Academic journal article Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods

Vocabulary Learning Strategies of Malaysian Learners of Arabic as a Foreign Language: Beliefs and Frequency of Use

Academic journal article Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods

Vocabulary Learning Strategies of Malaysian Learners of Arabic as a Foreign Language: Beliefs and Frequency of Use

Article excerpt


This study investigates the vocabulary learning strategies of undergraduate Malaysian learners of Arabic as a foreign language (AFL) in terms of beliefs and frequency of use. A total of 152 learners of Arabic in two Malaysian universities responded to a questionnaire composed of two main themesbeliefs (20 items) and strategies (45 items). The findings highlighted that Malaysian AFL learners generally agree on the importance of using different approaches -incidental and intentionalin manipulating and learning Arabic vocabulary. Furthermore, Malaysian AFL learners appeared to use vocabulary learning strategies at approximately the same level of frequency. However, it was found that dictionary related strategies were more frequently used in contrast to other strategies, namely, note taking, memorization, and guessing, which was the least usually used strategy.

Keywords: Arabic as a foreign language, vocabulary learning strategies, learners' beliefs.

1. introduction

Recent research in second language acquisition emphasizes the centrality of vocabulary for fluent language use. Researchers suggest that learners' language skills are heavily dependent on the number of words they know, particularly in the early stages of learning a foreign language (Nation & Waring, 1997; Waring & Nation, 2004). It is critically important for language learners to develop an adequate high-frequency vocabulary, which enables them to be successful in other areas of language proficiency (Waring & Nation, 2004; Zhi-liang, 2010; Zimmerman, 2004). The size of leaner's vocabulary has been found to correlate closely with reading comprehension as well as with writing ability (Waring & Nation, 2004; Zimmerman, 2004). Lee (2003, p. 538) reports that "research has shown that the lack of vocabulary contributes to writing difficulty for foreign language learners and that vocabulary is one of the most important features that determine writing quality".

However, vocabulary is often regarded as the most problematic area by language learners (Çelik & Toptas, 2010; Mobarg, 1997). Vocabulary involves several types of word knowledge, such as meaning, form, collocation and register (Nation, 2000; cited in Tseng & Schmitt, 2008). Stahl and Nagy (2006) explain the multiple dimensions of word knowledge, which accounts for its complexity. First, word knowledge is incremental, which means that to know a word, one needs to have many exposures to it in different contexts. Vocabulary acquisition is gradual. It starts from the simple recognition of a word, to understanding its syntactic and semantic restrictions, and, finally, to realizing its appropriate use in context (Henriksen, 1999). Second, word meaning is multiple. Words usually have different meanings according to the context in which they appear. Third, word knowledge is interrelated, in that knowledge of one word connects to the knowledge of other words.

Taking the importance of vocabulary for communication on the one hand, and its complexity on the other, it is imperative to equip language learners with effective strategies for vocabulary improvement, so that they can tackle communicational problems caused by unknown words, and, at the same time, "continue to learn new words and, hence, increase their vocabulary size" (Nation & Waring, 1997).

Vocabulary learning strategies (VLS) are influenced by learners' beliefs about language learning in general and vocabulary learning process in particular. Chang and Shen (2010) reported that research on beliefs about language learning has "proven that learners' beliefs may have the potential to influence both their experiences and actions as language learners". Yang (1999, p. 515) stated that "researchers have suggested that learners' preconceived beliefs about language learning would likely affect the way they use their learning strategies". Therefore, learners' beliefs about vocabulary learning should provide teachers with better understandings of perceptions that inspire their students' choice of VLS and unfold learners' insight on what constructs a better manipulation of vocabulary items. …

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