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Second Language Vocabulary Acquisition A Rationale for Pedagogy Edited by James Coady, Thomas Huckin Book DOI: Online ISBN: 9781139524643 Hardback ISBN: 9780521561327 Paperback ISBN: 9780521567640

Chapter II - CASE STUDIES pp. 53-54 Chapter DOI: Cambridge University Press


Case studies can be helpful in "bringing to life" some of the complexity and individual variation involved in vocabulary learning. Part II presents detailed portraits of four adult second language learners struggling to build up their word knowledge in English, Hebrew, and Portuguese. Of special interest is the fact that two of the studies are "self-portraits," with the authors describing their own efforts to build their second language vocabulary. If any objectivity is sacrificed in this effort, it is more than compensated for by the unusually high level of self-awareness provided by the investigators. The first chapter in Part II, Kate Parry's "Vocabulary and comprehension: Two portraits," presents two case studies of advanced ESL students handling the vocabulary encountered in introductory anthropology texts. The students made lists of the words they found difficult, tried to guess the meaning of these words, recorded think-aloud protocols while reading a passage, and translated a portion of this passage into their first languages (Greek and Korean, respectively). These data are analyzed and the differences between the two students are discussed. Parry suggests that the two students used quite different reading strategies with the Greek speaker adopting the holistic approach and the Korean speaker an analytic one. Since neither approach was fully satisfactory, she concludes that ESL teachers should spend more class time on metacognition, discussing pros and cons of different vocabulary-learning strategies according to particular circumstances and purposes. The next chapter, by Roann Altman, describes a six-year case study of an English-speaking learner (the author herself) of Hebrew, focusing on verbs and emphasizing productive vocabulary use. Altman argues that successful productive vocabulary use is best facilitated by (1) morphophonological regularity and (2) phonological input to the learning process. "Once the underlying morphophonological pattern had been extracted from all the instances perceived," she writes, "a threshold was reached wherein the pattern could then be applied to the whole array of roots (whose meaning was known) and thus result in a significant increase in production." Altman as learner passed through five distinct stages of development beginning with the most morphologically regular

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Second language vocabulary acquisition

forms and ending with the least regular ones. Unanalyzed wholes were learned before analyzed ones. Her production was improved by good teaching, oral input, and metacognitive awareness of input. One of the strongest triggers for such awareness was the need to produce in the language. Encountering the language in multiple situations also helped. Combined, these elements created a "confluence of opportunity" for the learner, and repeated use led to automaticity. Part II concludes with William Grabe and Fredricka L. Stoller's description of a five-month case study that explored the extent to which extensive newspaper reading, without formal instruction but with the aid of a bilingual dictionary, would allow the first author to develop his vocabulary and his reading ability in Portuguese as a second language. The authors were particularly interested in the relationship between reading development and (a) vocabulary acquisition, {b) general comprehension processing, and (c) overall L2 language acquisition. The main sources of data evaluated were front pages of newspapers and corresponding lookup vocabulary lists generated by the subject of the study, the journal entries he kept, and a battery of objective tests (i.e., vocabulary, reading comprehension, listening comprehension, and cloze tests). Results indicate that the learner (Grabe) made dramatic progress in vocabulary knowledge, reading comprehension, and listening comprehension. Indeed, there seemed to be a synergistic relationship among these three skill areas. Newspapers proved to be very appropriate texts for reading, although they also had some genre-based limitations associated with them. Dictionary use was found to be especially helpful, providing the learner with a psychologically valuable "accuracy anchor" and encouraging more complete learning. Conversely, recognition of semantic fields and knowledge of grammar were found to be relatively unimportant in the vocabulary learning process. The authors conclude that extensive reading is a very effective way to develop vocabulary knowledge and other language abilities over time.

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