As a language teacher, I am always confronted with the same question by almost all of my students: How can I learn vocabulary in English? The answer to this question depends on learners’ aims and needs. That is, if learners are studying for a nation-wide high stakes exam in which there are multiple-choice questions directly and/or indirectly testing vocabulary knowledge, the very first answer will be to memorize a list of frequently asked lexical items on the exam, practice it frequently using the traditional ways such as flash cards, notebooks, and try to read as much as you can. In this mode of study, the focus will be on recognition, ignoring pronunciation and contexts in which it can be used. However, when it comes to vocabulary acquisition for negotiation of meaning and communication, or in other words, production ability, everything seems to change, from methodology to activities to be implemented.
Yanguas (2012) focuses on enhancing fifty-eight third semester college Spanish Students’ L2 vocabulary acquisition through a within groups experimental design. The study uses Skype as a way of learner-to-learner interaction and investigates whether traditional face-to-face interaction and oral CMC (Computer Mediated Communication- audio and video) interaction will lead to differences in learners’ development of vocabulary knowledge. Furthermore, the article also explores participants’ perceptions of CMC modes. When we look at the materials used in the study, we see that the participants collaborated on jigsaw tasks to combine and use information to achieve their goals. This task is based on The Amazing Race, which is a reality television game show. As for assessment tasks, 16 target words were presented in the jigsaw task to check the participants’ development in recognition, production and listening abilities.
If briefly stated, Yanguas’ findings show that there are no statistically significant differences considering production and recognition abilities among the three groups: participants completing the tasks through video CMC (VidCMC), through audio CMC (AudCMC), and through face-to-face interaction in class. As the post-test which was conducted after two weeks indicate, all the groups were able to recognize the target words, with no significant difference. However, an interesting finding was found regarding aural comprehension development. The participants who interacted through audio CMC group outperformed the other two groups, which was accounted for the fact that they did not focus on visual cues. The results also showed that there were no significant differences among the groups in their development of production or written recognition, which I think need pivotal care. Considering the participants’ attitudes, most of the participants highly valued CMC modes and provided positive feedback.
The author, in the discussion and conclusion section, touches upon a very important issue by saying that
The results of this study seem to support the notion that receptive and productive learning processes are different and, as such, learners might need diverse treatments so that these abilities can be developed (p. 523).
I think this is the very point that we should focus on. In one way or another, through traditional methods and/or CMC modes, we, language teachers, seem to have achieved helping our language learners to develop their receptive or recognition ability. However, we seem to go back to initial stages when it comes to productive ability. Therefore, we should look for ways to enhance their productive skills through various methods and materials.
Yanguas, I. (2012). Task-based oral computer-mediated communication and L2 vocabulary acquisition. CALICO Journal, 29(3), 507-531.
I have provided some references on vocabulary development and CALL for those interested in.
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