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    • Running head: VOCABULARY AS A SYSTEM OF LANGUAGE 1Vocabulary as a system of Language according toPaul Nation, Vivian Cook and John ReadVíctor A. GonzálezandJuan A. RosalesUniversidad Católica de la Santísima Concepción
    • Running head: VOCABULARY AS A SYSTEM OF LANGUAGE 2It is common knowledge that language is essential for our society becauseit allows us to communicate with each other and understand different concepts andintentions. This interaction would not be possible if it was not due to vocabulary.This concept is one of the systems of language and could be defined as theamount of words that a person uses in order to express something. Thus,vocabulary presents vital importance because it allows learners to have a bettercomprehension of the language skills.In several situations people are quite keen to say something in anappropriate way according to a specific context. However, the lack of information interms of vocabulary would be an obstacle to them. This would provoke that peoplewill not able to say anything at all.The purpose of this paper is to present, analyze and develop the conceptof vocabulary as a system of language according to three authors. Theirperspectives are going to be analyzed in order to provide a complete idea andfoundations about what vocabulary comprehends, what are the principles to beconsidered when teaching vocabulary, and how these principles can beimplemented inside a classroom.First of all, Nation (2007) provides the time-on–task principle which is ajustification of the four strands. It basically expresses that everybody can showimprovement on a particular skill as long as they practice constantly. He alsodeclares that language skills are different from other kind of skills such as critical
    • Running head: VOCABULARY AS A SYSTEM OF LANGUAGE 3skills, so they have to be considered in a way that quantity of the tasks for theseskills is not confused with their quality.Secondly, in his paper, Nation mentions four strands in the learningprocess. The first strand is the meaning-focused input, which is learning throughlistening and reading. This is related to the knowledge and understanding thatstudents acquire by using their receptive skills, which are reading and listening.Some of the typical activities related to these skills are watching television, listen tothe radio, etc. The number of words that will be learnt is relatively low, and thedegree of learning will depend exclusively on the quality of the reading andlistening. Therefore, a lot of input is needed. Moreover, there are conditions thatneed to be present in this strand in order to accomplish an effective. First, if thereading is extensive, the learning will be highest. Second, the students must havemost of the knowledge related to the information they are receiving in order tounderstand it. Third, it is required that learners really want to learn and understandthe given information. Fourth, learners must have a high percentage of knowledgeabout the source. Furthermore, Nation and Wang (1999) stated that the learnersshould read extensive texts at least once every two weeks in order to acquire asignificant amount vocabulary.Furthermore, Read (2000) states some measures for this strand. He saysthat is necessary to be concerned about the nature of the input. He proposes twoquestions for the teachers so that they can confirm that; does the difficulty of theinput concords with the level of the learners? And does the input havecharacteristics of authenticity? Moreover, according to Read, there are three
    • Running head: VOCABULARY AS A SYSTEM OF LANGUAGE 4possible errors that can occur in a listening. First, perceptual error, which indicatesthat the learners are not able to hear certain sounds properly; Second, lexical error,which means that the meaning is difficult to understand; and third, the syntacticerror, where the sentence structure is misinterpreted.Thirdly, the second strand is the meaning-focused output, which is learningthrough speaking and writing. In this strand is important that learners can improvetheir vocabulary when they produce language. Some of the activities he proposesto reach that objective are; having conversations, writing letters, keeping a diary,etc. In addition, he states that, as in the receptive learning, there are conditionsthat have to be present when learning by production of language. First, what thelearners produce must be largely related to their knowledge; their focus must be toget their message across. Second, only a small amount of words have to beunknown to them. Third, their previous input must be used to produce language.Fourth, there must be several opportunities for them to use the language. Inaddition, he states that within a spoken activity there could be a mixture betweeninput and output. For example, in a conversation one person produces the outputand the other learns that as input.Moreover, Nation cites Swain´s out hypothesis and points out thatspeaking or writing is part of the process of second language learning. Also, Swain(1995) suggests three functions for the output hypothesis. The first function is thenoticing/triggering function, which occurs when students have difficulties forexpressing a message because they do not know how to do it. He explains thatthis impairment takes place because productive learning implies not only looking
