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The aim of this evidence-based study is to investigate the use of the
bilingual electronic dictionary strategy to improve EFL/ESL secondary school
students` vocabulary learning. Three aspects have been studied in depth: the
effect of using the electronic bilingual dictionary strategy on improving EFL
students' vocabulary learning, the attitudes of the students and the teachers
towards the target strategy, and the students` ability to use the bilingual
electronic dictionary. The findings of this study indicate that the bilingual
electronic dictionary has a positive and an effective role in the process of
vocabulary learning. Moreover, the students show positive attitudes towards
using the bilingual electronic dictionary. Nevertheless, instructors may show
negative attitudes towards the target strategy for certain reasons . The analysis of
data further revealed that the critical point that affects the evaluation of the
target strategy is the ability to use the electronic dictionary. If the students and
teachers are not able to use the bilingual electronic dictionary, they may show
negative attitudes towards it and the strategy will then be useless. Thus, the
study suggests some recommendations for using the target strategy effectively
for EFL/ESL secondary students vocabulary learning and overall lexical
I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Dr Ahmed Shoeib for his
guidance, suggestions and patience. I owe additional thanks to Mr Ali Hadi for
reading and commenting on parts of the paper. I am most grateful to Dr Joseph
for initially suggesting that dictionaries would be an interesting area to research.
Finally, I would particularly like to thank my wife, Jawaher Mohammed, who
made this endeavour possible.
Sultan Ahmed Ali Albareghi
Chapter 1 Table of Contents
Abstract ... I
Chapter 1 Introduction ... 1
1.1 Aims of the study ... 4
1.2 Significance of the study ... 5
1.3 Research questions ... 7
1.4 Limitations of the study ... 7
Chapter 2 Literature Review ... 8
2.1 Introduction ... 8
2.2 Improving vocabulary learning of EFL learners via a dictionary... 12
2.3 Bilingual dictionaries versus monolingual dictionaries ... 15
Chapter 3 Procedures and Methodology ... 25
Chapter 4 Critical analysis of the reviewed literature. ... 27
4.1 Effects of using the electronic bilingual dictionary strategy to improve EFL students' vocabulary
learning ... 27
4.2 The attitudes of the students and the teachers towards the use of electronic bilingual dictionaries
4.3 Ability of the student to use bilingual electronic dictionaries ... 36
Chapter 5 Conclusion and recommendations ... 38
5.1 Recommendations: ... 41
Chapter 6 References ... 42
Chapter 1 Introduction
Vocabulary learning is considered to be one of the most significant
challenges faced by second language learners. It requires extensive effort both
inside and outside of the classroom. For this reason, language instructors often
try to facilitate the process of vocabulary learning through assisting the students
to become independent second language (L2) learners (Cohen, 2014; Naeimi &
Foo, 2014). They often try to achieve their goal through directing the students to
apply "vocabulary learning strategies" as proficiently as possible (Naeimi &
EFL/ESL students encounter many difficulties in achieving the required level
of vocabulary proficiency, resulting in general weakness in the use of the
English language. Some researchers, including Alhammadi (1998), AlJarf
(2006; 2007) and Albosaif (2011) have confirmed that the weakness in and the
insufficiency of the EFL/ESL learning are a result of many factors, the most
important of which is the lack of vocabulary.
It is an indisputable fact that the role of vocabulary is crucial for an
effective outcome for EFL secondary school students (Cohen, 2014; Brown,
2011). Researchers regarding the required size of vocabulary have shown that,
ESL/EFL learners are in need of 2000 words to achieve communication tasks
and more than 10,000 for academic
writing and reading (Huang & Eslami,
2013). Not only teachers, but also learners are of the opinion that vocabulary
plays an important role in learning a second language, as it measures the level of
language that is intended to be learnt (Heidari, Izadi & Ahmadian, 2012)
Castells (2013) argued that the "acquisition of effective writing skills" is
necessary for the society of today. On the other hand, Schultz and Fecho (2000)
indicated that writing is very important for learning, as well as for problem
solving. Thus, it would not be wrong to state that good writing skills require an
increased vocabulary (Heidari, Izadi & Ahmadian, 2012). Therefore, vocabulary
learning has a powerful influence on the academic, as well as on the
employment, success of an individual. According to Chen (2009), David
Wilkins (1972) pointed out, "[W]ithout grammar very little can be conveyed,
without vocabulary nothing can be conveyed" (Chen, 2009, p. 95).
As a result,
vocabulary learning is always required by L2 learners, and effective L2
instructors always place special emphasis on vocabulary learning.
Vocabulary teaching, as well as learning, is considered one of the most
important issues in EFL/ESL classrooms. Most competent EFL teachers struggle
with the implementation of effective vocabulary teaching methods. This is why
various strategies have emerged to improve EFL secondary school students'
vocabulary learning. For example, Ali, Mukundan, Ayub and Baki (2011)
described three vocabulary learning/teaching methods, namely Contextual
Clues, Dictionary Strategy, and Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL)
in learning vocabulary among ESL learners. In addition, Alhasony (2012)
investigated some strategies used by Saudi learners to overcome the difficulty of
learning vocabulary. These strategies are the guessing strategy, the skipping
strategy, the social strategy and dictionary use.
In this way, Alhasony (2012), Heidari, Izadi & Ahmadian (2012) intended
to test the most advantageous and effective strategy that could improve EFL
students' vocabulary learning to help them to learn independently. Ali,
Mukundan, Ayub and Baki (2011) concluded that the advantage of the
dictionary strategy in achieving the number of words required is a significant aid
to learning and improves the immediate recall of the vocabulary. However,
Alhasony (2012) concluded that knowing a lot of words does not necessary
guarantee the ability to read efficiently. Hence, scholars are looking for certain
strategies that serve both competence (knowing the word) and performance
(using the word).
