Whats Involved In Learning A Word English Language Essay

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According to Gain & Redman (1986), knowing a word means knowing their meanings (conceptual and affective meanings, style, sense relation, collocation, idioms, etc) and their forms (grammar, word building, and pronunciation). Hedge (2000), meanwhile, helps us understand better the term of word meaning by showing two aspects of meaning: denotative and connotative meaning; meaning relations among words including systematic, syntagmatic and paradigmatic relations (synonymy, antonymy, hyponymy).

More specifically, the work of Laufer (1997) generally indicates that the

knowledge of the following is necessary in order to know a word:

form, spoken and written, that is pronunciation and spelling;

Word structure - the basic free morpheme (or bound root morpheme) and the common derivations of the word and its inflections;

Syntactic patterns of the word in a phrase and sentence;

Meaning: referential (including multiplicity of meaning and metaphorical

extensions of meaning), affective (the connotation of the word), and

pragmatic (the suitability of the word in a particular situation);

Lexical relations of the word with other words, such as synonymy,

antonymy, hyponymy;

Common collocations.

Like the above authors, Nation (1990) also bases on the general knowledge that knowing a word involves: form, meaning and use; however, he deals with thequestion "what does a learner need to know about a word?" in another way by lookingat the aspects of receptive and productive knowledge. Nation (1990) explains thatreceptive vocabulary use involves perceiving the form of a word while listening or reading and retrieving its meaning. Productive vocabulary use involves wanting to express a meaning through speaking or writing and retrieving and producing the

appropriate spoken or written word form. As mentioned in 1.1.1, the textbooks

Maritime Upper-Secondary School students are using focus on four skills: reading, speaking, listening and writing. Because of this, learners need to know the word learned for both receptive or productive use.

From the point of view of receptive and productive knowledge and use, knowing a word involves aspects as in the following table



What does the word sound like?



How is the word pronounced?



What does the word look like?




How is the word written and spelled?

word parts


What parts are recognizable in this word?


What word parts are needed to express the meaning?

form and meaning


What meaning does this word form signal?


What word form can be used to express this meaning?


concept and referents


What is included in the concept?


What items can the concept refer to?



What other words does this make us think of?


What other words could we use instead of this one?

grammatical functions


In what patterns does the word occur?


In what patterns must we use this word?



What words or types of words occur with this one?



What words or types of words must we use with this one?

constraints on use


Where, when, and how often would we expect to meet this word?

(register, frequency ... )


Where, when, and how often can we use this word?

N.B: R = receptive knowledge, P = productive knowledge.

Table 2.1. What is involved in knowing a word

(Nation, 1990)

To sum up, there are many aspects of word learners have to pay attention to such as word meaning, word form, or word use. However, teachers should be able to estimate the learning burden of words for each of the aspects of what is involved in knowing a word so that they can direct their teaching towards aspects that will need

attention and towards aspects that will reveal underlying patterns to make later learning easier.

2.1.3. Implications/or vocabulary and grammar teaching

Considering factors related to learning, this section will summarize various teaching strategies discussed to meet the goal of enabling language students to use words accurately, meaningfully, and appropriately. Vocabulary teaching

How many and which words to teach

In general, the vocabulary size we need to teach depends much on the goals of

learners. If a learner only wishes to survive a short vacation in a foreign country, perhaps a small amount of words is required. But for the goal of daily conversations, or initial goal for second language learners, at least a vocabulary of about 2,,900 would be realistic. This vocabulary size may not enable a conversation on every topic, and certainly not an in-depth conversation on most topics; however, according to Schmitt (2000), it is acceptable because it still allows satisfying interactions with native speakers on topics focusing on everyday events and activities. In addition to allowing

basic conversations, this number of words is seen as providing a solid basis for

moving into more advanced study. As a learner becomes more proficient and having the vocabulary to communicate on everyday subjects becomes less of a problem, thenext step is acquiring enough vocabulary to begin to read authentic texts. An amount of 3,000 - 5,000 words has been proved sufficient to provide initial access to this kind of written material (Nation and Waring, 1997; Wakely, 2003). These figures implythat a viable-sized vocabulary cannot realistically be taught, but certainly some of it can be taught, and the question becomes which words to focus on.