    • Running head: VOCABULARY AS A SYSTEM OF LANGUAGE 5for the meaning of a word, but also the production of the word. Furthermore, hestated that according to Izumi (2002), when learners produce language they areobliged to integrate a greater amount of items. This has to occur in a way that iseasier to be understood. He states that productive is not better than receptive.However they are different from each other. The integration in the productivelearning is not the same as in receptive learning, so equal amount of times have tobe balanced for both productive and receptive within a lesson. In addition, hedeclares that the complete effect of triggering/noticing function does not provokeenough impact until learners have the knowledge that they did not have before.That can happen in three ways. The first way is when learners notice a failure whilethey produce language and, subsequently, they start paying attention to certainitems in the input that they had not noticed before. The second way is tocompensate the lack of knowledge through trials and error, or by using their firstlanguage transfer. And the third way is to look for assistance from teachers orother sources once they are aware of the gap in their production. The secondfunction proposed by swains is the hypothesis-testing function. Here the learnersperform trials and then they can whether maintain or modify those trials dependingon the success they achieve or the feedback they receive. The third function is themetalinguistic (reflective) function. This implies the production of language with theobjective of solving problems by working in groups or teams. This kind of activitycombines meaning-focused output and language-focused learning because theproduction makes the learners to pay attention on language features.
    • Running head: VOCABULARY AS A SYSTEM OF LANGUAGE 6Fourthly, Nation (2007) provides the language-focused learning strand.This strand is known with many other names, such as focus on form, form-focusedinstruction, deliberate teaching, etc. The principal or main aim of it, is to developand integrate the four skills of language which are reading, speaking, listening andwriting. Many activities are proposed in order to accomplish the development of thefour skills. Nation (2007) clarifies activities like substitution tables, labeling, drills,memorization of dialogues, intensive reading, etc. a very important issue toconsiderate, is that these activities are just a part of the entire teaching process. Asyou know, a teaching process has to deal with as many alternatives as the teachercan have in order to implement them in the classroom. Thus, all the students canlearn and acquire knowledge from the most variable perspectives, obtaining animprovement in every side of the instruction.For implementing this focus, nation provides five conditions. The first oneis that students give special and conscious attention to language features. Whenthey are developing an activity that must pay attention to them in order to learn andacquire vocabulary through the activity. Here, language features do not passunnoticed. Students are asked to analyze and study the features in order tocomplete the aim of any of the activities prescribed above. The second condition isabout the same as the previous one. Students must study and analyze in deep thedifferent aspects of language. They have to think about them and providemeaningful relation and definition, thus they can acquire them by giving importantcontext to each one of them. Thirdly, teachers have to apply and provide thestudents enough space and situations where they can work on their own and in a
    • Running head: VOCABULARY AS A SYSTEM OF LANGUAGE 7conscious way. The teacher also make special emphasis in the same featuresprevious analyzed, so the students can put all their attention and they do not feelbombarded with too much information. Fourthly, Nation (2007) states that thefeatures, that are being object of study, must be as much simple as they can be, inorder to obtain the best attention from the students towards them. They also haveto be independent in term of cognitive developmental knowledge. With this,features must be apart from such cognitive abilities that students may not have ordevelop yet. To accomplish this condition, teachers have to be aware of the age ofthe students and what cognitive abilities they have according to their age. Finally, itis explained that the features used in this strand should be present in the otherthree strands of vocabulary development. Thus it will be a development and theywill be attended from every side of its characteristics.At the end of this strand for developing vocabulary, the author providesfour possible effects. The students can add to them implicit knowledge, they arehelped with the development of possible later learning, so it would be much moreeasy for them to learn, be aware of the systematic aspects of language and it canbe useful to develop new strategies that can be used in studying and applicable forthe other three strands.In the Fifth place, the last strand of the four named previously, is thefluency development. The aspect of the last strand is that all the four skills areintegrated and should be attended in the same process. Here the studentssuppose to use all the knowledge that have been acquiring during the process andall what they know so far. Moreover, students have to provide and receive