Many studies and researchers have focused on the importance of using the
dictionary strategy (the more advanced the dictionary, the better the learning
outcome would be) in teaching/learning vocabulary (Ali, Mukundan, Ayub and
Baki, 2011; Alhasony, 2012; Al-Jarf, 2001; Albosaif, 2011). Various types of
dictionaries are available to assist the EFL student and the teacher when learning
/ teaching vocabulary . While bilingual dictionaries provide translations, picture
dictionaries supply pictures, and monolingual dictionaries provide the learners
with in-depth information about the meaning of the unfamiliar word.
Moreover, the existence of "bilingual electronic dictionaries" may make it
very easy to learn a second language (Hsu, Hwang & Chang, 2013). This is
particularly so because "bilingual electronic dictionaries" not only provide the
translation, but also pronounce the words. These dictionaries may also provide
users with the option to save a particular word "for download to a computer or a
cellphone later" (Wu, Lowyck, Sercu & Elen, 2013).
By contrast, some scholars have criticized the use of bilingual electronic
dictionaries. They discussed the negative aspects of bilingual electronic
dictionaries, such as the negative attitude of teachers, wasting
time, isolating the
word from the context, and the difficulty of recalling words later. Marmol
(2013) stated that, in spite of the positive attitude towards this tool, bilingual
dictionaries are not as efficient as expected.
Researchers, teachers, and students have different opinions regarding the
use of the "electronic bilingual dictionary" as an instrument that makes the L2
students more independent in their learning and which improves their
vocabulary. Thus, the researcher collected and analysed many studies to discuss,
criticise and describe the real effects of using an electronic bilingual dictionary
when teaching vocabulary.
1.1 Aims of the study
This study aims to investigate the use of the electronic bilingual
dictionary strategy to improve EFL secondary school students' vocabulary
learning. In brief, the writer aims to:
1-Describe the effect of using the electronic bilingual dictionary strategy to
improve EFL secondary school students' vocabulary learning.
2-Determine the attitude of both students and teachers towards using the
electronic bilingual dictionary strategy to improve EFL secondary school
students' vocabulary learning.
3- Decide whether or not the students have the ability to use a bilingual
1.2 Significance of the study
This research paper has clear implications for ESL/EFL learners, as it
focuses on using a definite technique (the electronic bilingual dictionary) in the
teaching /learning of vocabulary. Young people in the 21
century use and play
with electronics. They spend many hours every day using different types of
mobile phones, computers, and iPods. Teaching and learning processes have to
make use of what learners already know from every possible perspective.
Educational instruments, technological inventions, and personal factors must be
integrated to reach the desired results.
Among various "language learning strategies," the strategies of
vocabulary learning play a significant role in language learning, particularly
with regard to a second language. As Ghazal (2007) pointed out, that language
learning strategies enhance students to be self-directed learners. With such
strategies they may be able to depend on their own learning methods and
gradually attain confidence, get involvement and reach the language proficiency
(Ghazal (2007). Hence, "vocabulary learning strategies" do the same thing.
Using the findings of this study, teachers can provide their students with a
definite strategy in order for them to learn vocabulary independently.
The electronic bilingual dictionary is a common technology. It provides
the meaning, the pronunciation, the spelling, and the transcript of unfamiliar
words. Thus, by investigating both the studies that support the positive role and
those that support the negative role of using electronic bilingual dictionaries to
improve the process of learning vocabulary, this paper will fill the gap in the
knowledge regarding using such a technique in both social and educational
Bilingual electronic dictionaries provide the translation and pronunciation
of unknown words. They also provide the users with the option to save words
and to download them to a computer or a cell phone. However, there is still a
dilemma in deciding which learning setting is suitable for using such a strategy.
Therefore, the significance of this study comes from its approach to the
collection of data from different perspectives, both negative and positive, taken
from the reviewed literature about the target strategy. The research method
presented in this study follows a pattern in which various components are
broken down into their constituent parts in order to enable the researcher to
focus on the specific points of each reviewed study. Thus, it will lead teachers to
judge the usefulness of a bilingual electronic dictionary when teaching
vocabulary to EFL/ESL learners.
1.3 Research questions
To investigate the efficiency of using a bilingual electronic dictionary as a
strategy for improving EFL/ESL secondary school students' vocabulary
learning, the current study intends to answer the following questions:
1: What is the effect of using a bilingual electronic dictionaries strategy on
improving EFL/ESL secondary school students' vocabulary learning?
2: What are EFL teachers' and students' attitudes towards the use of bilingual
3: Do EFL secondary school students have the ability to use a bilingual
1.4 Limitations of the study
The current study exclusively investigates the influence of using a
bilingual electronic dictionary to improve the vocabulary learning of EFL
secondary school students. This study focuses on learning spelling, meaning,
pronunciation, and the use of vocabulary. Although the reviewed literature
covers the area of vocabulary importance regarding the four skills of a language,
the results and implications do not take the relation between vocabulary and
writing, reading, speaking, or listening
into consideration. This study attempts to
explore the extent to which the use of the bilingual electronic dictionary strategy
can affect learners' vocabulary growth. It uses an evidence-based research
method in an endeavour to present previous action research results that affirm
the role a bilingual electronic dictionary can play in the advanced lexical
dictionary acquisition of EFL secondary school students. Hence, the findings of
this study do not go beyond the three basic principles, namely EFL/ESL
secondary school students, bilingual electronic dictionaries, and vocabulary
acquisition. EFL/ESL secondary school students are those learners who spent at
least three years studying EFL or ESL. They are young people usually between
the ages of 13 and 18. Bilingual electronic dictionaries are specialised software
applications which translate words from a language to another. They can be
unidirectional or bidirectional dictionaries.
Chapter 2 Literature Review
In the modern society of today, the need to learn English as a second or
foreign language is increasing, causing learners to struggle, to successfully
acquire the target language. However, learners and speakers of a second
language cannot achieve their communicative role without having a large
vocabulary. In accordance with this perspective, Ali, Mukundan, Ayub and Baki
(2011) found that vocabulary is the crucial component of second language
acquisition as it plays an important part in both communicative and academic
It is also often pointed out that an inadequate vocabulary causes various
obstacles for various university students to learn a second language. Because of
this, a large number of language instructors have argued that an extensive
vocabulary may enable language learners to understand what they hear or read
(Ali, Mukundan, Ayub & Baki, 2011).
