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Chapter 1

1.1 Nature of the problem


English has become the most important language around the world since it is spoken in
almost any part of the world either as English as a Foreign Language (EFL) or English as a
Second Language (ESL). For instance, you hear it on television spoken by politicians from
all over the world. herever you travel, you see English signs and advertisements.
henever you enter a hotel or restaurant in a foreign city, you will see an English menu
(!rystal, "##$). For that reason, it is important that teachers have a high proficiency level
of English. %oreover, future English teachers should have a wide repertoire of strategies to
learn this language. &n this way, they develop a language competence to reach the English
level e'pected at the end of the program.
Language learning strategies (LLS) are essential when learning a second language.
(ation ()**#) states that learners adopt a number of strategies for coping with new
vocabulary, but not all learners are e+ually good at ma'imi,ing their strategic resources.
-ccording to .'ford ()**"/)**$, as cited by Lessard0!louston,)**1), language learning
strategies are2
specific actions, behaviours, steps, or techni+ues that students (often intentionally)
use to improve their progress in developing second language skills. 3hese strategies
can facilitate the internali,ation, storage, retrieval, or use of the new language.
Strategies are tools for the self0directed involvement necessary for developing
communicative ability.
(.'ford, )**"/)**$, p. )4)
&n other words and for the purposes of this study, vocabulary learning strategies may
help students to reach a high vocabulary knowledge and a good development of the English
language through this 5- program.
1.2 Context of the study
3his work of investigation was carried out in the undergraduate program in English
Language 3eaching (EL3) at the Language School of the 6niversidad -ut7noma de
!hiapas, !ampus0&8 (6(-!90&8) located in 3apachula, !hiapas. 3he Language School
also offers English, French, &talian, and :ortuguese courses at the Language ;epartment.
3his school has been constantly growing since )***. For instance, in "###, the language
school raised its 8ision and %ission itself, leaving as such have the 6(-!9, which have
been used until then, defining the vision as such2
La Escuela de Lenguas es una dependencia de Educaci7n Superior, l<der de la regi7n
del Soconusco, con proyecci7n Estatal en la formaci7n de profesionistas en la
Ense=an,a del &ngl>s, comprometidos con el desarrollo integral de su entorno, con
valores morales y principios >ticos, capaces de enfrentar responsabilidades y retos.
-s regards the %ission intends2
Formar profesionales capaces de alcan,ar un alto nivel de competitividad, en la
regi7n del Soconusco y con proyecci7n en el pa<s, en la ense=an,a del ingl>s, +ue a la
ve, participen activamente como personas sociales y de desarrollo, basados en
formaciones multidisciplinarias y correlacionadas con la actuali,aci7n en las ?reas de
formaci7n.
3his institution counts with "@A enrolled in the English Language 3eaching
undergraduate program (EL3), studying from the first to the ninth semester. -round ))
teachers are in charge of teaching the subBects of this program.
Cegarding the EL3 5- program, it consists on nine semester in which only the first si'
semesters take English as a compulsory subBect. %ost of the other subBects are related to
teaching and linguistics. 3hrough these si' semesters of English, it is believed that students
receive a sufficient language input to develop and improve their English level. For instance,
first year students receive )@# and 4D hours of language input during the first and second
semesters respectivelyE while second year students receive )4# hours of language input
during the third and four semesters. Finally, students from the fifth and si'th semesters
receive $## hours of language input, leaving a total of @4# hours for students to improve
their English level which is one the purposes of this program.
1.3 Background to the problem
!ommonly, EL3 teachers ask students to do activities in which they have to develop
any the four skills (listening, writing, reading and speaking). 9owever, it was observed that
EL3 second year students reported communication limitations during classes. For e'ample,
students had problems in understanding when the teacher e'plained a certain topic or when
they did listening activities. -nother e'ample of this limiting in communication is that
students find it difficult to participate orally in class. For instance, when they are asked to
give oral presentations in English. Finally, students are not able to write a paper with
cohesion as they do not have a wide vocabulary to do these activities. !onse+uently, these
e'amples are the motives that arose to do this investigation which is essential in order to
make students and teachers aware of the importance of having a wide vocabulary. 3he last
factor to carry out this study is the need to call teachers attention to work in the different
learning strategies that students may use in order to increase their vocabulary knowledge.