    • Running head: VOCABULARY AS A SYSTEM OF LANGUAGE 8messages though the different skills that hey posses. But this strand can only beapplicable and possible to implement depending on four principles. The first ofthem is that all they listen, read, speak or write has to be familiar to them; it musthave meaning to them. Unfamiliar or complex features are not allowed. In secondplace the focus is the production and reception of meaningful stimulus. Thirdly, theteacher has to encourage his/her students to perform as fast as they can, or muchfaster than they normally do, due to the necessity to develop fluency in their skills,which is also the aim of the strand. Finally it must be a large amount of input andoutput activities.However, there are certain conditions where students are not developingfluency. For example, certain activities that involves unknown vocabulary or wherethere is no push to the students to do the activities faster than usual.Now, how can we integrate the four strands? Nation (2007) expresses thatin every moment of the class or the teaching process, each one of the activities willlead to the other one. For example, if the teacher starts the lesson with an inputactivity, he can later make the students to do an output activity and so on. Thereare many ways and ideas for giving enough time for each one of the strands, but itwill depend on the students need and interests, in the different teacher’sexpectations of the students, the beliefs about language learning, etc.In the Sixth place, Nation states a way of balancing the four strands.During a course, each of the strands should have the same amount of timebecause there must be a balance between reception and production of language.
    • Running head: VOCABULARY AS A SYSTEM OF LANGUAGE 9The teacher can verify whether there is a positive equilibrium by having a registerof the activities so that he can check them from time to time.Moreover, Nation cites Ellis (2005) in order to provide a justification for theequality of time for the four strands. Ellis states that students need to focus not onlyon meaning, but also on form. He says that the four strands, except for thelanguage-focused learning, are meaning-focused strands. This means that threequarters of the course are focused mainly on meaning and the other quarter isfocused on form. However, language-focused learning is more effective. This wasdemonstrated by a study conducted by Waring and takaki (2003) in which studentslearnt four words in fifty minutes in a meaning-focused reading, whereas otherstudies indicated that learners were able to learn more than thirty words in sixtyminutes in a language-focused reading (Nation, 2001: 298; Thorndike, 1908;webb,1962). Furthermore, Nation declares that the equal amount of time for eachstrand is random and depends on the improvement and development of thestudents.In the Seventh place, Nation mentions ten principles that are intended togive a guideline and advices to teachers about how to apply the strands correctly.First, is essential to provide comprehensible input through listening and readingactivities such as extensive readings or spoken communication activities. Second,it is necessary to add a deliberate element to stimulate the comprehensible input,for example, by writing words on the board while they are being listened. Third,encourage learners to produce output in a variety of genres in activities like roleplays or match writings. Fourth, is important for learners to have opportunities to
    • Running head: VOCABULARY AS A SYSTEM OF LANGUAGE 10produce output in collaborative assignments such as split information or expressingopinion about a particular topic. Fifth, help learners to deliberately identify patternsand features of language such as sounds or grammar and always provide themfeedback. The sixth principle explains that teacher should train his/her student’sdifferent strategies in order to have a better and productive learning process. Itcould be strategies like use of dictionary, internet programs, different softwares,word part analysis, etc. the seventh principle states that fluency activities have tobe implemented for the students, in order to the develop the four skills of language.The eighth principle proposes an equal amount of time and dedication for all thestrands that should be present in a lesson. The ninth