ON Assessing Vocabulary Learning and Teaching
Ahmed Qadoury Abed
Assistant Lecturer University of Wassit College of Education, Department of English
Abstract Vocabulary knowledge is fundamental; students cannot understand a text without knowing what most of the words means. Lack of adequate vocabulary knowledge is already an obvious and serious obstacle for many students. Teachers and students are in need to new techniques in this issue. The reasons behind students' low performance in learning vocabulary are: the low status of vocabulary study, learning burden, life in our departments, lack of authentic dictionaries, constant lack of textbooks, no room for morphology, and mal-furnished room of vocabulary in Iraq. A questionnaire is done to assess vocabulary learning and teaching in our departments. The present paper is of three sections. Many concluding points are also mentioned.
Although vocabulary has not always been recognized as a priority in language teaching, interest in its role in second language learning has grown rapidly in recent years and specialists now emphasize the need for a systematic and principled approach to vocabulary by both the teacher and the learner. As a fact, it is through lexical resources that languages maintain their flexibility. Each language has about many thousands of words1, though not all are in active use, and some are known only relatively to few speakers. And in spite of the thousands of words in English, a number are in active use; these are called "core" vocabulary (see Richards & Rodgers (1986:32) and Jordon (1997:151)). What's more than that "core'' is lexical luxury. In other words, it's the ability to use and tackle vocabulary of a language powerfully. And this requires basic knowledge in meanings of words, substitutions, polysemy, synonymy, antonymy and other relations between words. For a student to 'know' a word, it means the ability to (see Jordon (ibid.:150)and Ur(1991:60-63) :
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recognize it in its spoken or written form recall it at will relate it to an appropriate object or concept use it in the appropriate grammatical forms in speech, pronounce it in a recognizable way in writing, spell it correctly use it with the words it correctly goes with ,i.e., in the correct collocation ý use it at the appropriate level of formality ý be aware of its connotations and associations. Research on vocabulary has focused on two important issues. The first is the relationship between vocabulary and comprehension: the proportion of difficult words in a text is the single most powerful predicator of text difficulty, and learner's general vocabulary knowledge is the single best predicator of how well that learner can understand a text. The second is learners' strategies, and these are (Nation, 1990:ch.10): ý Guessing words in context. ý Using mnemonic techniques to remember word meanings. ý Using word building. Nation (1994:191-95) affirms that these strategies depend on a good use of reliable dictionary (see 3.2(4)).Mercer (2005:25) confirms that some students already use (these) strategies: "however, they often do so unconsciously, and vocabulary learning strategies are more likely to be effective when their use is conscious and directed." Furthermore, he, supporting other linguists ' modern tendency, classifies vocabulary strategies into two types: 'determination' or 'discovery' strategies and 'social' strategies: The determination strategies… includes using cognates knowledge, referring to reference words, and inferring meaning from context. The social strategies include asking someone for help with unknown words(ibid.). Nagy (1988:3-4) states that there are two reasons for failure of vocabulary teaching. The first is that most vocabulary teaching fails to produce in-depth word knowledge; reading comprehension requires a high level of vocabulary-higher than the level...
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