Schmitt (2000) says that many teachers are constrained by mandatory lists of words dictated by school authorities. But many teachers do have a choice and it, makes sense to have some principles guiding those choices. Firstly, frequency is one of the criteria for choosing words to teach explicitly. Another is words particularly useful in specific topic areas. In my context, for example, students will learn words mainly from topics in each lesson such as family and friends; education; health; recreation, or environment, etc. A third category of words to focus on explicitly is those that students want to learn. Nowadays, we are approaching the learner- centered orientation, so giving what they wish can make them more motivated to learn. If students choose some of the words they study, they may well be more dedicated in trying to learn them. A final category, especially important at the beginning of a course, is the vocabulary necessary for classroom management (e.g., basic commands such as "please open your books to page 30").

The question how many words or which words we decide to teach so that

learners can acquire necessary vocabulary depends much on how we teach them. This will be explored in the section that follows.

How to teach vocabulary

Decarrico (2001) suggests that "new words should not be presented III

isolation and should not be learned by simple rote memorization" and she also

proposes exercises and activities that create multiple exposure to items. First, students can learn words through word association lists, focusing on highlighted words in texts. The teaching of word lists through word association techniques, especially at the beginning levels, has proven to be a successful way for students tolearn a large number of words in a short period and retain them over time (Hedge, 2600; Decarrico, 2001). Word association techniques include activities such as semantic mapping that helps bring into consciousness relationships among words in a text and helps deepen understanding by creating associative networks for words constructed with lists of words that are to be learned.

Another way to teach vocabulary, especially for presenting word families, is simply to introduce such a family along with the definitions for each word, as for example, the derivational set act, action, active, actively, etc., or to isolate the word .-,.'''''''''-

families that occur in a particular text, the teacher can use the highlighting technique so that students can see the relationships. "Highlighting passages in text has the advantage of providing a more natural context in which students can trace words through the discourse and observe how the forms change according to discourse function" (Decarrico, 2001, p. 289).

Another consideration in teaching vocabulary is promoting a deep level of processing. The reason, Decarrico explains, is that learning may involve either short- term or long-term memory. Short-term memory has a small storage capacity and simply holds information temporarily while it is being processed, usually for only a matter of seconds. The importance of promoting a deep level of processing is to transfer information from short-term to long-term memory, hich has almost unlimited storage capacity.

One important point to be underscored here is that teachers can add variety to the techniques employed in the classroom by selecting other activities with language games that 'recycle vocabulary. Language games have the added advantage of being fun, competitive, and consequently, memorable. The other advantages of games will be discussed more in the next section.

How to choose the right games?

According to Tyson (2000) to be chosen in teaching English, a game should meet the following criteria.

+ It must be more than just fun

+ It should involve 'friendly' competition

+ It should keep all of the students involved and interested

+ It should encourage students to focus on the use of language rather than on the language itself

+ It should give students a chance to learn, practise, or review specific language material

Besides those criteria, many other factors should be considered carefully. The following are suggested by, George P. Mc Callum (1980): class size, learners' age, learners' English level, the content of the lesson, the physical space, the noise, learners' interest, the available equipment and materials, time, cultural consideration (for grammar)


In general, French sociologist Roger Caillois and Chris Crawford agreed that main element of games are goals, rules, challenge, and interaction.

However, in this research, the writer id not mention games in the general meaning, but emphasize on the language games whose characteristics will be discussed later in this chapter.

