Today, computer and Internet technologies are valuable tools to assist in learning a second language, including its vocabulary. Today, computers and Internet creates a new language learning environment. The effects of computers and multimedia in language learning have been discussed for some time by practicing educators, parents and related people who want to know whether technology in language learning is more effective for teaching and learning a second language than the traditional environment and methods (Good fellow, 1994).
Learning a second language is a daunting task, involving mastering a sound system, grammatical and syntactical forms, and vocabulary. The acquiring of new vocabulary becomes one of the most important tasks as one strives for fluency, and vocabu-
lary remains to be the passport to a language, whether native or non-native. A child's ability to learn new words is nothing short of phenomenal. For example, an 8year-old child learns about 3600 new words per year. By the time that same child reaches full adulthood, this fast pace of learning has fallen to the leisurely cruising speed of only 20 new words per year.
This has implications for vocabulary practice. Letters, sounds, words, chunks, grammatical structures need to be spread out and built up from noticing, to recognition to production. Of course, the number of words that are important to a person may depend upon the learner and his occupation and goals. A doctor is going to need a much more extensive vocabulary than a truck driver. But children in junior school need first to concentrate on the high frequency words, notions of everyday life in order to have enough knowledge to speak, communicate, and express the simple needs. But how the computer technology can assist this process?
The literature on computer-assisted learning does not provide a clear picture of the value of the vocabulary learning. Nevertheless, computers and video editing technology offer teachers the opportunity to present pictures, video, and hyperlinked glosses, short explanations of terms that may be unfamiliar to students to enable learners to make associations with new vocabulary and facilitate learning.
A systematic framework for vocabulary development can be considered by choosing the learners' proficiency level. In general, emphasizing explicit instruction is probably best for beginning and intermediate students who have limited vocabularies. Also, because of its immediate benefits, dictionary training should begin early in the curriculum. There are seven main principles of more efficient computer-assisted vocabulary acquisition.
The first principle is providing opportunities for the incidental learning of vocabulary. In the long terms, most words in both languages, first and second, are probably learned incidentally, through extensive reading and listening. Several recent studies have confirmed that incidental vocabulary learning through reading does occur. Although most research concentrates on reading, extensive listening can also increase vocabulary learning. Some researchers concluded that learning vocabulary from context is a gradual process, estimating that, given a single exposure to an unfamiliar word, there was about a 10% chance of learning its meaning from context. Likewise, learners can be expected to require many exposures to a word in context before understanding its meaning.
The incidental learning of vocabulary through extensive reading can have a great advantage in language curriculums and learners at all levels, from beginners to the advanced students. The role of graded (i.e., simplified) readers is to build up the students' vocabulary and structures until they can graduate to more authentic materials. Low proficiency learners and beginners can benefit from graded readers because they will repeat the words of the high frequency vocabulary. Nowadays many students may never have done extensive reading for pleasure, it may be much useful to devote some class time, from 15 to 20 minutes, to silent reading. Most of the reading should be done outside of class when students develop the ability to read in a sustained fashion. With the development of the modern technologies, the incidental learning of vocabulary became more available with the introduction of the Internet, where we can find texts of classic authors, which are appropriate for incidental learning and varied for the particular student age.
The second principle lies in diagnoses which of the 3,000 most common words learners need to study.
Knowing approximately 3,000 high frequency and general academic words is significant because this amount covers a high percentage of the words on an average page. But it is better to start from the minimum 200 high frequency words for junior school students and only then enlarge their vocabulary step by step. The programs developed for this purpose will help in choosing the vocabulary, because commonly they are already supplied with necessary words. The purpose of the teacher is to estimate vocabulary size of students and select the appropriate program level for them, taking into consideration their age and knowledge.
The third principle consists of providing opportunities for the intentional learning of vocabulary.
Intentional learning through instruction significantly endows to vocabulary development. Explicit instruction is particularly essential for beginning students whose lack of vocabulary scant their reading abil ity. But how beginners can learn enough words to learn vocabulary through extensive reading when they do not know enough words to read well? The solution is to have students supplement their extensive reading with study of the 3,000 most frequent words until the words' form and meaning become automatically recognized. The first stage in teaching these 3,000 words commonly begins with word-pairs in which a foreign word is matched with a translation. Concerning the age of the students, the number of words can be smaller or bigger.
