How can pupils profit from written form strategies in vocabulary learning? Vocabulary Learning Strategies

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2016

16 Pages, Grade: 1,6



1. Introduction

2. Vocabulary learning strategies

3. Direct strategies
3.1. Cognitive Strategies
3.1.1. Flash card
3.1.2. Keyword
3.2. Memory Strategies
3.2.1. Grouping
3.2.2. Semantic Mapping

4. Learner autonomy

5. Role of the Teacher

6. The Mental Lexicon

7. Conclusion


Works Cited

1. Introduction

Several studies have been done over the years to prove or fortify the influence and significance of learning strategies on language learning processes. It is generally agreed today that language strategies have an enhancing influence on the whole spectrum of the language learning process. However, even being aware of this fact language learning strategies particularly for vocabulary learning have been for some reason neglected for many years. That is difficult to understand considering the importance of vocabulary or word knowledge and therefore prerequisite for any further language learning processes. Simultaneously it means that any language process can not take place without vocabulary. Such an important field of a language being just learned through strict memorization has raised questions especially based on retention as pupils could not retain the learned vocabularies over a longer period. Nevertheless, researchers recently have realized the gap in the language learning strategies and have started to explore the field of vocabulary strategies and their influence on vocabulary acquisition. Researchers have found out different strategies covering different fields like spoken form language strategies or written form language strategies and so on in the course of learner-oriented teaching.

Against this background, the central question that motivates this paper is: How pupils can profit from written form strategies in vocabulary learning? To answer this question, we begin by taking a closer look at vocabulary learning strategies which are divided in indirect and direct strategies. Given that I will focus on written form vocabulary I will solely focus on direct strategies which are again divided in different substrategies. Afterwards, I will investigate a few methods and research their influence on the vocabulary acquisition and their facilitating factors. Furthermore, I will explore the aspect of learner autonomy to explore the impact of independent learning. Subsequently, I will look at the renewed task of the teachers in terms of vocabulary teaching and the importance of the mental lexicon on vocabulary retention. Finally, I will sum up my results and identify an outlook on further researches. Diverse resources – secondary literature and online publication – were used for the investigation of the question that underlies the paper to show a wide-ranging overview.

2. Vocabulary learning strategies

Being neglected for many years researches about language strategies began in the earnest 1970s (cf. Schmitt 1997: 199). The researches began simultaneously with the movement against predominantly teacher-oriented teaching and is seen as a part of the movement (ibid.). Despite being aware of the relevance of language strategies for almost every part of language especially vocabulary learning attracted a perceptible lack of advertence (ibid.). However, over the years scientists discovered the importance of strategies particularly for vocabulary learning (ibid.). From then on many partly more specific researches have been done to explore the field of vocabulary learning which was disregarded for many years1. The fact that vocabulary learning strategies were neglected becomes obvious when you look at the different and discordant definitions of learning strategies. For example, Oxford defined language learning strategies as “the behaviours or actions which learners use to make language learning more successful, self-directed and enjoyable“ (Oxford 1989: 235). Rubin claims that learning strategies are „processes by which information is obtained, stored, retrieved and used“ (Wu 2013: 29). These definitions may surely differ but have in common that learning strategies cannot be monitored in isolation to the process of learning (ibid.). Nevertheless, these definitions are not clear-cut definitions of what a learning strategy is. According to Nation a learning strategy need to involve choices, i.e. having more than one possible strategy and it needs to get increasingly complex (cf. Nation 2013: 326). Moreover, a strategy should demand knowledge and gain from exercises plus it should raise the efficiency and be more effective in vocabulary learning (ibid.).

Furthermore, researchers classify different groups of learning strategies and categorise them individually (cf. De Leeuw 1997: 41). But most of them agree with the distinction of having direct and indirect learning strategies (cf. Wu 2013: 29). Memory, cognitive and compensation strategies are direct strategies (cf. De Leeuw 1997: 41). On the other side, there are metacognitive, affective and social strategies who are counted as indirect strategies (ibid.). Direct strategies are strategies which “directly involve the target language“ as the word direct adumbrates (De Leeuw 1997: 41). In contrast, indirect strategies “support and manage“ language learning, but does not involve the target language directly (ibid.). Considering different learner styles the various possibilities of learning vocabulary enable pupils to decide regarding their own learner style which strategy or even strategies they want to use and which ones are more effective for them (cf. Alharbi 2015: 501). Consequently, individual choosen strategies result in learning differences (cf. Gu and Johnson 1996: 660). Worth to mention is the fact that gender is a relevant variable for pupils in their strategy use (cf. Brown 2007: 136). Indeed, female and male learners have preferred strategies (cf. Nation 2013: 332). But the strategy use heavily depends on cultural aspects etc. and cannot be seen as universal (cf. Brown 2007: 136). Additionally, it is of paramount significance that pupils need to understand the objective(s) of a particular strategy and they need to understand in which conditions the strategies they are using are more effective (cf. Nation 2013: 333).

