Teaching VocabHarris and Hodges (1995) describe vocabulary as all the words of a language. A more explicit definition is given by Neuman and Dwyer (2009), referred to by Bintz (2011), who stated that vocabulary is:
the words we must know to communicate effectively: words
in speaking (expressive vocabulary) and words in listening
Mei-fang (2008) suggests that if language structures make up the skeleton of language, then it is vocabulary that provides the vital organs and the flesh. An ability to manipulate grammatical structures does not have any potential for expressing meaning unless words are used. Therefore, the reality is that vocabulary is an extremely vital component of any language. Vocabulary makes a language thick and rich.
Research has found that despite the importance of vocabulary teachers do not devote sufficient time and effort toward the teaching of vocabulary. Focus has been on the acquisition of grammatical knowledge.
Nisbet (2010) explains that english
as a second language (ESL) teachers and students have long recognized the importance of vocabulary development as a foundation for second language reading. This finding is supported by Hyso and Tabaku (2011) who recognised the close relationship between vocabulary knowledge and reading comprehension. Hyso and Tabaku (2011) referred to Nagy (1977) and Nation (1990) who found that vocabulary knowledge is fundamental to comprehending text and plays a great role as a predictor of overall reading ability. Having rich vocabulary knowledge is a key element to better reading comprehension (Hudson, 2007).
Nam (2010) states that in the ESL context, vocabulary not only supports the four language skills, listening, speaking, reading and writing, but also mediates between ESL students and content-area classes in that these students often find that lack of vocabulary knowledge is an obstacle to learning.
Despite the importance of vocabulary in the ESL structure A’lipour and Ketabi (2010) cited Scott, Jamieson-Noel and Asselin (2003) who lamented the fact that many english
as a foreign language (EFL) teachers dedicate little of their class time to vocabulary instruction.
Nagy (1988) and Balchowicz and Fisher (2002) have found that teachers who devote time to vocabulary instruction often use strategies that fail to increase students’ vocabulary and comprehension abilities. Most of the EFL classes tend to be boring and consist of mechanical repetition and drills which were in vogue long ago. This is supported by Yip and Kwan (2006) who suggest that vocabulary learning is often perceived as boring by learners, especially for those who grew up in the digital age. Yip and Kwan (2006) referred to Nguyen and Khuat (2003) who said that learners find vocabulary learning boring as they have to memorize unfamiliar words and spelling and are typically asked to complete lots of exercises.
Given the importance of vocabulary learning and the fact that classes are not motivating or interesting, the onus is on teachers to find new ways of teaching vocabulary in the EFL/ESL classroom.
Yip and Kwan (2006) recommended that online vocabulary games be used. In order to alleviate the problem of vocabulary teaching computer-assisted language learning (CALL) often use multimedia to engage learners more in the learning process. Prensky (2011) listed twelve (12) elements as to why games engage people, some of these are:
? Games motivate players (to achieve goals)
? Gratify the ego (when winning)
? Are fun (through enjoyment and pleasure)
? Spark the players’ creativity (to solve the game)
Games can be used with learners of all ages but according to Foreman, Hertz, Hinricks, Prensky and Sawyer (1996) they are particularly favoured by young learners
Other strategies can be used to liven up the teaching of vocabulary so that students are engaged, remain on task and enjoy the lesson in the process. Nam (2010) recommends the use of target vocabulary items with their corresponding pictured and L1 items. However, this researcher feels that the use of the L1 should not be encouraged in the EFL/ESL classroom. Therefore, this method can be used with pictures and words only. An example of the use of target vocabulary and pictures is illustrated below.
HEN COCK/ROOSTER BABY CHICKEN
Other strategies suggested by Nam (2010) are:
? the Fill in Task/Gap fill exercises
? post-reading comprehension task
? reading and retelling task
? work matching exercises
? crossword puzzles.
The above strategies can be used with students of all ages and this researcher would add the use of word searches which target specific content area topics.
Ketabi (2010) has suggested the use of card games to help make vocabulary classes more interesting and enjoyable. Lee (1979) has outlined several card games which can be used to achieve specific teaching objectives. One example is the use of flashcard games to help students with word recognition; another one is Word Snap which helps students to identify words which they have difficulty recognizing and spelling skills are also developed.
This paper cannot address all of the factors involved in vocabulary teaching and learning. However, an effort has been made to show the importance of vocabulary teaching and learning in the EFL/ESL classroom. Several strategies have been identified which can be used to make the lessons more interesting for all types of learners, adults, adolescents and young children, regardless of their level.
EFL/ESL teachers have a responsibility to ensure that no aspect of english
is sidelined, but rather adopt a holistic approach in terms of valuing the language and transfer this passion to the EFL/ESL students.
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