Since building a second language vocabulary plays a significant role,
using effective strategies is considered a major aim in order to improve the
vocabulary learning of EFL students. Some researchers tend to give priority to
certain techniques, including the guessing strategy, context clues, CALL in
learning vocabulary, the skipping strategy, the social strategy and dictionary use
Of the previously mentioned techniques, the most well known is the
guessing strategy, whereby learners guess the word's meaning from the context.
This learning strategy is effective for learning low-frequency vocabulary
(Herrel, 2008, as cited in Mukoroli, 2011). Moreover, the guessing strategy
requires an acceptable background knowledge regarding the theme of the text
On the other hand, CALL, with its accuracy, real-time, immediacy, and
reliability assists the process of vocabulary learning. Firstly, it increases
autonomy among language learners. Secondly, CALL contributes to students'
motivation through ease of use of its vocabulary programmes and dictionaries.
Thirdly, it provides learners with immediate feedback to enable students to
understand the meaning of the words before proceeding to selecting the
vocabulary items for a certain task. Fourthly, CALL vocabulary software could
allow learners to practice the words they have learned while enjoying
themselves at the same time (Ali, Mukundan, Ayub & Baki, 2011).
Baniabdelrahman, and Al-Shumaimeri (2013), in their study of "Strategies Used
by Saudi EFL Students to Determine the Meaning of English Words", found that
students in the first year of university were weak at guessing the meaning from
the context. The students often used the spelling of a word or the meaning of a
nearby sentence to determine meaning. Thus, the guessing strategy failed to
clarify or find the correct meaning of unfamiliar words.
Al-Darayseh (2014) conducted a study that measured the effect of using
explicit and implicit strategies when teaching vocabulary. His conclusion
confirms the combination between the explicit and implicit vocabulary strategies
to improve EFL students' language performance. However, Al-Darayeseh's
(2014) study supported introducing the meanings of words and memorising
them before starting to read the text. According to him, using both explicit and
implicit strategies combined in teaching vocabulary and reading comprehension
has proved to be more effective than using only one or than depending on the
traditional method (opt. cit.).
It can be summarised that Al-Darayeseh's (2014) study focused on the use
of both explicit and implicit strategies, but in a standard order. The order begins
with studying lists of words in isolation from their texts. The learners then
deduce the meaning when reading a specific text. It is the teacher who presents
the meaning to the students. Thus, the learners' role is to remember and to
connect the words with the texts. According to him, this helped students to
improve both vocabulary and reading comprehension.
Huang and Eslami (2013) argued that "A single word may have several
possible meanings, and the appropriate one can often be determined based on
p. 1). A sentence may contain a word that is not new to a learner, but
which can have a different meaning due having a different context (Laufer &
Hill, 2000). Therefore, the use of a dictionary can help the learners to ascertain
the contextual meaning.
"Dictionary helps learners become more autonomous and able to match
the meaning of word to the right context of it" (Huang & Eslami, 2013, p. 1-2).
They can find the proper meanings of unfamiliar words without depending on
teachers' explanations. However, there are different types of dictionaries that
have different advantages and disadvantages in relation to the process of
teaching and learning vocabulary.
2.2 Improving vocabulary learning of EFL learners via a dictionary
It would not be wrong to state that using dictionaries may provide
EFL/ESL learners with more opportunities to increase the range of their
vocabularies, which ultimately enhances their English language skills (Tanaka,
Suzanne, Ueno and Ohnishi, 2013). The dictionary is the single most important
resource for EFL/EFL learners to build their vocabularies. They increase their
vocabularies step-by-step, while depending on the context may cause
undesirable outcomes and requires a certain minimum vocabulary (Laufer &
Hayati and Fattahzadeh (2006) agreed with the comments of Marckwardt
(1973) in that:
Dictionaries often supply information about the language not found elsewhere.
Dictionaries often supply information about grammar, usage, status, synonym
discrimination, application of derivative affixes, and distinctions between spoken and
written English not generally treated in textbooks, even in a rudimentary fashion.
There may be very few teachers and students who are not able to take
advantage of the dictionary (Kobayashi & Little, 2014). This is mainly due to
the lack of knowledge regarding to the effectual use of a dictionary. Bhadade
and Trivedi (2011) described various reasons that EFL learners should be taught
about dictionary use skills. One reason may be that the ability to use dictionaries
provides the students with greater control over their own learning (Kobayashi &
EFL instructors should make certain suppositions when they attempt to
assess the load of vocabulary teaching. From this perspective, one of the
expectations is that students comprehend the expressions, as well as the words
that have been introduced in the class setting. similarly, it is also assumed that
learners are able to understand a variety of derivatives, borrowings, cognates,
and language that is commonly used in the streets as well as in the media (Wu,
Lowyck, Sercu & Elen, 2013).
Regarding the pervious statement, it can be said that the dictionary has
traditionally been a widely used tool by foreign language students, both in their
self process of vocabulary acquisition and in trying to understand spoken or
written language (Miller, 2006; Hazem & Morin 2012). Miller (2006) pointed
out that L2 learners can use the "English learners' dictionary" as a ready-made
tool for enhancing their acquisition of vocabulary.
Lew and Mitton (2012) explained that a large number of strategies to
identify, as well as to build vocabulary, have been used by EFL learners. Among
them, one of the common strategies is to compile a list of frequency-based
words, based on spoken language samples, obtained from developing children in
the home and in preschool/school settings (Chen, Huang, Chang & Liou, 2015).