3. Direct strategies

As we concentrate on acquiring vocabulary in written form we will solely focus on direct strategies and neglect indirect strategies as it does not belong to written form language and therefore does not belong to our context. Direct strategies are characterized by their direct involvement of the target language. They increase pupils retrieval and storage of the information (cf. Ghorbani and Riabi 2011: 1223). Additionally, direct strategies help pupils to produce language independently of pupils having gaps in their language knowledge (ibid.). This simultaneously enable pupils to understand and to use the learned vocabularies which is essential (ibid.). Furthermore, direct strategies consist of memory, cognitive and compensatory strategies. Particularly Memory Strategies help pupils to take the information into storage and to retrieve aspects of the language and Cognitive Strategies point out sort of a description on how the language is used and how the language in certain patterns work (cf. Marefat and Shirazi 2003: 48). Compensation Strategies, however, tries to make pupils use the language despite of lacking knowledge about the language (ibid.).

We will have a closer look at those direct strategies and possible methods and techniques these strategies offer to help pupils to learn vocabulary. It should be mentioned here that we will only look at one or two possible methods and that there are still a random list of possible methods for each strategy that will not be mentioned. Even direct strategies involve activities which are not suitable to written form language or vocabulary. For example, Compensation Strategies are also known as Communication Strategy as it deals with language production and usage (cf. Hedge 2000: 78). Therefore, the Compensation Strategy will not be part of further investigation as it does not involve methods for written form language. Moreover, the boundaries - especially between Cognitive Strategies and Memory Strategies - might not be clear as they can be similar to each other (cf. Schmitt and McCarthy 1997: 205). Therefore, methods who seem to belong to one strategy can also belong to an other strategy (ibid.). For instance, a method like keyword can be seen either as Cognitive Strategy or Memory Strategy.

3.1. Cognitive Strategies

Cognitive Strategies are focused on direct manipulation of the learning material itself and involve vastly specific learning strategies (cf. Brown 2007: 134). So they are unified according to their common function which is the manipulation and transformation of the target language by the pupils (cf. De Leeuw 1997: 41). Therefore, Cognitive Strategies can be seen as thought processes which take place during the learning process and allow pupils to deal with the given information in the choosen materials (cf. Hedge 2000: 77). Beside that, Cognitive Strategies contain repetition and the use of „mechanical means“ which helps to learn vocabulary (Schmitt and McCarthy 1997: 215). As a result, Cognitive Strategies facilitate language comprehension and usage (cf. Ghorbani and Riabi 2011: 1223).

3.1.1. Flash card

One of the possible techniques or methods for vocabulary learning in context of Cognitive Strategies is flash card (cf. Schmitt and McCarthy 1997: 208). Flash card is sort of cardboard which consists of a word or a sentence on it (cf. Baleghizadeh and Ashoori 2011: 2). They can be used for the first contact of the pupils with the new vocabulary (cf. Schmitt and McCarthy 1997: 215). The use of flash cards is simple as pupils just need to write a word in the second language on the one side of the card and the translation of the word on the other side (cf. Shakouri and Mehrgan 2012: 51). It does not necessarily need to be a word as it can be used to learn articles, tenses, phrasel verbs and so on (cf. Komachali and Khodareza 2012: 135). Moreover, flash cards are similar to word lists but they are more effective and efficient according to Bruton (2007)2 (cf. Azabdaftari and Mozaheb 2012: 50). The similarity can be seen in the possibility of grouping words in categories (cf. Schmitt and McCarthy 1997: 215). The main advantage of flash cards is the fact that they can be taken everywhere and can be used wherever the pupils want to (ibid.). However, a study of McCullough3 have emphasized the fact that flash card is rather a method for memorization than understanding the word (cf. Azabdaftari and Mozaheb 2012: 50). Consequently, the method is more appropriate for younger learners (ibid.).

