Academic journal article Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods

The Effect of Semantic Mapping Strategy on Efl Learners' Vocabulary Learning

Academic journal article Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods

The Effect of Semantic Mapping Strategy on Efl Learners' Vocabulary Learning

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

Vocabulary is central to language and is of great significance to language learners (Zimmerman, 1998).Vocabulary is the basic access to a language. It is the foundation of a pyramid. Without words, there would be no language structures. Words a re the building blocks of a language since they label objects, actions, ideas without which people cannot convey the intended meaning (Nation, 2004). The prominent role of vocabulary knowledge in

second or foreign language learning has been recently recogn ized by theorists and researchers in the field. Accordingly, numerous types of approaches, techniques, exercises and practice have been introduced into the field to teach vocabulary (Schmitt, 2000).

As Nation (2004) notes, memory strategies, one kind of the language learning strategies, are considered vital in vocabulary teaching. Oxford (1990) advocated that memory strategies are regarded as "powerful mental tools" for language learners to cope with vocabulary learning difficulties, because they "ma ke learning easier, faster, more enjoyable, more self-directed, more effective, and more transferable to new situations" (p.8).

Based on Oxford's (1990) explanation, memory strategies served as "a highly specific function: helping students store and retrieve new information"(p.37). She found out that "language learners have a serious problem remembering the large amounts of vocabulary necessary to achieve fluency"(p.39). To deal with the learning problem, memory strategies were of great help. Thus, memory strategies become a key group in Oxford's strategy classification system.

Barcroft (2004, p.200) defines semantic mapping as "the increased evaluation of an item with regard to its meaning". A semantic map can be used as a tool for discovering the conceptual relationships between vocabulary items. Semantic elaboration seems to enhance word learning and retention, through a learning phase called 'integration' (Shostak, 2003). Integration is based on the view that in order for learning to occur, new information should be incorporated into what the learner previously knows (Christen and Murphy, 1991, cited in Shostak, 2003).

Semantic mapping is also a useful strategy that can be introduced to learners at any level of proficiency. It involves drawing a diagram of the relationships between words according to their use in a particular text. Semantic mapping has the effect of bringing relationships in a text to consciousness for the purpose of deepening the understanding of a text and creating a ssociative networks for words. It is best introduced as a collaborative effort between the teacher and the class (Stahl & Vancil, 1986, cited in Nation & Newton, 1997). Such a diagram" visually shows how ideas fit together. This strategy incorporates a var iety of memory strategies like grouping ,using imagery, associating and elaborating and it is important for improving both memory and comprehension of new vocabulary items"(An, 2006).

In a guided semantic mapping, learners work with the teacher to develop a semantic map around a topic, the teacher deliberately introduces several target vocabulary items and puts them on the map as well as elaborating on them with the learners who then use the semantic map to do a piece of writing. If the writing is do ne in a group, a learner in the group can be assigned to ensure that the target words are used (Nation, 2001). This study intends to investigate the effectiveness of vocabulary instruction via semantic mapping against the established traditional vocabulary teaching technique that is widely used in Iran.

1.2. 1.2.Literature review

There are a number of studies on the effectiveness of word clusters on L2 vocabulary learning. Johnson, et al., (1984) compared semantic mapping and semantic feature analysis with a modified basal approach for effectiveness as pre-reading instructional treatment for

both vocabulary acquisition and passage comprehension. …

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