Greenal (1990) defines the term "game" as a language activity in which there is an element of competition between individual students or teams. Another researcher, Hadfield (1990) considers games as activities with rules, goals and elements of fun. In more detail, Rixon (1981) gave the definition of language games on the basis of comparison with the term "game" in general. He picks out the features that would be useful in a game that specially designed for language teaching and showed which features would be less useful or even a waste of time. He states that in a games in general the players exercise some skills to achieve the goal determined by the game. In the aspect of language teaching, he emphasizes that the skills employed in the game must be useful for the target language development, " we need to make sure that the skills needed in any game are heavily enough weighted on the language side". In addition, Rixon mentions other sides that both games in general and language ones have: games are closed activities, games organize players into different patterns of interaction, or games are in connection with competition and cooperation among players.

In brief, language games can be defined as an activity involving many factors as rules, competition, cooperation, relaxation and the most importantly the skills exercised in the games must be language-oriented.


2.2.2. Types of language games

According to Rixon, there are two types of language games: code-control

games and communication games.

Code-control games

When using code-control games, players have to produce correct language or demonstrate that they have interpreted a particular piece of language correctly (Rixon, 1981 ).

In these games, Rixon suggests that correct repetition of a limited range of

language is the important thing. In this way they are similar in their function to drills.

Just as with a drill, someone must judge the correctness of responses. The teacher is usually the only person with sufficient command of the target language to do this, so the teacher plays an important role in leading or controlling these code-control games. The teacher also is the person who awards credit for correct answers and rejects incorrect ones.

Code-control games also require players to say something correctly,

sometimes to practice a structure, or to extend vocabulary and challenge memory as in 'list' game like "I went shopping". Ways of winning and ways of organizing students may vary in these games, but their underlying principle is the same: players must get things right in order to win.

Communication games

In this type of games, the emphasis is not so much on correctness as in code- control game, but mainly on the communicative effectiveness. This does not mean that communication games do not improve correctness. Rixon (1981) states that 'firstly, language that is too distorted by mistakes will fail to communicate anything, and secondly, the range of language needed in many of these games can be limited so that students are repeating structures many times'.

In a communication game, the language used by the players may be formally less than perfect, but if the message is understood the objective will be achieved. Because of this, the length of utterances is not so limited or predictable as in code- control games. Players will continue talking until they have achieved their objectives. In this way, students are given the chance to develop the skills needed for taking part in discussion as well as to practice individual language items.

Although there are some differences between these two types of games, there is no conflict between them. Each has its place on a teaching program. It should be noted that 'students will be able to use the correct language promoted by the code- control games in the flexible and effective way encouraged by communication games' (Rixon, 1981, p. 32). In this context of the study, the author aims to have students achieve both correctness and communicative effectiveness.

The advantages of using games

Geoffrey Petty(Teaching today: a practical guide), Andrew Wright,David Betteridge,Michael Buckby(Games for language learning), William Rowland Lee (Language teaching games and contests), Shelagh Rixon(How to Use Games in Language Teaching)have argued that games are not just time-filling activities but have a great educational value, especially in communicative language teaching class.

Games provides meaningful practice

With the use of meaningful practice as games, the teacher can create various contexts in which students have to use language to communicate, exchange

information and express their own opinions (Wright, Betteridge and Buckby, 1984).

The need for meaningfulness in language learning has been accepted for some years.

If students are amused, angered, challenged, or surprised, the context is clearly

meaningful to them. Thus, the meaning of the language they listen to, read, speak, and

write will be better remembered. Further support comes from Hadfield (1990), who

believes that games provide as much concentrated practice as a traditional drill and

more importantly, they provide an opportunity for real communication and thus

constitute a bridge between classroom and the real world.

Games creates motivation

Games are highly motivating and entertaining, and they can "lower anxiety",

give shy students more opportunity to express their opinions and feelings (Hansen,

1994, p. 118). Therefore, learners can perform what they know, what they are familiar

with and what they are able to produce. From the researches of Uberman (1998), Nguyen & Khuat (2005), we can realize the enthusiasm of their students in learning

through games.

In games, an element of competition between individual learners

or teams is a strong motivating factor. It is the competition that stimulates students to

produce required language items as correctly as possible in order to achieve success.