3.1.2. Keyword

Besides flash card the keyword method is another method to make vocabulary learning more effective (cf. Brown 2007: 135). According to Hulstijn (1997)4 the keyword technique embraces three strategies (ibid.). Firstly, the rememberance of a word in the second laguage by identifying a word in the first language which is phonetically similar (cf. Crutcher 1990: 2). Secondly, both words should have orthographic similarities (cf. Tavakoli and Gerami 2013: 301). Thirdly, creating a visual image between the new word and the known word with a relation to each other so they can be retrieved more easily (cf. Brown 2007: 135). Furthermore, the keyword method comprises meaning, sound image of the L1 and L2 words (cf. Soleimani/ Saeedi/ Mohajerna 2012: 49). Therefore, it has a real impact on the pupils vocabulary learning (cf. Hauptmann 2004: 87). In addition, the method has a tremendous effect on vocabulary acquisition especially on vocabulary retention as Rodriguez and Sadoski (2000)5 have proved (cf. Soleimani/ Saeedi/ Mohajerna 2012: 49). Lastly, and based on Atkinson´s (1975)6 research the keyword method is considered to be useful particularly for younger learner (cf. Lawson and Hogben 1998: 179).

3.2. Memory Strategies

Memory Strategies are concerned with the reflection of facile principles like adjusting associations and things in order plus enabling reviewing (cf. De Leeuw 1997: 41). The mentioned principles include meaning which makes it even more interesting for vocabulary acquisition (ibid.). This is due to the involvement of attentive mental process which leads to better retention of vocabulary (cf. Schmitt 2000: 135). Additionally, new words are kept with already known words who are blended in present knowledge (ibid.). The function of the Memory Strategies is marked by three features (cf. Porter 2002: 178). The first distinguishing feature is the amount of retrieved knowledge and the second one describes the organisation of words (ibid.). The third one is the accessibility which means the fact that words with related concepts can trigger each other (ibid.). Moreover, the Memory Strategy has gained a reputation of being a strong mental tool which helps pupils to cope with the amount of words they need to know and use (Oxford 1990: 38f).

3.2.1. Grouping

Grouping is a potential method in the frame of Memory Strategies and describes the technique to group words into meaningful units based on common attributes (cf. Schmitt and McCarthy 1997: 207; cf. Brown 2007: 135). Words can be classified into units in different ways (cf. Oxford 1990: 40). For example, they can be grouped based on word type, topic, function, similarity and so on (ibid.). Besides, grouping is a process which happens more or less automatically and partly unconscious as humans always organize their knowledge (cf. Schmitt 2000: 135). Furthermore, the method improves the retention of words as similar words trigger each other (ibid.). Additionally, the technique of grouping gets even more powerful when the groups are marked with the use of different colours, for instance, who represent a particular group (cf. Oxford 1990: 40). As it helps to organize the mental knowledge it is especially more suitable for younger learners who have to learn to structure their knowledge.

3.2.2. Semantic Mapping

Another way for practicing, improving and facilitating method for vocabulary is semantic mapping (cf. Brown 2007: 141). Semantic mapping is the arrangement of words into pictures or graphics based on categories and their reationships as Jonassen (1993)7 claims (cf. Dilek and Yürük 2013: 1533). It includes a key concept with categorized concepts being related to the key concept (cf. Oxford 1990: 41). So pupils connect known and unknown words into a network (cf. Margosein/ Pascarella/ Pflaum 1982: 186). The semantically related network leads to improved retention of vocabulary as it helps to introduce new lexical items according to Stoller and Grabe (1993)8 (cf. Dilek and Yürük 2013: 1534). Thus leads automatically to vocabulary enlargement and expansion of knowledge (cf. Khoii and Sharififar 2013: 202). Further researches prove the huge impact semantic mapping has on vocabulary learning and retention (cf. Nilforoushan 2012: 165). Involving many aspects such a „meaningful imagery, grouping and associations“ the method of semantic mapping is an advisable technique for – even older – second language learner (cf. Oxford 1990: 41).


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How can pupils profit from written form strategies in vocabulary learning? Vocabulary Learning Strategies
Justus-Liebig-University Giessen
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ISBN (Book)
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Language, English, Pupils, Vocabulary, Learning, Strategies
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Altay Siakiroglou (Author), 2016, How can pupils profit from written form strategies in vocabulary learning? Vocabulary Learning Strategies, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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