would be for the FL learners to learn the foreign language vocabulary. For example, English is an intonation language, whereas Mandarin Chinese is a tone language. Hence, when English speakers learn Mandarin Chinese, they would encounter great difficulties in perceiving and distinguishing the five distinctive tones with the same segmental value but contrasting pitches or tones (Nation, 1990). That is to say, if the form ma was pronounced with a falling pitch, it means ‘scold’, but when the same form is pronounced with a rising pitch, the meaning is ‘hemp’ (O’Grady, Dobrovolsky & Katamba, 1997).
2.1.5. What does it mean to know a word?
Zhan-Xiang (2004) explains that words of a language are just like bricks of a high building; despite quite small pieces, they are vital to the great structure. If we spend most of our time studying grammar, our English will not improve enormously, much improvement is attained if we learn more words and expressions; little can be said with grammar but almost anything with words (Thornburry, 2002). Researchers now view vocabulary as an important language component upon which effective communication relies (Oxford &Scarella, 1994). Research on vocabulary acquisition requires a definition of lexical knowledge. In L1 & L2 research, various proposals have been made as to what is meant by knowing a word (Cronbach, 1942; Nation, 1990, 2001; Qian, 1998, 1999; Richards, 1976).However, no clear consensus exists as to the nature of lexical knowledge. Mezynsky (1983) noted that words’ meanings can be known to varying degrees. Depending on the task, a person could perform adequately with relatively imprecise knowledge. In other situations a much finer notion of the word’s meaning might be required .In fact, although sometimes L2 learners need only partial knowledge of words in comprehension, more lexical knowledge is needed in many situations. Over the past years lexical researchers have developed various criteria for understanding what is involved in knowing a word. An early definition (Cronbach, 1942) divided vocabulary knowledge into two main categories: knowledge of word meanings (generalization, breadth of meaning & precision of meaning) and levels of accessibility (availability & application). The obvious drawback in this definition is ignoring other aspects of lexical knowledge such as spelling, pronunciation and collocation. Later on, an influential statement was produced by Richards (1976). Meara (1980) noted that the model proposed by Richards was more inclusive than the previous models, because he not only incorporated morphological and syntactic properties in to the concept, but also considered some aspects like word frequency and register characteristics. She pointed to various levels in knowing a word on the basis of Richards’ model:
1- Knowledge of the frequency of the word in language, knowing the degree of probability of encountering the word in different situations.
2- Knowledge of the register of the word: i.e. knowing the limitations of use according to various functions and situations.
3-Knowledge of collocation, both semantic and syntactic: i.e. knowing the syntactic behavior (e.g. transitivity patterns, cases) and also knowledge of the word place in a network of relations between that word and other words in the language.
4- Knowledge of morphology: i.e. knowing the underlying form of the word and the derivations that can be made from it.
5- Knowledge of semantics: knowing what the word means or denotes.
6- Knowledge of polysemy: i.e. knowing different meanings associated with the word.
7- Knowledge of the equivalent of the word in the mother tongue.
This set


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