In addition, using language games helps reduce stress in the classroom. When

students have to face unfamiliar or difficult structures, words, text, and even

concentrate on long intensive practice without any change, there will be little benefit

from learning in such an intensive way in the long run. Thus, a change is always

necessary in the situation. While language is a hard work and effort is required every

moment and must be maintained over a long period of time, games are considered one

of the beneficial ways to create relaxing and interesting learning atmosphere as a break in

order to maintain students' motivation. When students are free from worry and stress,

they will study more effectively.

Games promote participation and cooperation

The reason why games are more popular in language classes nowadays is that

games encourage students' participation and cooperation and can remove the

inhibitions of those who feel intimidated by formal classroom situations (Carrier,

1990). That is true because games encourage group work or pair work. To complete

the task or requirement of games, players work together by sharing information and

they do not worry too much about mistakes or they will be corrected by others.

Moreover, to each game more proficient students or less proficient ones have their

own strong points so they can cooperate with one another to get their team's objective.

Therefore, games help students increase collaboration and team-working or group-

working spirit.

Games provide active learner-centered learning

As mentioned above, to reach the objective of the game, students have to work in pairs, in groups or in teams. It means that there is communication between individuals. Students have to discuss together, share information or express their own

points of view before their group has a final result. Is this way, games bring learners

chances to communicate or to work by themselves. The teacher only keeps the role of

an observer or an instructor. He drops his role as director of games and becomes more

of a monitor and language format. The teacher no longer controls what learners have

to say. Rixon (1981) asserts that teachers should be there as "a source of information"

to give suggestions or rephrase something to make it clearer to other players. In other

words, games are part of general movement away from a teacher-dominated

classroom and promote active learner-centered learning.

Games provide immediate feedback

After teachers present any new language item, they want to know how much

knowledge their students have achieved and how much they have missed. The popular

way of checking students' acquisition is by testing. However, tests usually take time.

By using games, teachers can receive information about their teaching, but in a

quicker way. To explain this, David and Hollowell (1989) state as follows:

"Most overburdened teachers have experienced the problem of

waiting too long to hand back students papers, to be effective,

feedback must follow performance. Most games provide almost

immediate feedback to students since in most cases winning and

losing will depend on how well the students perform".

(David and Hollowell, 1989, p. 4)

By observing students work or perform their knowledge, teachers can

recognize students' strengths and weaknesses as well as their gaps in the process of

their acquisition. Besides, using games in learning also facilitates various interactions

in the classroom. Rixon (1981) offers different patterns of interaction through playing

games: teacher-the whole class, teacher-group, teacher-individual, individual-

individual, and group-group.

In summary, games are useful and effective tools that should be applied in

vocabulary and grammar lessons. The use of games is a way to make the lessons more

interesting, enjoyable and effective.

2.2.4. Effective ways to make games work in a language class Preparation

Choosing games.

There are many factors to consider while applying games, one of which is

appropriacy. "Teachers should be very careful about choosing games if they want to

make them profitable for the learing process" (Uberman, 1998). Teachers should

take into consideration such factors as students' ages, suitable tasks and topics, the

length and the time necessary for games completion. Besides, class size is also a

factor that influences the selection of games. For example, in my situation, with 54

students in a class, I cannot use the game "selling or buying things" as in the research

of Nguyen & Khuat (2005) because it can make noise and affect other classes around.

Another factor that should be mentioned here is the choice of language level.

Harmer (1998) claims that one obvious difference in the way we teach is different

levels of language. For beginners or non-major English students, they need to be

exposed to fairly simple language which they can understand. Intermediate students or

major English students, in contrast, have had some knowledge, so we should give

more difficult tasks which require higher proficiency.

When to use games

Games are often used as short warm-up activities or when there is some time

left at the end of a lesson. In addition, Uberman (1998) suggests "Games also lend

themselves well to revision exercises helping learners recall material in a pleasant,

entertaining way".

