Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow

Volume 8 : 4 April 2008
ISSN 1930-2940

Managing Editor: M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
Editors: B. Mallikarjun, Ph.D.
         Sam Mohanlal, Ph.D.
         B. A. Sharada, Ph.D.
         A. R. Fatihi, Ph.D.
         Lakhan Gusain, Ph.D.
         K. Karunakaran, Ph.D.
         Jennifer Marie Bayer, Ph.D.



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Use and Rankings of Vocabulary Learning Strategies by Indian EFL Learners

Azadeh Nemati, Ph.D. Candidate

Abstract: since by far vocabulary is the most unmanageable part of language, on the other hand, the most important part the present study seeks to shed some light on vocabulary learning strategies. To achieve this goal, the effects of two variables of proficiency and gender on the use of vocabulary learning strategies by a sample group of Indian pre-university learners were studied. The descriptive analysis of the result showed that, first of all, students were not familiar with different ways of vocabulary learning strategies as reported by themselves. Then, both genders use some selected vocabulary leaning strategies more or less in the same rank; while, high proficiency students made use of those strategies of higher frequency. In addition, they also use strategies which according to Depth of Processing Hypothesis are appropriate for deep processing which leads to better retention of vocabulary.

Keywords: Vocabulary Learning Strategies, Direct Learning Strategy, Depth of Processing, Gender, High and Low achievers, Proficiency.

1. Introduction

Vocabulary, the building block of language, is essential part of communication without which people cannot have convey their messages properly. In written text or in different face-to-face conversations, or even in class activities, as a miniature of a real life situation, learners often encounter unfamiliar words and phrases that inhibit their language comprehension. Likewise, learners also experience situations where limits in their language competence prevent them from effectively expressing themselves (Williams, 2006).

Vocabulary and language have mutual impact on each other. Vocabulary knowledge enables language use and language use enables the increase of vocabulary knowledge (Nation 1993). With these cautions in the mind of students, teachers, educators and researchers, the importance of teaching and learning vocabulary is as clear as crystal. But the perplexing point is to identify the best and effective way of teaching and learning vocabulary, since vocabulary acquisition does not happen by itself to a satisfactory degree.

From amongst all the methods of teaching and learning such as intentional, incidental rote learning, repetition, teaching strategies are one of the largest and most well research areas of language education (Williams, 2006) which will be dealt with in the ensuing part. In this study, three main research influences inspired the work:

  1. Meara's initially note in 1987 (and which has since become something of a cliché) in the field of vocabulary studies, which is now any thing but a neglected area. However, recently there has been a surge of interest to this neglected area. (Nation, 1990, 2001; Paribakht and Wesche, 1997; Laufer, 1998).
  2. The work done by Oxford and her associates in 1990 about vocabulary learning strategies and the paucity of research especially about women or gender differences in the use of vocabulary learning strategies. Gender issue loom somewhat larger since in a review of eighty articles, papers and chapters in second language learning strategies conducted by Oxford in the 1980s, she found that only four studies directly looked at gender differences in strategy use (Catalan, 2003). She also brought some more evidence in this regard. According to Catalan (ibid) in her research based on six journals from 1988 up to 1998, she had been able to trace no more than a dozen articles and chapters dealing directly with this issue.
  3. The third reason, which is of course the most important one is the condition of low achievers which inspired us to write this article. Responsible language teachers need to think of ways through which they can expose low achievers to the way that good learners or high achievers approach language learning and to a narrower sense lexical learning.

2. Literature Review

'Language learning strategies' form a sub class of 'learning strategies' in general and 'vocabulary learning strategies' constitute a sub class of language learning strategies. The term language learning strategy (LLS) has been defined by many researchers. Wenden and Rubin (1987:19) defined learning strategies as "…any sets of operations, steps, plans routines used by learners to facilitate the obtaining, storage and retrieval and use of information. Oxford (1990:8) explained learning strategies as, "specific actions taken by the learners to make learning easier, faster, more enjoyable, more self-directed, more effective and more transferable to new situations".

