Article published in:Lexicon en taalverwerving
[Toegepaste Taalwetenschap in Artikelen 34] 1989
► pp. 26–31
Woordverwerving in Een Vreemde Taal
In communicative foreign Language teaching there is more emphasis on vocabulary than in traditional structural approaches where it takes second place to grammar. Two important questions concerning the vocabulary are: what words to present and how to present them? The first question can be answered on the basis of a (socio)linguistic analysis of the communicative needs of the target group. The answer to the second question must be derived from psycholinguistic and semantic theories about how words are learned and stored in the mental lexicon. This paper deals with one aspect of the first question (viz. how many words?) and discusses some possible applications of psychological theories about word learning and word storage. As to the first question it is argued for the intermediate levels that to (partially) avoid word selection problems (what and how many?) the syllabus should include twice as many words (say 6.000) as are traditionally presented. If students master 50% of this list, they should be able to handle semi-authentic reading and listening material by contextually guessing the unknown words since most of the texts (about 95%) will be covered by the words they know. As to the second question (how to present words) it is argued that for intentional word learning, a contextualised presentation is preferable since it provides the student with more possiblities to embed the word in the interrelated networks of various kinds that constitute our memory. A distinction should be made however between "easy" and "difficult" words, easy implying a direct syntactic and semantic equivalence between the LI and L2 (i.e. same concept, different label) and difficult referring to cases where there is no such similarity (i.e. concept and label different). Some emperical evidence is discussed that leads to the conclusion that it is more efficient (taking time and output into consideration) to present difficult words only in context and easy words without context. Finally an experimental technique is discussed (called graded contextual desambiguation) that tries to grade the mental operations necessary for working out the meaning of an unknown word.
Article language: Dutch
Published online: 24 March 2014