Teaching vocabulary to young second- or foreign-language learners
What can we learn from the research?
While vocabulary knowledge is considered a foundational element for young learners of a second or foreign language
(L2/FL), pedagogically useful information on this topic is not easily accessible for practitioners. This is in part due to the
fact that the relevant information is scattered across multiple fields, including first-language acquisition, child development,
and education. The aim of this paper is to synthesize recent knowledge from the related fields and to provide theoretically sound
and evidence-based information that is useful for teaching vocabulary to young learners of L2/FL. I identify four major
recommendations for vocabulary instruction: (a) ensure frequent and repeated exposure to the target words (as well as nontarget
words); (b) provide explicit word definitions and meanings in context; (c) create opportunities for discussions and interactions
around the words in question; and (d) use multimodal approaches to teach vocabulary. I also suggest future research directions,
with the goal of finding effective approaches that teachers can use to improve their vocabulary instruction while meeting the
specific needs of their young L2/FL students.
Keywords: young learners, vocabulary learning, vocabulary teaching, implicit learning, explicit learning, input-based tasks, interactions, formulaic language
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