Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Importance of Vocabulary in English Learning


The Importance of Vocabulary
in English Learning

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The Importance of Vocabulary in English Learning

A. Introduction of Vocabulary

The notion seems uncontroversial; most people would agree that reading is a useful learning experience. Certainly, the treachery arguments are familiar: Reading takes us beyond ourselves; we broaden our perspectives, learn new facts and come to a better understanding of the world and our place in it. Furthermore, so the argument goes, there is an important fringe benefit: reading increases our vocabulary knowledge. Texts introduce us to new words, and in many cases, we can deduce their meanings from the written context. Presumably, we remember some of these new meaning associations, especially if we continue to read and meet the new items in context again. It seems reasonable to assume that this beneficial by-product of reading is also available to learners reading in a second language. It is informed that the most complex thing of English is vocabulary. So, vocabulary is a vital aspect in language, because it appears in every skill of language listening, speaking, reading and writing skill. Many people realize that their vocabulary is limited so that they have difficulties in expressing their idea.
Mastering vocabulary is very important for the students who learn English as a foreign language. That is why everybody who learns English or a certain language should know the words. The mastery of vocabulary can support them in speaking when they are communicating to people can write and translate the meaning of words when they definite English. If they do not know the meaning of words, they will not be able to speak, write and translate anything English. The students can be said gaining progress in English, the mastery of vocabulary.
a. Background of Vocabulary

Vocabulary is very important thing because it can listing of the words used in some enterprise, a language user's knowledge of words and the system of techniques or symbols serving as a means of expression (as in arts or crafts); "he introduced a wide vocabulary of techniques". Vocabulary also the set of words they are familiar with in a language. A vocabulary usually grows and evolves with age, and serves as a useful and fundamental tool for communication and acquiring knowledge.
A usually alphabetized and explained collection of words e.g. of a particular field, or prepared for a specific purpose, often for learning; The collection of words a person knows and uses; The stock of words used in a particular field; The words of a language collectively. Refers to the words we must know to communicate effectively.
b. Kinds of vocabulary
Vocabulary can be divided into two groups, passives and actives vocabulary. Passives vocabulary contains all the words that we understand when we read or listen, but which we do not use or can not remember in our own writing or speaking. Active vocabulary contains all the words we understand and use.
The same as the word, active vocabulary is vocabulary we can call up and use in writing or conversation without having to think very much about it. passive vocabulary is
Vocabulary we can recognize when we hear it but can not remember when we actually have to produce it. These words are easily forgotten since the connection between them and our memory is weak. Besides that, vocabulary can be divided based on word group those are: Noun, Pronoun, Adjective, Verb, Adverb.
Initially, in the infancy phase, vocabulary growth requires no effort. Infants hear words and mimic them, eventually associating them with objects and actions. This is the listening vocabulary. The speaking vocabulary follows, as a child's thoughts become more reliant on its ability to express itself without gestures and mere sounds. Once the reading and writing vocabularies are attained – through questions and education – the anomalies and irregularities of language can be discovered.
In first grade, an advantaged student knows about twice as many words as a disadvantaged student. Generally, this gap does not tighten. This translates into a wide range of vocabulary size by age five or six, at which time an English-speaking child will know about 2,500–5,000 words. An average student learns some 3,000 words per year, or approximately eight words per day. After leaving school, vocabulary growth plateaus. People may then expand their vocabularies by reading, playing word games, participating in vocabulary programs.
c. Second Language Vocabulary Acquisition

A vocabulary is defined as "all the words known and used by a particular person". However, the words known and used by a particular person do not constitute all the words a person is exposed to. By definition, a vocabulary includes the last two categories of this list :
1. Never encountered the word.
2. Heard the word, but cannot define it.
3. Recognize the word due to context or tone of voice.
4. Able to use the word but cannot clearly explain it.
5. Fluent with the word – its use and definition.
Learning vocabulary is one of the first steps of learning a second language, yet one never reaches the last step of vocabulary acquisition. Whether in one’s native language or a second language, the acquisition of new vocabulary is a continuous process. Many methods can help one acquire new vocabulary.
Although memorization can be seen as tedious or boring, associating one word in the native language with the corresponding word in the second language until memorized is still one of the best methods of vocabulary acquisition. By the time students reach adulthood, they generally gather a number of personalized memorization methods. Although many argue that memorization does not typically require the complex cognitive processing that increase retention. It does typically require a plethora of repetition. Other methods typically require more time and longer to recall.
Some words cannot be easily linked through association or other methods. When a word in the second language is phonologically or visually similar to a word in the native language, one often assumes they also share similar meanings. Though this is frequently the case, it is not always true. When faced with a false cognate, memorization and repetition are the keys to mastery. If a second language learner relies solely on word associations to learn new vocabulary, that person will have a very difficult time mastering false cognates. When large amounts of vocabulary must acquired in a limited amount of time, when the learners needs to recall information quickly, when words represent abstract concepts or are difficult to create as a mental image, or when discriminating between false cognates, rote memorization is the method to use.
d. The benefits learning vocabulary

Not just another thing that mastering English is a must. Facts proved that mastering the English language is very important and in learning English language we have to learn vocabulary. As for some of the advantages vocabulary is easier to learn English, meaning more vocabulary before practice reading, speaking, listening and writing.

