Teaching Vocabulary A wide vocabulary store coupled with a


A wide vocabulary store coupled with a sound understanding of the lexical items within it, is the foundation of understanding and communication of a language. Teachers who teach English as a foreign language will aim to help students build up a large vocabulary of useful words during the course . For all learners of English as a second language, vocabulary is not learned instantly and retained indefinitely. Vocabulary is learned over a period of time, by the students being exposed to lexical items in a variety of way .

Before teachers commence the English course with their students, they need to decide which words they are going to teach their students and how many words they are going to teach at one time.

It seems to be assumed and accepted across a range of literacy sources that the words which teachers choose to teach should be based on the usefulness and frequency of word (although there is not a direct link between the two) . The usefulness and frequency of the words will depend on a range of factors which a teacher of English as a foreign language will need to take into account. These are detailed below;

'PStudents from different cultures will find different words useful for example ''sleet'' and ''double-glazing'' are useful people living in England, but words like ''mangos'' and ''cockroaches'' will be more useful for people living in Brazil .

'PIn certain countries the socio-economic group of the country will also affect the significance of certain topics covered .

'PSpecialist fields of student''s interests, for example engineering .

'PVocabulary relating to student''s own interests .

'PSome vocabulary will be necessary for classroom management .

According to Cross, students are able to internalise circa six new words within a 40 minute lesson , and Schmitt claims that students can learn 10 words in a 1 hour lesson . Teachers of English as a foreign language can use these suggestions as a guide, but should adapt the number of vocabulary items taught during a lesson as they believe appropriate and should take account of factors such as the learner objective of each lesson and the ability of the students.

According to Schmitt teachers should include both explicit teaching techniques and activities from which incidental learning can occur in their course and lesson plans. The former is where the teacher explicitly teaches words of vocabulary to the students and the latter is where the teacher teaches the students methods and techniques to learn words on their own .

According to Cross there are a variety of modes of presentation available to the teacher to communicate the meaning and or usage of words (explicit teaching techniques). These can be categorised as either ostensive whereby the teacher shows the students something, perhaps by pointing to an object in the classroom such as a table, or verbal definition whereby the teacher gives a verbal explanation (linguistic approach) of the lexical item . The below table show examples of ostensive and verbal presentation techniques and gives a brief explanation of appropriate usage;

Mode of Presentation - Ostensive or VerbalMechanism/Category Tool for presenting or ExplainingExplanation of application OstensiveRealiaThis means real objects. The teacher can request students to bring realia into school, for example toys or items of food. OstensivePicturesPictures can be collected from magazines or newspapers, or made by the teacher. VerbalWord SetsUsed to teach groups or words that are related. For example fruit, banana, apple, pear, orange etc. VerbalSynonymsWords that have a very similar meaning, for example bus and coach. VerbalAntonymsWords that have opposite meanings, for example night and day, left and right, right and wrong.



Incidental learning of vocabulary means that students learn through maximum expose to English. This means the onus for learning new language is completely on the students. According to Schmitt the most effective way for students to benefit from incidental learning is by integrating themselves into a English speaking environment, possibly by living in an English speaking country. Clearly this is not a plausible option for teacher who is teaching English as a foreign language in a classroom. According to Schmitt encouraging students to read has the most tangible impact on improving their vocabulary base .

Cross, D, (1991), A Practical Handbook of Language Teaching, Pearson Education Limited 1999

Schmitt, N (2000), Vocabulary in Language Teaching, Cambridge University Press 2000

Gairns, R, Redman, S (1986), Working with Words - A guide to teaching and learning vocabulary, Cambridge University Press 1986

Gairns, R, Redman, S (1986), Working with Words - A guide to teaching and learning vocabulary, Cambridge University Press 1986

Gairns, R, Redman, S (1986), Working with Words - A guide to teaching and learning vocabulary, Cambridge University Press 1986

Schmitt, N (2000), Vocabulary in Language Teaching, Cambridge University Press 2000

Schmitt, N (2000), Vocabulary in Language Teaching, Cambridge University Press 2000

Schmitt, N (2000), Vocabulary in Language Teaching, Cambridge University Press 2000

Cross, D, (1991), A Practical Handbook of Language Teaching, Pearson Education Limited 1999

Schmitt, N (2000), Vocabulary in Language Teaching, Cambridge University Press 2000

Schmitt, N (2000), Vocabulary in Language Teaching, Cambridge University Press 2000

Cross, D, (1991), A Practical Handbook of Language Teaching, Pearson Education Limited 1999

Schmitt, N (2000), Vocabulary in Language Teaching, Cambridge University Press 2000