Translation has a necessary and useful role for learning, but it can be an obstacle in learners' progress. Weaker learners or beginners require more time when using a foreign language context and are slower to use syntactic information. The junior students demand translation of words they learn to facilitate their acquisition. In choosing the best software for this stage of vocabulary learning, the teacher should bear in mind that the program must be provided with the language-pack. Otherwise the students would not be able to understand the meaning of the target words.
Vocabulary lists can be an effective way to quickly learn word-pair translations. For effective learning the students should have the opportunity to control the order in which they study the words, and the pro gram must provide the students with vocabulary cards or images with additional information about the word. When teaching unfamiliar vocabulary, teachers need to consider the following:
Learners need to do more than just see the form. They need to hear the pronunciation and practice saying the word aloud as well. The syllable structure and stress pattern of the word are important because they are two ways in which words are stored in memory. So the programs must include audio element to facilitate the role of a teacher and possibly verify the pronunciation.
It is more effective to study words regularly over several short sessions than to study them for one or two longer sessions. As most forgetting occurs immediately after initial exposure to the word, repetition and review should take place almost immediately after studying a word for the first time. For this reason it is better to choose vocabulary software less time-consuming, but with the capability of changing the time fixed for each vocabulary set.
Study 5-7 words at a time, dividing larger numbers of words into smaller groups. Generally the vocabulary programs are supplied with the particular number of target words depending on the age of the students. Nevertheless, the task of a teacher is to control the number of words in each set of the program.
Use activities like the keyword technique to promote deeper mental processing and better retention. Associating a visual image with a word helps learners remember the word, so the teacher has to control the software. Nowadays almost all of the programs are using colorful pictures and even videos.
A wide variety of information can be added to the cards and pictures for further elaboration. Newly met words can be consciously associated with other words that the learner already knows, and this word can be added to the card. Also, sentence examples, part of speech, definitions, and keyword images can be added.
The next, fourth principle stands for providing opportunities for elaborating word knowledge.
Simply knowing translations for foreign words does not guarantee that they will be successfully used in a context, because knowing a word means knowing more than just its translated meaning or its synonyms. Teachers should be selective when deciding which words deserve deeper receptive and/or productive practice as well as which types of knowledge will be most useful for their students. Many of the 2,000 high frequency words would be good candidates for exercises that elaborate upon both receptive and productive knowledge. The programs and on-line resources now consist of the sets of high frequency words, divided for the use in the particular student age. Each program or on-line presentation has about 200 up to 1000 words. The teacher should begin with the smaller groups, available for beginners, and to continue working with the program set by set.
Elaboration involves expanding the connections between what the learners already know and new information. One way to do this is to choose new words from the surrounding context and to explain their connections to the recently learned word. In addition to presenting this new information, teachers should create opportunities to meet these useful, recently learned words in new contexts that provide new collocations and associations. The vocabulary acquisition software is the best way to deepen students' knowledge of words, as long as it gives the students the situations in which they can use the target vocabulary, and chooses the words connected by context for future acquisition. The basic exercises include sorting lists of words, generating derivatives, inflections, synonyms and antonyms of a word, combining phrases from several columns; matching pictures to a word, which goes for young students or beginners in foreign language learning; matching parts of collocations using two columns; and playing collocation crossword puzzles or bingo. The last task will be very effective among the junior students.
The fifth principle is provision of opportunities for developing fluency with known vocabulary.
Fluency building activities recycle already known words in familiar grammatical and organizational patterns so that students can focus on recognizing or using words without hesitation. Developing fluency overlaps most of all with developing the skills of listening, speaking, reading, and writing, so giving learners many opportunities to practice these skills is essential.
Students read texts on a computer using a standard headset and microphone. Through proprietary speech-recognition technology, the software is able to “listen” and recognize when readers hesitate or make mistakes on specific words. The task of the teacher in this situation is the same with the program. When a student struggles, the program assists or corrects the reader by repeating the word clearly while creating a record of it for the teacher to review. Vocabulary assistance and comprehension questions are other features of the program. When stu dents do not know a word’s meaning, they can click on it for a context-sensitive definition, pronunciation example and photographic memory aid. As the students read, comprehension questions are presented to ensure understanding. Students can also have the stories read to them, and compare the model with their own version to improve pronunciation and intonation. The task of the teacher is to choose the appropriate and interesting texts for junior school students to practice fluency.
The sixth principle lies in experiment with guessing from context.