These samples have been elicited from a variety of linguistic contexts, including
mealtimes and playtime, and in response to oral narrative tasks. After compiling
the list of words, the learners are asked to consult the dictionaries to search for
the synonyms as well as for the antonyms of the words (Chen, Huang, Chang &
Moreover, in his paper "Improving EFL Learners' Vocabulary Learning
via Dictionary Tasks", Khoosf (2014) asserted the importance of consulting a
dictionary, among various other strategies for dealing with vocabulary. He
concluded that the use of dictionary tasks in classrooms may enhance autonomy
level of the learners. This is mainly due to the fact that using a dictionary
requires the learners to be exposed to diverse aspects of words within a word
group, which has a notable effect on the vocabulary learning of EFL learners.
Regarding that which is stated above, it can be said that the dictionary has
traditionally been a tool widely used by foreign language students to assist with
vocabulary acquisition and attempts to understand or produce written and
spoken texts (Miller, 2006; Morin, 2012; Khoosf, 2014).
Koyama (2013) pointed out that
dictionaries help learners gain more
words and attain higher reading comprehension scores than students who use
guessing strategy. The results also show that both students with high or those
with low proficiency to read Spanish usually prefer consulting dictionaries to
look up words. In other words, the ability to guess the suitable meaning from the
context does not help students to be self- confident learners. They feel not to
be saved, unless they consult the dictionary to find the meaning of the unfamiliar
By contrast, some researchers believe that using a dictionary while
reading can lead to inefficient vocabulary learning (Bensoussan et al., 1984;
Knight, 1994; as cited in Prichard, 2008). Because it takes much time to look up
meaning and hinders learners from focusing on the text as a whole, the
dictionary strategy does not always improve vocabulary learning. Nevertheless,
Boggards (1998) refuted such a claim, arguing that it is a matter of choosing the
right type of dictionary to save time when obtaining the meaning of the
unfamiliar word and comprehending the text.
Albosaif`s study (2011), for example, investigated the difficulties facing
Saudi students when learning English vocabulary. His results showed that,
although Saudi students recognise the importance of learning English
vocabulary and strategies for learning words, they do not know how to use such
strategies effectively. According to him, the cause of this dilemma was that the
participants were not sufficiently aware of the use of vocabulary learning
strategies . The most important point is that the successful students are those
learners who used a dictionary to enlarge their vocabulary.
According to Albosaif (2011), dictionary skills must be taught to students
at an earlier time in their lives, and they also must be encouraged to use
dictionaries, including electronic, monolingual, and bilingual ones.
2.3 Bilingual dictionaries versus monolingual dictionaries
Different types of dictionaries (monolingual and bilingual) have different
advantages when teaching vocabulary. Using a specific kind of dictionary
depends on the clear goal of knowing the unfamiliar words. According to
Kirkness (2004), the monolingual learners' dictionaries provide learners with in-
depth information about the meanings of unfamiliar words, the pronunciation of
such words, and the correct way to use them in context. Such dictionaries also
provide spelling and pronunciation. However, monolingual dictionaries require a
tremendous amount of words and syntactic knowledge to comprehend the
meaning of an unknown word (Albus et al., 2005; as cited in Huang & Eslami2,
By contrast, a bilingual dictionary presents meaning in an easy and
changeable way, which can be bi-directional (in other words, English to first
language and first language to English). Although many researchers have
asserted the effectiveness of bilingual dictionaries, others have cited negative
points regarding the use there of, as bilingual dictionaries tend to cause students
to depend on a one-to-one correspondence of words between the meaning of an
unknown word in the second language and translation in their first language
(Nation, 2001). Furthermore, some older studies have shown that learners do not
rely greatly on bilingual dictionaries, which may discourage them from using
communication strategies in oral activities (Huang & Eslami, 2013).
In a study conducted by Hayati and Fattahzadeh (2006) to measure the effect
of monolingual and bilingual dictionaries on the learning of vocabulary, the
results showed no important difference between the group that used the
monolingual dictionary and the one that used the bilingual dictionary in terms of
memorisation and retention. Hayati, and Fattahzadeh
(2006) concluded that,
even though the monolingual dictionary assisted learners to study words deeply
in given unlimited time, the bilingual dictionary was more useful when learning
under time pressure (Such as Two-weeks testing period). As their proficiency
increases, they may refer to monolingual dictionaries instead of bilingual ones
for word meanings, grammatical points, instances of use, spelling, and other
information usually contained in this type of dictionary.
On the other hand, in a study aimed at investigating the effect of using
two types of dictionaries (monolingual-bilingual) on Iranian intermediate EFL
learners` vocabulary learning, the findings demonstrated that the use of the
printed monolingual dictionary with university students was more effective than
the use of the bilingual dictionary (Ahangari & Dogolsara, 2015). Moreover, in
EFL educational contexts Teachers prefer their students to consult monolingual
dictionaries, where as students usually prefer to use the bilingual dictionary (Ali,
Regarding the attitude towards using a definite type of dictionary, a
survey conducted by Chen (2008), which involved 273 undergraduates, showed
that the use of bilingual dictionaries promoted positive learning attitudes among
learners to a greater degree than among those exposed to monolingual ones. This
is mainly because they found it easy and quick to consult bilingual dictionaries.
Moreover, Marmol (2013) found that a positive attitude towards bilingual
dictionaries was a characteristic of the best students among the 56 participants.
In his study of 44 students learning intermediate Spanish, Chin (2001)
showed that students used a variety of strategies to understand vocabulary items
when they used a monolingual dictionary (Spanish
Spanish). The study divided
the students into three experimental groups: monolingual dictionary users,
bilingual dictionary users, and those who did not use dictionaries. Hence, as the
use of monolingual dictionaries requires complex skills, attitude plays a
significant role in supporting the use of bilingual dictionaries.
In her study that incorporated 60 pre
basic English students, Martínez'
(2008) reported that students preferred using a bilingual dictionary to using a
monolingual one. According to Ali, Mukundan, Ayub and Baki (2011), Students
disliked the use of the monolingual dictionaries for three simple reasons: longer
time to look up words, boring to look up words, and was a nuisance to the eyes
during look up.
