Second Language Vocabulary Learning and Teaching: Still a Hot Topic

Article excerpt

Abstract

For many reasons second language vocabulary learning and teaching continues to be a topic of interest for learners, instructors, and researchers. This article describes the implementation of personal glossaries in a community program offering English as second language classes to Latina/o Spanish speaking adults. Field notes, interviews, and student work served as data sources to document the results. Suggested steps for the implementation of personal glossaries, pedagogical implications for the teaching of second language vocabulary, and suggestions for future research are provided.

Introduction

For many reasons second language(L2)vocabulary learning and teaching continues to be a topic of interest for learners, instructors, and researchers (Bogaards & Laufer, 2004; Folse, 2004; Nation, 2001; Schmitt, 2000). Vocabulary acquisition is just as important as the acquisition of grammar; it is the heart of communication (Amiryousefi & Vahid, 2010; LU Mei-fang, 2008). As McVey (2007) explains, "Along with correct grammar, an extensive vocabulary will help ESL students communicate effectively, both verbally and in writing" (p. 20). Some researchers believe that vocabulary knowledge may determine the quality of listening, speaking, reading and writing of an L2 learner (Mokhtar, Rawian, Yahaya, et al., 2010).

Research has demonstrated the usefulness and relevance of L2 vocabulary strategies (Baicheng, 2009; Fan, 2003; Hernández, Herter, & Hernández, 2010; Larrotta, 1999; Lu Mei-fang, 2008; Montelongo, Hernández, Herter, & Hernández, 2010). However, there is a gap between the L2 vocabulary learning strategies that students use and the vocabulary strategies employed or recommended by instructors (Larrotta, 1999). At times, instructors overestimate how much vocabulary students really understand which can result in a communication breakdown between instructor and student (Folse, 2004). There is also a new trend of teaching students to be independent and responsible for their learning. Research on which methods of instruction increase independent learning of vocabulary words continues to be a necessity (Gu, 2003; Lu MeiFang, 2008). This article describes the implementation of personal glossaries in a community program offering English as second language (ESL) classes to Spanish speaking adults.

Relevant Literature

Research on vocabulary learning and vocabulary learning strategies is vast. This section will highlight some relevant publications within the past decade, followed by a synthesis of their conclusions and recommendations.

Nisbet (2010) offers practical guidance for designing and implementing vocabulary instruction using a three-tiered vocabulary framework: most basic words, high-frequency words, and low-frequency words. Her article provides specific recommendations for selecting and teaching vocabulary in the adult ESL classroom as well as strategies for instruction.

Montelongo and colleagues (2010) present cognates as a tool to scaffold English language learning. They recommend the teaching of morphological generalizations and strategies to recognize cognates in order to accelerate language learning.

Baicheng (2009) discusses the use of example sentences as a means of direct (intentional) vocabulary learning in ESL and EFL (English as foreign language) contexts, proposing that this strategy promotes learners' vocabulary learning and retention. Baicheng states that "the effect is probably better when students write their own authentic example sentences than when the example sentences are randomly provided by their instructor" (p. 183).

Walters and Bozkurt (2009) investigate the effect of vocabulary notebooks on EFL students' vocabulary acquisition. They study students' and teachers' attitudes toward the use of vocabulary notebooks and conclude that vocabulary notebooks are an effective learning tool when students have self-motivation for language learning. …