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Vocabulary as the Main Part of ESL Learning

Vocabulary as the Main Part of ESL Learning | ITTT | TEFL Blog

Vocabulary represents one of the most important skills necessary for teaching and learning a foreign language. It is the basis for the development of all the other skills like Reading comprehension, Listening comprehension, speaking, writing, and pronunciation. Vocabulary is the main tool for students to use English effectively. When he/she is confronted with a native English Speaker, when watching a movie or when listening to a favorite song, when reading a text or when writing a letter to a friend, students will always need to operate with words.

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This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Vivian M. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.


The teaching of vocabulary is important because without vocabulary nothing can be conveyed. People need to use words to express themselves in the English language, most learners acknowledge the importance of vocabulary acquisition. This is why most of the words need to be taught so that there cannot be many problems as in communication due to a lack of vocabulary. Some other students might be confronted with the problem of forgetting the words immediately after the teacher has elicited the meaning of the words or after looking at them in the dictionary and this also is caused by the lack of vocabulary. The more words students learn, the easier the memorize them.

The teacher has an essential role in helping students to improve vocabulary. Unfortunately, vocabulary teaching has not been enough responsive to such problems. If we look back in the past, we discover that for a long time, English used teaching approaches such as Direct Method and Audiolingualism which emphasized the importance of teaching grammatical structures. Since the accent was on grammar, few words were introduced in such courses and most often, they were limited and related to the grammar structures taught.

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The beginning of the 1970s saw the change in the teaching of English. The focus changed from the Direct Method and Audiolingualism to the communicative Approach which emphasized the importance of teaching vocabulary. This system saw that students were exposed to diverse vocabulary and speaking activities. Many begun being introduced during such courses and students were encouraged to express themselves as much as possible.

Today there is so much freedom in choosing the methods to be used during English classes. The English syllabus is organized around both vocabulary and grammar structures. Teachers, therefore, usually have the necessary time to insist on teaching and practicing vocabulary. Vocabulary is no longer treated as an add-on and this means teachers becoming more aware of the importance of vocabulary and attention is paid to especially with the teaching of grammar of words. Nevertheless, not all students move at the same speed and can still have some difficulties in expressing themselves fluently such can consider speaking English has difficult and exhausting. Another aspect that can make vocabulary difficult is the pronunciation of certain words.

girls reading a book

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As we have learned that some students can face challenges with vocabulary like in pronunciation of certain word some techniques might help the teacher to help the students. To have a rich vocabulary, students need not only to learn as many words as possible, but they also need to remember them because learning is remembering. With regarding this several techniques have been designed to help learners efficiently memorize words and teachers make the process of learning easier for their students, one of the techniques that a teacher can use when teaching vocabulary is Repetition. It is an important technique in learning/teaching vocabulary. For the words to be kept as long as possible in the memory, however, repetition alone will not be effective hence it needs to be accompanied by the understanding of the meaning of those particular words and by correlation with other similar already learned words.

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Another important Technique is using newly learned words. In this case, the teachers' role is also valuable. In the classroom teachers should insist on practicing the vocabulary by encouraging students to speak as much as possible and by designing vocabulary centered activities and games. Practicing vocabulary is strongly connected to applying vocabulary to students 'real-life events. The students will acquire vocabulary easily if they practice it by associating words with events from their daily life E.g creating a real-life event like "going to Italy" and then letting the students perform a situation in which all the words can be included. This can be done in the classroom as well as at home and will certainly entertain students and have positive results.

The other Technique to be taken into consideration when both learning and teaching vocabulary is imagination. The students will easily learn new words if they are taught to associate them with their pictures. If for example, if the topic is about travel agency and the students have learned of imagining and the picture of the building shown to them where we go to as for information about traveling, they are likely to keep that word in their mind for a longer time. Thus, the students need to visualize the words they must learn. This will help the learning process and will keep the word in the long –term memory.

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Vocabulary is the most important skill when learning /teaching a foreign language. It is on vocabulary that all the other skills like reading, writing, speaking, and listening are based and developed. This has shown why it is important to learn new words. Vocabulary helps students express themselves more precisely and sharpens communication skills it also requires students to cognitive academic language proficiency. When students learn more of 90-95% of the vocabulary words helps students to understand what other people are saying and what she/he is reading. Without a sufficient understanding of words, it's difficult for students to understand others or express their ideas. Teaching vocabulary is important across the curriculum from language arts and social studies to mathematics and science. By learning several words at the students' disposal of describing events or emotions, they can be that explicit when sharing ideas their ideas and opinions.

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