Moreover, Ahmed and Hafeez (2011) investigated the influence of
translation in improving the learning of ESL/EFL students through the use of a
bilingual dictionary. The population for the study consisted of 50 secondary
students and 100 English teachers in an Indian context. The study concluded
that, in circumstances involving two languages (the mother tongue and the target
language) in language teaching, language learning can be improved through
translation by using a bilingual dictionary. Hence, bilingual dictionaries increase
Despite the fact that dictionaries assist students to learn vocabulary, such
a strategy is not commonly used, either inside or outside of classrooms. Albosaif
(2011) concluded his study by trying to clarify such ambiguity, arguing that
teachers do not encourage their students enough to get the meanings of
unfamiliar words through using different types of dictionaries. The main cause
of this was to avoid wasting time on translation, or explaining or choosing the
correct meaning from among many other meanings (opt. cit.). Also, teachers do
not believe in their students` abilities to use a specific types of the common
dictionaries to find out the appropriate meaning.
2.4 Electronic dictionary use in ESL/EFL learning
Electronic dictionaries may be either online (for example, the website
Dictionary.reference.com) or available through applications (software
programmes) for portable devices such as smart phones, and can be used
efficiently to facilitate reading comprehension and vocabulary acquisition for
learners of a second/foreign language (Welker, 2010; Fageeh, 2014;
Electronic dictionaries were created to overcome the clear deficiency of
printed ones in terms of saving time and in obtaining results that were more
detailed. In his previously mentioned study, Albosaif (2011) suggested using
electronic dictionaries to save effort and time. Thus, electronic dictionary
practice would build confidence and make students learn vocabulary
autonomously (Aljarf, 2001).
According to a study conducted by Al-Jarf (2001) at King Saud
University, 45% of the students preferred to use electronic dictionaries. This
study showed that, while 68% of the participants used a general E-A dictionary,
27% used an E-E dictionary. Thus, it is clear that the percentage of students who
used electronic dictionaries would increase with the development of electronic
and technological education tools. This means that most students in 2015 can
use, handle, and install an electronic dictionary with little assistance (Fageeh,
Dashtestani (2013) conducted a study entitled "EFL teachers' and
students' perspectives on the use of electronic dictionaries for learning English".
The environmental context was Tehran (an Iranian city), and the participants
were 126 EFL students and 73 EFL teachers who were invited to respond to
questionnaires. The results of his study suggested that, both EFL teachers and
students show positive attitudes toward the use of electronic dictionaries for
learning EFL vocabulary. However, they encounter several challenges regarding
the choose and the use of the suitable versions of electronic dictionaries.
Moreover, some types of dictionaries are not available in the class rooms
Boonmoh (2010) studied attitudes and the use of electronic dictionaries
among teachers in Thailand. The research suggested that teachers did not use
electronic dictionaries because they had limited information regarding the use of
electronic dictionaries. However, the fact that teachers had limited information
concerning access to and the use of electronic dictionaries cannot be used to
draw the conclusion that they had negative attitudes towards electronic
Nevertheless, Dashtestani (2013) mentioned a few challenges and
obstacles for the use of `electronic dictionaries" for EFL secondary level
students in order to learn vocabulary. For example, usage of electronic
dictionaries may create various challenges such as distraction in participating to
the class activities, distraction from learning, low-quality sound and over-
The implications of the previous study show that both students and
teachers have a positive attitude towards the use of electronic dictionaries.
However, students and teachers need more training to obtain the desired results
regarding vocabulary learning and to use such technology effectively.
In the light of Dashtestani's (2013) explanation, it can be stated that one
of the major obstacles for the L2 learner is the lack of access to the appropriate
versions of electronic dictionaries. This is largely due to the fact that selecting
"appropriate versions of electronic dictionaries" is considered to depend on
various factors, such as level of proficiency, age, cognitive and learning styles,
and the context of the learners. Therefore, it is very important for the course
designers, supervisors, and EFL teachers to conduct "specific needs assessment
projects to become acquainted with the parameters which can help them
recommend suitable versions of electronic dictionaries to EFL students"
(Dashtestani, 2013, p. 62).
To summarise the three previous sections, an important study by Flynn
(2007) should be mentioned. He undertook a thesis investigating the effects of
electronic and printed dictionaries, and the non-use of dictionary strategies on
vocabulary knowledge and reading comprehension. The participants were
divided into three groups. Every group was asked to use a specific strategy of
the three mentioned above. The results of the study showed that the electronic
dictionary users achieved the highest scores when compared to students who
used printed dictionaries and those who did not use dictionaries.
Electronic bilingual dictionaries
Dashtestani (2013) put special emphasis on the "use of electronic
dictionaries for learning English". He proclaimed that the number and the
positive attitude of EFL learners who used electronic dictionaries has increased,
particularly with regard to bilingual electronic dictionaries, to enhance their
language skills and their autonomy.
Loucky (2013) conducted an analysis of Japanese college students to
evaluate the use of four different electronic bilingual dictionaries. The context of
his study covered three colleges in Japan. The basic aim of his study was to
evaluate "various computerized bilingual dictionaries for their relative
effectiveness in helping Japanese college students at several language profi-
At the end of his study, Loucky (2013) showed that the electronic
bilingual dictionary played a significant role in helping students to access
unknown word meanings and to become more cognitively efficient in terms of
helping to speed up lexical processing and recording in the L2 mental lexicon.
Moreover learners with higher language proficiency may use bilingual
electronic dictionary more effectively than those with lower language
In another study, Loucky (2010) also showed that engineering and
computer students seemed to be able to learn to use computerised bilingual
dictionaries more rapidly for more effective word accessing and searching than
students who study other majors.
However, it can be said that different types of electronic bilingual
dictionaries tend to present relative advantages and disadvantages. In other
words, Loucky (2013, 2010) clarified the role of the dictionary in the concept of
basic language learning tasks of the dictionary`s type. In a sense, he tended to
distinguish dictionaries` roles regarding their types.
