Impact of Learning Tasks on Retention of Vocabulary Knowledge in Persian Efl Learners

By Esfahani, Fariba Rahimi | Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods, May 1, 2016 | Go to article overview

Impact of Learning Tasks on Retention of Vocabulary Knowledge in Persian Efl Learners


Esfahani, Fariba Rahimi, Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods


1.Introduction

Vocabulary is central to English language teaching and learning because without sufficient vocabulary students cannot understand others or express their own ideas. In most of the educational settings, it has been customized that language learners find it the easiest to learn new words by referring to their equivalent meaning in their own language, or resorting to antonyms or synonyms. Read (2004) states that these procedures are either time-consuming, or are considered as abstract ways of learning words, resulting in the non-durability of words. He notes that in EFL contexts, it would be effective for teachers to provide students with target vocabulary items through tasks and ask them to read only the texts that include the target words. Nation and Meara (2010) define English vocabulary as complex, possessing three main aspects which are concerned with meaning, form and use. It has also layers of meaning which are related to the stems or roots of individual words.

In a study on L2 vocabulary retention, Hulstijn (1992) concluded that using inferencing strategy to gain word meaning was much more effective than explaining it through synonyms. He noted that inferring the meaning of target vocabulary items had longer retention than when explained by their synonyms. Joe's (1995) viewpoint on the retention of unfamiliar words is notable, too. He claims that unfamiliar words are retained longer periods of time as learned through task-based activities, requiring higher level of generativity. On the importance of production-based task on vocabulary retention, Hulstijn and Laufer (2001) assert that production task promote target words retention longer and better than reading comprehension or fill-in-the-blank task which is a sample of recognition task. This finding reveals that the learners who are engaged in production tasks of vocabulary learning are able to remember target words better than those who are involved in vocabulary recognition.

According to Henriksen (1999), the construct of lexical competence should consist of three dimensions: a "partial-precise knowledge" dimension in which levels of knowledge equal to different levels of word comprehension, a ''depth of knowledge'' dimension which also covers knowledge components identified in the vocabulary depth dimension discussed above (e.g., Qian, 1999; Qian & Schedl, 2004), and a "receptiveproductive" dimension which concerns how well a learner can access and use a word. According to Henriksen (1999), when learners cannot use a word correctly or cannot access it freely for production it does not mean that they do not "know" the word; but they have not yet achieved adequate control over word access. The receptive and productive dimension of lexical knowledge is "a bridging dimension between lexical competence and performance" (Zareva et al., 2005:570).

Therefore, With regard to the acquisition of L2 vocabulary knowledge and its use, on the other hand, we also need to distinguish between receptive (passive) and productive (active) vocabulary knowledge, since these types of lexical knowledge - receptive vs. productive - require different amounts of learning time, different effects on vocabulary acquisition, and different learning methods (Laufer & Paribakht, 1998; Nation, 2001; Mondria & Wiersma, 2004; Webb, 2005).

Up to now, many scholars have made definitions from different perspectives for receptive and productive vocabulary knowledge. "Receptive knowledge" is defined as "being able to understand a word" (Schmitt; 2000); and it includes words which can be understood or recognized as individuals can assign their meanings while listening or reading (sometimes imperfectly) and which are also less well-known and less frequent in use and not used spontaneously (Hiebert & Kamil, 2005); it is the ability to perceive the form of the word and to retrieve its meaning(s) (Laufer & Goldstein, 2004); it entails going from the form of a word to its meaning (Nation; 2001); it is the knowledge of the meaning of an L2 word; prototypically, being able to translate a word from L2 to L1 (Mondria & Wiersma, 2004); and it refers to the ability of the learners to understand a word's meaning (Read; 2000 cited in Uygun,2009). …

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