Guessing from context is a complex and often difficult strategy to carry out successfully. To guess successfully from context learners need to know about 19 out of every 20 words (95%) of a text. Although this strategy often may not result in gaining a full understanding of word meaning and form, guessing from context may still contribute to vocabulary learning. Just what is and is not learned will partly depend on text difficulty as well as the learners' level.
However, given the continuing debate about the effectiveness of guessing from context, teachers and learners should experiment with this strategy and compare it to dictionary training. Guessing from context is initially time consuming and is more likely to work for learners that are more proficient. A procedure for guessing from context begins with deciding whether the word is important enough to warrant going through the following steps. This decision is itself a skill that requires practice and experience. Teachers can assist learners by marking words which learners should try to infer before using other sources as well as by providing glosses. The vocabulary acquisition programs can facilitate this process according to the age of the students by giving hyperlinks on the words they need to notice.
Once learners decide that a word is worth guessing, they might follow a five step procedure:
The first step is to determine the part of speech of the unknown word. Then the students should look at the immediate context and simplify it if necessary. The third step is to look at the wider context. This leads to examining the clause with the unknown word and its relationship to the surrounding clauses and sentences. After the students determine the context they should guess the meaning of the unknown word. An only then may they check that the guess is correct, using the help of the hyperlinked text or the teacher consultation.
In step 5, the guess needs to be the same part of speech as the unknown word. Moreover, the learner should try to see if the unknown word can be analyzed into parts(unlock becomes un + lock) and to check if the meaning of the parts matches the meaning of the unknown word. Finally, the guess should be tried out in the context to see whether it makes sense, and a dictionary may be consulted to confirm the guess. In the case of a wrong or partially correct guess, it is important for learners to reanalyze how the "correct" answer is more appropriate in the context. Finally, I.P. Nation suggest practicing this strategy as a class rather than as individual work, it can be demonstrated on the media-board or a whiteboard to brainstorm the definition by circling the unknown word and drawing arrows from other words that give clues to its meaning.
The last principle is examination of different types of dictionaries and teaching students how to use them.
All students were seen using the online dictionary on several occasions. Moreover, all students who participated in student-student interviews explicitly mentioned using the online dictionary, if for no other reason than the nature of the guide questions in these interviews.
Bilingual dictionaries have been found to result in vocabulary learning. Compared to incidental learning, repeated exposure to words combined with marginal glosses or bilingual dictionary use lead to increased learning for advanced learners, but also help the beginners in the process of vocabulary acquisition. Bilingual dictionaries did result in vocabulary learning unless the unfamiliar word had numerous entries, in which case the dictionaries may have confused learners. Finally, a bilingual dictionary may be much more likely to help lower proficiency learners in reading comprehension because their lack of vocabulary can be a significant factor in their inability to read.
Bilingualized dictionaries may have some superiority over traditional bilingual or monolingual dictionaries. Bilingualized dictionaries often do the job of both a bilingual and a monolingual dictionary. Whereas bilingual dictionaries usually provide just a synonym, bilingualized dictionaries include definitions, synonyms and sentence examples. Bilingualized dictionaries were found to result in better comprehension of new words than either bilingual or monolingual dictionaries. A further benefit is that they can be used by all levels of learners: advanced students can concentrate on the English part of the entry, and beginners can use the translation. For beginners, teachers may want to examine the bilingualized EnglishRussian Abbyy Lingvo Dictionary, which includes Russian translations, definitions, and examples, as well as pictures and grammatical forms for beginners.
Electronic dictionaries with multimedia annotations offer a further option for teachers and learners. Unfamiliar words were most efficiently learned when both pictures and text were available for students. This was more effective than text alone or combining text and video, possibly because learners can control the length of time spent viewing the pictures. Many authors suggest that, because computerized entries are easier to use than traditional dictionaries, students will be more likely to use them.
Finally, training in the use of dictionaries is essential. Unfortunately, in most classrooms, very little time is provided for training in dictionary use. In addition to learning the symbols and what information a dictionary can and cannot offer, learners may need extra practice for words with many entries. Furthermore, learners need to be taught to use all the information in an entry before making conclusions about the meaning of a word. The learners' attention should also be directed toward the value of good sentence examples, which provide collocation, grammatical, and pragmatic information about words. Finally, teachers should emphasize the importance of checking a word's original context carefully and comparing this to the entry chosen because context determines which sense of a word is being used.
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