Learning strategy is not a new concept, although researchers have formally discovered and named language learning strategy only recently, such strategies have actually been used for thousands of years. As Oxford (1990) exemplified, one well-known strategy is related to the mnemonic or memory devices used in ancient times to help storytellers remember their lines. Considering different definition for VLS, it can best be summed up as particular actions and behaviors that learners consciously make use of to enhance vocabulary language learning.

From the aforementioned definition regarding leaning, it can be concluded that one can extract VLS from the heart of learning strategy and use for teaching vocabulary. Furthermore, the definition includes the word "consciously" which means that these VLS must be teach and learners must be taught how to use these strategies for better retention and recall of taught vocabulary items at will and use them in written or spoken form.

Research into language learning strategies began in the mid 1960. Thereafter, many scholars have classified LLS (Wenden and Rubin 1987; O'Malley and Chamot, 1990; Oxford, 1990; Schmitt, 1997, etc.). However most of these attempts to classify language learning strategies reflect more or less the same categorization such as cognitive, metacognitive, social, memory, etc.

One issue of great importance is the identification and description of other variables that influence the use of VLS such as proficiency level, age, gender, motivation, identification and the frequency of use, etc. can be done through different methods such as interview, think-aloud, diaries and journals, and self report. Although self-report may be inaccurate if the learner does not report truthfully, it is still the only way to identify learner's mental processing (Chamot, 2004).

Regarding the relationship between variables such as level of proficiency and gender, which is the main concern of this article, different researchers have done some work and obtained controversial results. While some studies found that females use more strategies than males (Catalan, 2003) other researchers get the opposite result (Wharton, 2000) and still some others found no difference in strategy use among genders (Wafa, 2003). From an instructional perspective then, we do not know with certainty whether female or male students are most in need of language learning strategies (Chamot, 2oo4).

Although the relationship between gender and strategy selection is blurred, the relationship between vocabulary learning strategies and students' proficiency level is clearer. It is claimed that high achievers student have their own style of learning. They can orchestrate strategy use and also take control of the number and range of frequencies. (Oxford, 1990; O'Malley and Chamot, 1990).

The Goal of This Study

Hence, this study intends to shed some light on the issue of the relationship between gender and proficiency on the range and type of VLS by some ESL, pre-university learners. To achieve this goal the following research questions were formulated:

  1. What are VLS that are most frequently used by Indian pre-university learners?
  2. Do males and females differ regarding the use of VLS?
  3. Which VLS are used by high proficiency learners more and how often?

3. Methodology

3.1 Participants

A total number of 60 pre-university male and female students with a variety of L1 background (e.g., Urdu, Hindi, Kannada) from a Muslim co-educational school in Mysore, India, took part in this investigation. English was the medium of instruction in that school and their age ranged from 16 to 18.

3. 2 Instrument of the Study

In order to do this investigation, the researcher made use of 2 different instruments as follows:

  1. An already standard proficiency test (Nelson series 4000 B) to divide the participants into high and low proficiency groups. The reliability of test was estimated through KR- 21appeared to be 0.67.
  2. A self report questionnaire regarding the use of some direct vocabulary learning strategies in the form of Likert scale. The present researcher adopted and adapted this questionnaire. That is, some of those questions were gathered and modified when necessary from previous strategy inventory language learning (SILL) and some others were devised by the researcher.

This is only a beginning part of the article. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO READ THE ARTICLE IN PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION.

The Semiotics of Visual Communication in Print Advertisement: How to Read Between the Lines | Religion and Ethnicity in Africa | Transfer of Conjunctions in ESL Writing | Use and Rankings of Vocabulary Learning Strategies by Indian EFL Learners | English for Engineering Colleges - What Do the Students Want? And What Would the Teachers Like to Change? | Errors Made by the Students of Engineering and Technology in Written English | Ethnicity, Nativity and Recent Migrants - Problems of Imposed Loyalty and Perceived Disloyalty | HOME PAGE of April 2008 Issue | HOME PAGE | CONTACT EDITOR

Azadeh, Nemati, Ph.D. Candidate
Department of Linguistics
University of Mysore
Mysore 570 006

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