1.4 Statement of the problem
3his study is focus on the inade+uate vocabulary knowledge of students from the 5-
program in EL3 at 6(-!9. 3his is perceived in the low scores obtained in their language
testE in the difficulty students have when taking international e'aminations, such as First
!ertificate in English (F!E)E and in the limitations students face in speaking and writing
tasks. %ainly, the present investigation will analy,e the relation between studentsF
vocabulary knowledge and the use of vocabulary learning strategiesE assuming that the
more strategies are used by students, the higher level of vocabulary knowledge students
possess.
1.5 esearch !uest"ons
3his research proBect attempts to answer the following +uestions2
).0 9ow is vocabulary knowledge related to studentsF vocabulary learning
strategiesG
".0 9ow did vocabulary knowledge of students increase after )4#hrs of language
instructionG
$.0 hich learning strategies do the students of the 5- program in EL3 to learn new
vocabularyG
1.# $b%ect"&es of the study
3his study aims at2
3o e'amine students vocabulary development in relation to the vocabulary learning
strategies deployed by students of the 5- program in EL3 at 6(-!90!0&8.
3o measure studentsH vocabulary development after )4# hrs appro'imately of
language instruction.
3o in+uire vocabulary learning strategies used by students of the undergraduate
program in English Language 3eaching.
1.' (ypothes"s
3his investigation attends to confirm the following hypothesis2
Students who use a wide range of vocabulary learning strategies have higher
vocabulary knowledge than those students who have a small repertoire of
strategies.
1.) *mportance of the study
3his study is uni+ue and relevant on many counts. Firstly, we consider convenient
proposing alternatives forms of assessing vocabulary and vocabulary learning strategies in
order for students increase their vocabulary knowledge. Secondly, it is of great value
because it will allow teachers to compare studentsF vocabulary learning strategies after a
certain number of hours of language instruction. 3hirdly, it will allow teachers and students
to identify what are the most suitable strategy for them depending on their level and their
academic activities. Finally, this investigation is relevant to the language school since it is
the first study focus on vocabulary learning strategies.
5ased on the findings in this study, it is e'pected that teachers take actions to provide
students with strategies instructions in their current classes. .n the other hand, as we want
to help students, we think this research is going to describe interesting data which we
e'pect it is going to be positive to carry out this research during the semester and at the end
of the same. &n that way, we are going to provide studentHs strategies if they are weak at it.
Even more, after finishing this dissertation, we want to create on them a habit of
improvement in their vocabulary knowledge.
1.+ ,el"m"tat"ons of the study
&t is important to mention that this proBect does not measure the linguistic proficiency
of students nor it is dealing with the language skills but it focuses on the repertoire of
strategies that students use to learn new vocabulary. 3hus, this research does not study the
results of strategies taught in the language classroom but which strategies learners may use
in order to increase their vocabulary knowledge.
1.1- ,ef"n"t"on of operat"onal terms
Vocabulary: Cichards and Schmidt ("##") state that vocabulary is a set of le'eme,
including single words, compound words, and idioms. -ccording to Cichards and
Cenandya ("##", p. "DD), Ivocabulary is the core component of language proficiency and
provides much of the basis for how well learners speak, listen, read, and write.I
Strategy: Cichards and Schmidt ("##") define strategy as the procedures used in
learning, thinking, etc., which serve as a way of reaching a goal. 3hey continue saying that,
in language learning, learning strategies and communication strategies are those conscious
or unconscious processes which language learners make use of in learning and using a
language.
Learning strategies: &n general, learning strategies are the ways in which learners
attempt to work out the meanings and uses of words, grammatical rules, and other aspects
of the language they are learning (Cichards and Schmidt, "##"). .J%alley and !hamot
define learning strategies as Kthe special thoughts or behaviors that individuals use to help
them comprehend, learn or retain new informationI ()**#, p. )).
Language input:
Oxford, R. (1992/1993). Language learning strategies in a nutshell:
Update and !L suggestions. "!OL #ournal, 2(2), 1$%22.
Oxford (1992/1993, as &ited '( Lessard%)louston, 199*)
.'ford, C. ()**"/)**$) Language learning strategies in a nutshell2 6pdate and ESL
suggestions. &n %. Lessard0!louston (ed.) Language Learning Strategies: An Overview for
L2 Teacher. 3he internet 3ESL Bournal. 6niversity of Lwansei Makuin, (ishinomiya,
Napan. http2//iteslB.org/-rticles/Lessard0!louston0Strategy.html. -ccessed on -ugust )$,
"#)@
Cichards, N. and Cenandya, . ("##") Methodology in Language Teaching. (ew Oork2
!ambridge 6niversity :ress.
Cichards, N. and Schmidt, C. ("##")