In agreement with Loucky`s (2013) results, Prichard (2008), in his study
of the "Evaluation L2 readers` vocabulary strategies and dictionary use", which
was conducted in Japan, concluded that some learners might benefit from using
an online bilingual dictionary while reading. He declared that the group of
learners who used the target type of dictionary attained better results on reading
comprehension and vocabulary tests than the learners of the other groups. Thus,
according to him, students should be trained to select a suitable type of
In a study conducted with 38 EFL senior high school students`
Yahoo!online dictionary look-up behaviour, Tseng (2009) asked the participants
to read an article and to underline the words they did not know. They were then
asked to look up the unknown words in the Yahoo!online bilingual dictionary
and to write down the definitions of the words. The results showed that some
participants were weak regarding morphology as they write words in the
dictionary without removing the inflections (affixes &suffixes) of them Tseng
In spite of some mistakes resulting from consulting the Yahoo!online
dictionary, 81% of the search results were correct. Moreover, 92 % of the
participants could use the online bilingual dictionary. This is why Tseng (2009)
suggested training students to use such types of dictionaries before engaging
with them in the process of learning. Therefore, information contained in
electronic bilingual dictionaries is valuable; however, it requires the help of both
monolingual learners and from the L2 context. According to their conclusion
findings, (Hunt, 2009); Tseng (2009) argued that students should receive more
training on how to relate words with their contexts.
The most recent studies concerning the use of electronic dictionaries,
either monolingual or bilingual, do not show a negative attitude on the part of
teachers towards either of them. Nevertheless, teachers and students varied in
their defence of one type of the target dictionaries over the other (Fageeh, 2014).
The online and electronic dictionaries have the advantages of eliciting a positive
attitude from students and improved the process of learning vocabulary. In the
light of the ESL/EFL contexts, it can be summarised that students usually prefer
to consult bilingual dictionaries and tend to use electronic ones.
Chapter 3 Procedures and Methodology
This study uses an evidence-based research method in which various
studies relating to the study topic are identified, analysed, and criticised. The
researcher provided commentary on these findings by clarifying points of
agreement and disagreement regarding clues, samples, and the educational and
Firstly, the researcher collected and identified studies that were related to
the area of the current topic. Three conditions had to be met for a specific study
to be included. The experiments in these studies must have taken place in
ESL/EFL countries in which English is taught as a foreign or as a second
language. Next, the participants in each study must have been EFL/ESL students
and instructors. Furthermore, the dates of the reviewed literature must be up to
date to cover the new trends in pedagogy and education.
Secondly, the researcher analysed the collected data in terms of the specific
conditions and settings for each one. This enabled the researcher to determine
not only whether some researchers agreed or disagreed with using the target
technique, but also why they supported one of the two sides regarding the setting
of their experiments. Analysing data involves answering the following
1-What are the results of the research, and what are the answers to the research
2-Who are the participants (gender, age, level of education)?
3-Where and when did the studies take place?
Thirdly, the researcher criticised the reviewed results according to the
clues given in the process of analysing them. Fourthly, by detecting the gaps and
finding the positive points in each study, the researcher will be able to answer
the research question mentioned previously and to conclude interesting,
effective, and significant recommendations concerning the ability and efficiency
of using a bilingual electronic dictionary strategy to improve EFL secondary
school students' vocabulary learning.
The researcher uses this method because of three basic reasons. First,
teaching vocabulary is a complicated task which has various aspects and needs
regarding different social and educational contexts. Second, the learners of
English as a second or foreign language cover wide geographical areas.
However, they share the same objectives of language acquisition. Third, studies
were conducted in different parts of the world may show significant findings
concerning obstacles of using the target strategy or facilities that enhance using
it. Thus, the collected literature will help to determine whether the evidence
provided is justified or not.
Chapter 4 Critical analysis of the reviewed literature.
The critical analysis of the literature in this section is based on the main
themes that constitute the research aims: the effects of using the electronic
bilingual dictionary strategy to improve EFL/ESL students' vocabulary learning,
the attitudes of the EFL/ESL students and the teachers towards the use of the
electronic bilingual dictionary strategy to improve EFL secondary students'
vocabulary learning, and determining whether secondary school students have
the ability to use bilingual electronic dictionaries
4.1 Effects of using the electronic bilingual dictionary strategy to improve
EFL students' vocabulary learning
Under this theme, a number of studies were reviewed, with several sub-
themes emerging from the reviews. Table 4.1 summarises the key literature
reviewed concerning this theme, the views of the different researchers, and the
sub-themes emerging from the reviews.
Key Data from the Findings
The use of electronic
- Kobayashi and Little
- Bhadade and
- Miller (2006)
- Lew and Mitton
- Khoosf (2014)
- Morin (2012)
- Koyama, (2013)
-Both teachers and students
agree that dictionaries are the
single most important resource
for vocabulary learning.
-There is no data regarding how
gender influences the
Key Data from the Findings
perceived benefits of dictionary
use among male and female
-Use of dictionaries in
vocabulary learning should be
Use of electronic
result in inefficient
on the part of
-Bensoussan et al.
- Prichard (2008)
- Albosaif (2011)
-Use of dictionaries can hamper
students' speed of learning.
-If students are to use
dictionaries, they have to rely
on the assistance of their
dictionaries are more
effective for student
Albus et al. (2005)
-Bilingual dictionaries explain
meanings in much easier ways.
dictionaries are more
effective for student
- Kirkness (2004)
- Ahangari and
provides deeper vocabulary
explanation than the bilingual
-Bilingual dictionaries are more
useful for ESL students
Key Data from the Findings
when they are under time
pressure, while monolingual
dictionaries are preferable when
proficiency has improved.
dictionaries are more
than are manual
-Electronic dictionaries save
time when searching for
vocabulary, hence facilitating
dictionaries are less
-Students prefer non-electronic
dictionaries due to availability.