However, Rixon suggests that games can be used at all stages of the lesson,

provided that they are suitable and carefully chosen. At different stages of the lesson,

the teacher's aims connected with a game may vary:

Presentation. Provide a good model making its meaning clear;

Controlled practice. Elicit good imitation of new language and appropriate


Communicative practice. Give students a chance to use the language.

(Rixon, 1981, p. 70).


Three main stages above bring students from a state in which the new

language is completely unknown to them to the ability to start using it confidently by

themselves. When using a game as part of a lesson, it is important to make sure that

the way in which it is played - the interaction among the players and the role the

teacher plays in it - fits with the stage in the lesson that has been reached. The

teacher's aim and the techniques s/he can use at each stage are outlined in the

following table:

Teacher's aim

Teacher's and students'

Types of game

Stage of teaching



Provide a good model of

Teacher is the centre

Played by whole class

the new language

of attention

under teacher's direction


Make its meaning clear

Students respond to


Check students'

teacher's cues to show

Teacher is judge of


their understanding

responses and scorer

Responses are simple


or yes/no answers; players


not yet produce new

language themselves

e.g. O'Grady Says

Controlled practice

Elicit a good imitation

Teacher cues and

Played by whole class

(drills and

of the model from

directs what the class




does, but the

teacher's direction

Elicit new language as

interactions are more


an appropriate response

varied, e.g. teacher-

Teacher is judge of

to situation or context

class, teacher-

responses and scorer

Help students perform

individual, individual-

Players must produce the


individual, group-

language correctly and

transformations on the


appropriately and/or do

new language

Teacher corrects as

correct transformations on


it e.g. Who Is It?


pive opportunities to use

Teacher steps out of

Individual, pair or small-


the language to affect

the limelight

group games not under

other people's actions,

Students interact

direct control of teacher

e.g. give instructions,

directly as, e.g., pairs,

Players must use language

persuade, solve a

small groups, or as

to achieve practical aim


individual and small

Cooperative or competitive


Students can judge their



own success




e.g. Describe and Draw,

players when needed

Find Your Partner

Table 2.3. Types of games suitable at the three stages of teaching new language

(Rixon, 1981)



The teacher needs to estimate the time of the game. The question "what is the

maximum amount of time available in the lesson?" should be raised before playing

the game. Lewis and Bedson (1999) suggest that games should last from five to

twenty minutes including preparation, presentation, game-playing and post-playing.

Thus, good preparation will enable teachers and students to have more time for

playing games.

Teaching aid

It is necessary to prepare careful materials for games playing. Materials used

in games must attract students, match with their interest and motivate them. We can

use pictures, flashcards, realia or so forth, but they should be different from what are

illustrated in the textbooks. Pictures taken from colored and update magazines or

books, flashcards or pictures drawn on cards must be clear. If there are handouts,

color pencils or pens, transparencies for overhead projector, etc. used in playing

game, we should make sure that individual students, pairs or groups are fully

prepared. If so, these important factors will stimulate students' participation, and

prepare them ready to take part in the games. Organizing games

Giving and checking instructions

To be well-organized, the teacher needs to set up the required groups of

students, see that they have all the material they need, and above all make sure that

they all understand what to do. It is not enough simply to read out the rules of a new

game, or to hand out a written copy of the rules. Each game will need a proper

introduction, which means an explanation - not just a reading - of the rules, and a

short demonstration. 'It is a waste of time to throw students unprepared into an

activity that they have not yet fully grasped: things will go wrong very quickly, and

you will then have to spend more time trying to repair the situation' (Rixon, 1981,

p.57). The same idea from Harmer (1998) is that the best activity in the world is a

waste of time if students do not understand what it is they are supposed to do. Another


reason for giving a full demonstration and explanation of a new game is to show the

students exactly what language they can practice as they play it. The rules for giving

instructions are: try to make your demonstration and instructions as lively, simple and

appealing as possible so that students want to play the game. When the teacher gives

instructions, it is important to check that students have understood what they are being

asked to do. This can be achieved either by asking a student to explain the activity

after the teacher has given the instruction or by getting someone to show the other

people in the class how the exercise works. Even if necessary, teachers can use the

native language to explain the rules of the game to make sure every student

understands and is ready to play.