principle pushes teachers todevelop and cover the most common and useful items. The teacher must providesimple tasks, information and materials and give the maximum of input to thestudents, covering the four skills at the same level. Finally, the tenth principlestates that teachers should analyze, monitor and assess students, in order to givefeedback and help the students to develop their communicational needs.In the eighth place, Cook (2001) provides three more strategies to developvocabulary. He points out that one thing is to be able to recognize or come up withthe meaning of words; another quite different thing is to remember the words andtheir meaning in order to use it later on in the future. Cook defines three mainstrategies for acquiring knowledge. First, students have to do repetition and rotelearning activities. The common idea of the most well-known method for teachingvocabulary is to repeat over and over again the same word. Thus, the word will belearned and stored in the long term memory. Yet the author states that this type of
    • Running head: VOCABULARY AS A SYSTEM OF LANGUAGE 11work might be in vain. However, the most important part in the process of acquiringknowledge is the first encounter with that word. If it is meaningful and the studentsare aware of the word and they are committed with its learning, the process will besuccessful. Secondly, Cook exposes the organization process. The idea of thisstrategy is to organize all the words that are being learned into groups in thestudent’s mind. The foundations are that words are put into a “word map” or “sub-groups”. It means that words are connected and organized following certainpatterns, such as words with suffixes like “-er” or prefixes such as “con-“. Anotherway of organizing words is by connecting their morphology linked to their meaning.Moreover, it is advisable to categorize general rules for certain affixes, so they canconvey the meaning by having in mind the different affixes and their correspondingmeanings. Finally, the most developed strategy by Cook is the linking to existingknowledge. He explains that the commonest way of remembering words is bylinking them to preexisting information in our minds. Because learning a completenew information will be probably harder. Other way of linking new information, is toconnect the word to a preestablished image or scheme that you posses. Thismethod will be much easier to do for our brains processes. So, students willremember and recover the information faster than using another method. It willalso allow the students to store more than one item into a certain image, providingthe ability to convey more than one word just by remembering on scheme.In conclusion, in this paper there were presented the four strands ofvocabulary proposed by Paul Nation, which are meaning-focused input, meaning-focused output, language-focused learning and fluency development. Also, he
    • Running head: VOCABULARY AS A SYSTEM OF LANGUAGE 12mentioned some advices for teachers when teaching vocabulary. He stated thatthe four strands should be considered, balanced and integrated at the same level.Later on, Nation (2007) proposes ten principles for teachers in order to beconsidered and implemented in our classrooms. Within this principles, aretechniques to asses students. Read (2000) proposes two question that teachermust ask themselves at the time of evaluations. Finally, three main strategies werepresented following Cook’s book. These strategies aimed to have, develop andgive the students enough tools for them. Thus students obtain all the help theyneed in order to have a better vocabulary acquisition process. Strategies such aslink new information to previous schemes, organization of words that share thesame or similar patterns in groups are advisable for teaching vocabulary.
    • Running head: VOCABULARY AS A SYSTEM OF LANGUAGE 13REFERENCESCook, V. J. (1991). Second Language Learning and. Language Teaching. Newyork: Cambridge University press.Ellis, R. (2005) Principles of instructed language learning. System 33, 209-224.Izumi, S. (2002) Output, input enhancement, and the noticing hypothesis: Anexperimental study on ESL relativization. Studies in Second LanguageAcquisition 24, 541-577.Nation, P. (2007) Innovation in language and teaching. The four strands 1 (1) 1-10.Read, J. (Ed). (2000). Assessing vocabulary. United Kingdom: CambridgeUniversity Press.Swain, M. (1995) Three functions of output in second language learning. In G.Cook and B. Seidelhofer (eds) Principle and Practice in Applied Linguistics:Studies in Honour of H.G. Widdowson (pp. 125-144). Oxford: OxfordUniversity Press.Thorndike, E.L. (1908) Memory for paired associates. Psychological Review 15,122-138.
    • Running head: VOCABULARY AS A SYSTEM OF LANGUAGE 14Waring, R. and Takaki, M. (2003) At what rate do learners learn and retain newvocabulary from reading a graded reader? Reading in a Foreign Language15 (2) 130-163.Webb, W.B. (1962) The effects of prolonged learning on learning. Journal of VerbalLearning and Verbal Behavior 1, 173-182.