-These studies suggest that
paper and electronic
dictionaries should be used
concurrently to enhance
students' understanding of
Key Data from the
effective for student
-The use of
Loucky (2013; 2010)
Key Data from the Findings
dictionaries play a significant
role in helping students to
access unknown word meanings
and to become more cognitively
efficient in terms of helping to
speed up lexical processing and
recording in the L2 mental
From Table 4.1, it is apparent that the majority of the studies reviewed
generally supported the fact that dictionaries can facilitate students' vocabulary
learning. All of the researchers argued that dictionaries, whether electronic or
not, encouraged students to infer word meanings through contextualising cues,
or incidental learning via extensive reading and comprehension. In the studies
conducted to support the use of dictionaries to improve vocabulary learning, the
researchers indicated that dictionaries enhance vocabulary learning, and
maximise retention among ESL and EFL learners alike. Despite the
overwhelming consensus, a few studies suggested that the use of dictionaries,
particularly in scenarios in which they are overused by the students, may result
in inefficient student vocabulary learning. According to this school of thought,
the argument is that frequent dictionary consultation may hinder the
comprehension processes among the learners, as the practice reduces the speed
of learning. It is on this basis that it is important for teachers to guide their
students through the dictionaries. Nevertheless, it is agreed that consulting
dictionaries not only facilitates vocabulary acquisition, but also enhances the
comprehension of texts.
Regarding bilingual and monolingual dictionaries, the views are less
divergent, although some researchers believed that monolingual dictionaries
help students to learn vocabulary faster than do bilingual dictionaries. The
studies that supported the use of monolingual dictionaries argued that they
enhance a deeper contextual explanation of the vocabulary sought than do
bilingual dictionaries, which tend to provide easier meanings of the unfamiliar
words. However, the ability to consult a monolingual dictionary requires a wide
range of vocabulary that is not available to EFL secondary school students.
Thus, bilingual dictionaries are particularly important for the ESL/EFL
secondary school learners, and the students should consult a monolingual
dictionary once they have gained a good grounding in English language
comprehension. One study reported no difference in the manner in which the
monolingual and the bilingual dictionaries helped students to improve their
vocabulary learning. These results were attributed to the fact that a search in a
paper dictionary did not allow the students sufficient time to comprehend the
word meanings within limited time periods, as opposed to the case of a CD-
ROM based dictionary, which was less time consuming.
Researchers who sought to explore the variation in the efficiency of
dictionaries suggested a greater ease of use of electronic dictionaries compared
to non-electronic dictionaries. The researchers suggested a link between the use
of electronic dictionaries and a significant improvement in the vocabulary of the
ESL students. The studies presented in the table depict the fact that electronic
dictionaries enable the efficiency of vocabulary learning when compared to
printed dictionaries, making them better a strategy for the improvement of
student vocabulary than the paper dictionary strategy.
Despite the overwhelming support from researchers who stated that
electronic dictionaries are relatively more effective in enhancing the students'
speed of vocabulary learning, a section of the studies (Table 4.1) suggests that
the differences in the manner in which electronic dictionaries help students to
improve their vocabularies are insignificant. This school of thought attributes its
findings to the fact that most modern electronic dictionaries have similar, or
almost similar, features to the comprehensive paper dictionaries. In addition, a
section of the studies that advocate superiority of printed
dictionary to electronic
dictionaries suggests that more effort in the process of a student's search for
word meanings can contribute to higher retention. However, it is important to
note that these studies point out the ease and speed of use of electronic
dictionaries as opposed to that of similar paper dictionaries. Other studies
suggest that the integrated use of electronic and paper dictionaries can be more
beneficial for the EFL and ESL learners than use of either alone. Based on the
arguments of the researchers, the use of Information from multiple dictionaries
results in better learner retention, as most students develop curiosity when they
seek to compare meanings, resulting in better retention.
4.2 The attitudes of the students and the teachers towards the use of
electronic bilingual dictionaries
Key Data from the Findings
Students and teachers
have positive attitudes
towards the use of
-Students tended to have positive
attitudes towards electronic
dictionaries, especially when the
educators gave the students the correct
guidance concerning how to use
-Teachers' and students' attitudes play
a significant role in vocabulary
Students and teachers
towards the use of
Key Data from the Findings
- Inability to use a specific type of
dictionary may create
a negative attitude towards that type.
In addition to the extant literature on the effectiveness of electronic
dictionaries, researchers have also attempted to study the attitudes that learners
and instructors have towards the use of electronic dictionaries. As seen in Table
4.2, the majority of the research findings suggest that more students tend to
adopt positive attitudes towards the use of electronic dictionaries. In addition, a
considerable number of studies indicated that more students found electronic
dictionaries beneficial, and that they facilitate vocabulary learning. There is,
however, a scarcity of research on educators' attitudes towards the use of
electronic dictionaries with regard to students' learning of vocabulary.
The researchers argued that the speed of reference was significant in
influencing student attitudes towards the use electronic dictionaries. The
students' attitudes towards the use of electronic dictionaries have also been
deduced from the frequency of their use by students, as opposed to the paper
The other argument advanced by the researchers is that the frequent use of
an electronic dictionary by students tended to improve their vocabulary, and
consequently their attitudes towards the use of dictionaries. In addition, there
was a general suggestion that most students who had electronic dictionaries used
them more frequently than did students who had printed
dictionaries in their
possession. Consequently, the use of electronic dictionaries might improve the
look-up behaviour of the students. Although the frequent looking up of words
might not necessarily help students to improve their vocabulary and English
comprehension, it generally improves their attitudes towards the use of
electronic dictionaries and hence improve the process of learning indirectly.
Finally, some researchers concluded that teachers do not use electronic
dictionaries frequently because of many reasons. First they have limited
information regarding the same. Second, they consider dictionary as a wasting
time strategy. However, the researchers concluded that the fact that teachers had
limited information about the access to and the use of electronic dictionaries
could not be used to draw the conclusion that they had negative attitudes
towards electronic dictionaries.