B. Factors affecting word learnability:

Vocab learning – not random, rather subject to certain regularities. Acquisition of lexis influenced by two major variables :
1. Interlexical: variables related to the interaction between the new word.
2. Intralexical: a set of variables stemming from the word itself.

a. Similarity of form
Cognates, words that are similar both in form and meaning in the same context. For example, martyr and mártír in Hungarian (also exotic vs. egzotikus, emancipation vs. emancipáció). False or Deceptive cognates words similar in form but different in meaning.
b. Connotations

In English adequate very often has a strong negative connotation, of something being enough, but only just. It is in fact normally used as a criticism. Thus, megfelelő may not be the proper equivalent for this word in all contexts, as it does not have a negative connotation in Hungarian. Similarly, propaganda in English is the means a government uses to make the general public believe what the government wants them to believe, whether it is true or false. Thus, this word is primarily used in a derogatory sense. The same word in Hungarian (propaganda), however, can also be used in the sense of publicity.
c. Collocational difference
For example, in American English first floor means number one at ground level. In British English, cream, tea is not understood as tea you drink with whipped cream but it refers to a full meal that consists of a scone, some jam, butter and whipped cream which you eat while drinking English tea with milk. These strange meanings are usually culturally motivated.
Intralexical factors affecting vocabulary learning:
• Familiar phonemes
• Regularity in pronunciation
• Fixed stress
• Consistency of sound-script
• relationship
• Inflextional regularity
• Derivational regularity
• Morphological transparency
• Generality (the word can be used in a large number of context)
• Register neutrality
• One form for one meaning
• Presence of foreign phonemes
• Irregularity in pronunciation
• Variable stress
• Incongruency in sound-script
• relationship consider e.g. the
• letter ‘o’ in love, chose, woman,
• Inflexional complexity
• Derivational complexity
• Deceptive morphological
• transparency
• Similarity of lexical forms
• historical/historic, affect/effect,
• industrial/industrious
• Specificity (the word can only be used in specific contexts)
• Register restrictions, idiomaticity
• One form with several
C. Stages of vocabulary learning:

First essential step is encountering new words. If learners are motivated to learn certain words out of interest or need, they are likely to be learnt more easily. The way or context in which a word is presented as well as the number of times a word is encountered will affect whether it is learnt or not. Learners seem to need various encounters with the same word in multiple sources rather than in just one source.
Second step is getting a clear image of the form of the vocabulary item. This image may be visual or auditory or both. Very often learners tend to associate new words with words that sound. Third step is getting the word meaning. The level of distinctions that must be made in word definitions vary across situations and learner levels. Low level learners may be satisfied to grasp quite general meanings while advanced learners need more specific definitions in order to be able to see differences between near synonyms. Fourth step is consolidation of form and meaning in memory. Various memory strategies (see in Oxford, R. 1990. Language Learning Strategies. Newbury House) are available that help consolidate the connection between word form and meaning. Fifth step is using the words. Ensures that learners gain confidence as autonomous language users, but at the same time they can refine their language knowledge in general.
a. Stages of presenting vocabulary

1. Setting up a context, which is relevant to learners’ interest and age, builds on or incorporates learners’ experience.
2. Elicitation of the target vocabulary item (i.e. trying to get the target item from the learners first) in order to enhance their involvement as well as to help them fit the new item in their existing vocabulary knowledge.
3. Choral and/or individual repetition (this may be optional at higher levels) in order to standardise pronunciation.
4. Consolidation / concept check questions, which are aimed to check whether meaning has been properly understood and to provide further meaningful opportunities for learners to use the item in context.
5. Board record for later reference.
b. Practising vocabulary :

Having used any of the vocabulary presentation techniques in class, we cannot really say that learners have learnt the new items. Encountering a new vocabulary item once will not guarantee that it will be remembered. Learners need plenty of opportunities in order to acquire a new vocabulary item. In a vocabulary presentation lesson, the teacher should provide meaningful controlled practice for learners so that they could recognise, manipulate and use the new vocabulary items. Vocabulary practice should be regular, carefully planned and should not involve too many words at one time. Many simple vocabulary practice activities are based around the following ideas.
• discussions, communicative activities and role-play requiring use of the words
• making use of the vocabulary in written tasks More specific exercise types:
• matching pictures to words
• matching parts of words to other parts, e.g. beginnings and endings
• matching words to other words, e.g. collocations, synonyms, opposites, sets of related words, etc.
• using prefixes and suffixes to build new words from given words
• classifying items into lists
• using given words to complete a specific task
• filling in crosswords, grids or diagrams
• filling in gaps in sentences
• memory games

The importance of recycling previously presented vocabulary is obvious. Revision activities can easily be incorporated into the lesson by way of five-minute activities or warmers. These activities can successfully aid students’ recall of the new words and develop their retrieval systems.

Vocabulary revision activities : listing or categorising items, vocabulary quizzes, noughts and crosses, brainstorming round an idea, guessing games, etc.

Reference :

Barnhart, Clarence L. (1968). The World Book Dictionary. Clarence L. Barnhart. 1968 Edition. Published by Thorndike-Barnhart, Chicago, Illinois.
Flynn, James R. (2008). Where Have All the Liberals Gone?: Race, Class, and Ideals in America. Cambridge University Press; 1st edition. ISBN 978-0521494311.
Lenkeit, Roberta. Cultural Anthropology (3rd. ed.)
Liu, Na and I.S.P. Nation. Factors affecting guessing vocabulary in context, RELC Journal, 1985,16 1, pp. 33-42.
Miller, B. (1999). Cultural Anthropology(4th. ed.,pg 315). New York: Allyn and Bacon.
Schonell, F. J., I. G. Meddleton and B. A. Shaw, A Study of the Oral Vocabulary of Adults, University of Queensland Press, Brisbane, 1956.
West, Michael (1953). A General Service List of English Words. Longman, Green & Co., London.


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