A Discussion on Vocabulary Teaching and Learning
Vocabulary has always been regarded as a key component of language teaching and learning in EFL settings. However, compared with grammar instruction, vocabulary teaching seems to receive little attention and interest. It is not until 1990s that increasing efforts have been made towards the study of vocabulary as an important element of effective communication in second language learning. Wilkins points out ‘without grammar very little can be conveyed, but without vocabulary nothing can be conveyed’ (1972, p. 111, as cited in Milton, Wade, & Hopkins, 2010). In line with him, Ellis also emphasizes that foreign language lexicon is the basis of other aspects of language learning such as grammar (as cited in Milton, Wade, & Hopkins, 2010). Meanwhile, as Laufer (1998) mentions, the major difference in vocabulary learning between foreign language learners and native speakers lies in the progress of vocabulary size.
Although it is fair to say words are the main units of the vocabulary, Carter (1987) argues that a series of words is not the whole story of the vocabulary of a language. Thus, different attempts have been made to explore the process of vocabulary learning, among which is the notion of conceptualization Carter defines as creating new concepts based on the already existing concepts and words. Furthermore, Cruse (2000) believes the most effective way to understand meaning is to hold on the idea that meaning is conceptual in nature.
Therefore, after a brief description about the importance and current situation of vocabulary teaching and learning, this paper is aimed at having a better understanding about language processing by exploring three key terms (concepts, thoughts, words) and their relations. Finally, the author will make some reflections on the vocabulary teaching and learning strategies and then offer some possible suggestions.
2. Key terms and the interrelations
2.1. Definitions of words, concepts and thoughts
It is common to define a word as being orthographic, whereas Carter (1987) indicates that the exclusive attention to the single form of a word is not enough because meaning and grammatical levels should also be taken into consideration. Thus, a more appropriate term called ‘lexical items’ or ‘vocabulary items’ (p.7) is introduced in his book. Also, Pavičic Takač (2008) brings up a similar term named ‘lexical unit’ (p. 5) which endows a word with a combination of features in form, sound, grammar and meaning.
In order to make effective communication possible, a variety of objects and happenings in everyday life need to be classified into a certain category. That is why the term concept which Cruse (2000) defines as ‘organized bundles of stored knowledge’ (p. 127) comes. He also makes it clear that any information related to entities belonging to the category which concepts determines can also be understood by the concepts themselves.
Characterized by being...