4.3 Ability of the student to use bilingual electronic dictionaries
Key Data from the Findings
Do students possess
the ability to use
Hsu, Hwang and
Wu, Lowyck, Sercu
and Elen (2013)
Ali, Mukundan, Ayub
and Baki (2011)
-Provide not only the
translation, but also the
pronunciation of the words.
Students lack the
ability to use
-Students, particularly in Saudi
Arabia, seemed to lack the right
abilities to use English
students should use
rather than relying
on their ability to use
-The studies supported other
strategies, such as memory
strategies, context clues, CALL
in learning vocabulary, the
skipping strategy, and the social
From Table 4.3, it is clear that the majority of the research reviewed in this
study agreed that students largely have the ability to use both manual paper and
bilingual electronic dictionaries effectively. In most of the arguments, the
researchers stated that bilingual electronic dictionaries have made it much easier
for both ESL and EFL students to learn vocabulary. The dictionaries provide
simpler translations, supply pictures, and provide the learners with in-depth
information about the meaning of the unfamiliar words. These features make it
easier for a rising number of students to use electronic dictionaries, even
enhancing their abilities to use non-electronic dictionaries. There are, however,
some studies that indicate that most students lack the ability to use dictionaries
effectively when studying, and therefore suggest that students need good
training on how to handle bilingual electronic dictionaries. A few studies
discouraged over reliance on dictionaries, citing the negative attitudes of the
teachers, time wasted while searching for words, difficulties in isolating
vocabulary from the intended contexts, and the difficulties of recalling words
later when using bilingual electronic dictionaries. Moreover, some studies show
that some instructors did not follow the new trends of educations as they believe
in the traditional way to teach their students.
Some studies show that the ability to use the bilingual electronic
dictionaries requires a combination of electronic competence and linguistic
competence. Learners should be able to install, handle the software applications
of the bilingual electronic dictionaries. Moreover, they should have a good know
in vocabulary building (Morphology).
Chapter 5 Conclusion and recommendations
In the light of the results obtained in this evidence-based study, most of
the scholars agreed on the importance of vocabulary as a basic ingredient in
language learning. Vocabulary is considered to be an essential part of second or
foreign language learning. Language learners need a defined vocabulary size of
the target language to be able to engage in both production and comprehension
activities in the second or foreign language successfully. The current study
attempted to examine whether the use of the bilingual electronic dictionary
strategy could improve the vocabulary learning of ESL/EFL secondary school
students. It is apparent from the reviewed literature and the critical analysis
chapters that different researchers have adopted different views concerning the
use of bilingual electronic dictionaries among ESL and EFL students. Despite
the contradictory views, Tables 4.1 to 4.3 clearly suggest that a bilingual
electronic dictionary is one of the best strategies that can be used to improve the
grasp of vocabulary among EFL and ESL secondary school students.
From the literature review and the analysis sections, there is an
overwhelming evidence that use of dictionaries can enhance the vocabulary
learning of both the ESL and the EFL students. Students who are in the habit of
checking meanings of different words, and integrating this habit with other skills
such as memorising the words and getting suitable context benefit from
dependence on dictionaries. The studies particularly singled out bilingual
electronic dictionaries as being more effective for EFL secondary school
students' vocabulary learning.
However, a few studies suggested that over reliance on dictionaries could
reduce the speed of students' vocabulary comprehension. However, such studies
are insignificant. Such studies either focused on using traditional types of
dictionaries, or the participants in the study were not well trained to use the
target type of dictionary (bilingual electronic dictionaries).
In addition, the majority of the studies reviewed and analysed showed that
students and teachers generally have positive attitudes towards the use of
dictionaries. However, the findings regarding the attitudes of teachers towards
the use of bilingual electronic dictionaries require further research. The findings
concerning teachers' attitudes towards the use of electronic dictionaries for EFL
and ESL students' vocabulary learning can contribute valuable information
regarding whether teachers can endorse electronic dictionaries for students'
Regarding the ability to use bilingual electronic dictionaries, most of the
studies reported that secondary school students have the ability to use bilingual
electronic dictionaries, particularly citing the simplicity and ease of access
thereof, which has popularised them. It is noted that studies that argued for the
ability to use bilingual electronic dictionaries declared the positive role and
attitude towards activating them in relation to the process of vocabulary
To summarise, the reviewed studies provided important insights into the
merits of bilingual electronic dictionaries, the secondary students and teachers'
attitudes, and how electronic dictionaries work to improve students'
vocabularies. Bilingual electronic dictionaries play an effective role in the
process of teaching vocabulary. While teachers varied in terms of their levels of
having a positive attitude, they never showed a negative attitude towards the use
of bilingual electronic dictionaries to improve vocabulary learning, unless they
did not know how to use one. Moreover, students in almost all the studies
showed a positive attitude towards the target strategy. The critical point that
affects the evaluation of the target strategy is the ability to use an electronic
dictionary. Thus, if the participants were not able to use a bilingual electronic
dictionary, they may have presented a negative attitude towards it, and the
strategy would then be useless.
Based on the review of the literature, as well as on the findings and critical
analysis, this paper offers the following recommendations :
EFL/ESL learners are advised to use bilingual electronic dictionaries to
improve the process of learning vocabulary.
2-Electronic dictionary skills can be incorporated in EFL/ESL vocabulary
Teachers should be more active in encouraging
their students to use various
types of dictionaries.
In order to encourage students and teachers to use bilingual electronic
dictionaries, both the teachers and the students should be trained to use the target
type of dictionary effectively.
Instructors and students should be familiar with the different and specialised
types of dictionaries they can use, and which ones are the best for their needs.
6- Training tasks should offer activities that help the students to choose the
suitable meaning regarding the context.
Unfamiliar words should always be introduced within their linguistic and
social contexts before consulting a bilingual electronic dictionary.
8- Learners should be given an extensive course on morphology before starting
or within using the dictionaries.
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- Quote paper
- Sultan Albareghi (Author), 2015, Using a bilingual electronic dictionary to improve vocabulary learning for secondary school students of English as a foreign language (EFL), Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/335857