Class organization

The notes on each game suggest which form of class organization is

appropriate. There are class, individual, pairand group work. Of the four types of

grouping, pair and group work are very important if each learner is to have sufficient

oral practice in the use of the language.

Pair work: This is easy and fast to organize. It provides opportunities for

intensive listening and speaking practice.

Group work: Some games require four to six players, in this case group work

is essential. Membership of groups should be constant for the sake of goodwill and

efficiency. If there is to be challenge between groups, they should be of mixed

abilities. If there is to be no such challenge, the teacher might choose groups

according to ability. Many teachers consider it advisable to have a group leader. The

leader would normally be one of the more able learners. However, there is much to be

said for encouraging the timid learner by giving the responsibility to him! her. The

teacher's role is to ensure that the game or activity is properly organized and to act as

an intermediary between learners and teacher. Another suggestion when students

work in groups is to appoint one 'secretary' (Lewis and Hill, 1992), who writes the

answer or takes note to report to the whole group. Working in this way makes

students directly involved and help one another.

Another important factor for class organization is suitable seating

arrangement. Changing seating arrangement can help students interact with different

people when it is suitable with each kind of activity organization. If the activity is pair


work, students should sit next to each other or face to face so that it is easier to

interact. If the activity is group work, it should be circle or horseshoe. Scrivener

(1994) suggests that learners can make eye contact with everyone else in the group

and thus interact much more naturally in a circle or horseshoe. Teacher's role

Teacher as a monitor/ corrector! an evaluator ofresponses

As I mentioned above, there are two types of games: code-control games and

communication games. Therefore, the teacher's role varies from one kind of games to


In code-control games, the teacher is normally considered as an evaluator of

responses to judge correctness. Decisions should be absolutely clear and firm and

made without irritation at those students who continually get things wrong. The

teacher should make a mental note about future remedial work that is needed rather

than hold up the game and start teaching in the middle of it. Further explanations and

remedial work can be given afterwards. The teacher also needs some clear and, if

possible, dramatic way of indicating approval or rejection of an answer. Silently

putting another mark on the scoreboard is not the most exciting way of accepting an


In communication games, although the teacher does not act as a judge as in

code-control games, there is plenty of scope for observing students' performances and

doing something about serious errors or areas of ignorance. In terms of the game the

errors do not matter, but how is the teacher to deal with them? If you stop a game

completely and start teaching or revising a language point, the whole atmosphere will

be spoiled, students may even get the idea that the games have only been set to trap

them into mistakes, and if this happens, they may become too self-conscious to get

anything very much out of the activities. There is no harm, however, in making quick

corrections of some of the errors that you hear as you go from group to group. You

should go for major points rather than for mere slips of the tongue, and for points that

do not require a lengthy explanation. When going round, the teacher should collect

information with a view to incorporating them in your lessons later on. Some teachers

simply make a mental note, but others prefer to record the information more

systematically. It is a good idea to carry a small notepad with you as you monitor. The

essential things to write down are what the errors are and who is making them.


Teacher as a person who summarizes and comments

Whatever the game is, students like to hear how well they are doing, to receive

encouragement and to have any amusing incidents or clever moves commented on, as

well as having errors corrected. This is slightly different from formal feedback on use

of language to keep a relaxing atmosphere, to show the students that you are

interested in what they are doing and. to encourage them to be interested in the

progress of other players. It is important not to ridicule any individual. Positive

comments can be made about individuals but negative comments should be kept more


F or each type of games, the teacher also should be careful in the way of

commenting. In code-control games, the teacher is the only reliable judge of what is

correct and thus needs to supervise what goes on, whereas in communication games

the students themselves have various means of judging their own success, and the

teacher's role is less prominent.