Vocabulary Learning Methods With Beginning

231) Yet, research recently has stated findings that “non-mnemonic semantic elaboration methods” are more effective that the mnemonic keyword technique on lexical retention for L2.

VIII. Differentiation of Mnemonic and Non-mnemonic Elaboration Techniques

Mnemonic and non-mnemonic elaboration techniques are differentiated by the manner of association of new words with previous knowledge in that: “mnemonic elaboration techniques establish this connection through verbal and visual imagery” however, the elaboration of non-mnemonic techniques makes this connection through use of semantic characteristics and may be through the organization of a list of scrambled words known as the ordering method or through generation of sentences with the target word in a manner that the inference of the word can be made by the sentence or the sentence writing method. (Sagarra and Alba, 2006, p. 231)

Furthermore, the connection can be made through construction of a diagram displaying the target words semantic association known as the semantic mapping method. The semantic mapping method if the focus of the study reported by Sagarra and Alba which included 916 in the sampling pool of third semester L2 learners of Spanish at a U.S. university who voluntarily participated in the study. The same type of instruction was provided for all participants in order to avoid the results being confounded and none of the participants had been exposed to other teaching techniques that were used in this study. Both pre- and post-testing was conducted in this study.

The hypothesis stated in the study was “that the current study would show vocabulary learning methods requiring deeper processing to be more effective than those involving shallower processing” or rote memorization. (Sagarra and Alba, 2006, p. 237) Findings in the study relate the fact that the “…distribution of items by item effect for each presentation order of each posttest reveals that 75% of the worlds learn with the keyword method, and 60% of the words learned with semantic mapping are highly effective.” The analysis in this study showed that “experimental words were highly reliable and effective, regardless of the treatment and presentation order.” (Sagarra and Alba, 2006, p.237) the significant of these findings is the suggestion that the primary differences between the methods of learning was the result of the type of treatment instead of internal differences in the words used.


Mnemonics do provide visual information or images, which have been found to be extremely effective for remembering and particularly for vocabulary recall. The study conducted and reported by Sagarra and Alba (2006) suggests that the direct teaching of vocabulary, whether it be by paired associative or some other method, has a legitimate role in L2 development and as such, should not be dismissed. It appears that the challenges to teachers of L2, is the simplification of the complexity of lexical items and the engagement of students in task that are challenging enough but yet are not quite within the capability of the L2 learner.

Experimental research invariably is inclusive of a very limited number of words to be learned and while this is understandable, it does raise the question of the extent to which these findings are applicable to real world teaching and learning situations. For example, when learning a new language, the learner is required to learn a great deal of vocabulary and the question is whether the technique of keyword mnemonic is capable of holding up in these circumstances.

The keyword technique is time-consuming and requires quite a bit of effort in implementation in vocabulary learning and as well, if used to excess, does appear to have some inherent disadvantages.

From the experience of the writer of this work, as a teacher of Spanish, the keyword technique, when used exclusively, has been found to be a method that is less efficient in vocabulary instruction since some words quite naturally lend themselves to other techniques. For the experience students, who already have a number of effective strategies, and who are quite capacity of the application of these strategies and their appropriate use, the keyword strategy should be utilized in a selective manner and most likely will be most efficiently used for the items which are the most difficult. Toward this end, it is necessary that at least some explicit teaching take place therefore, the recent focus on grammar teaching, which appears to be trending in a manner that will complement explicit teaching in vocabulary. Utilization of this method in the Spanish classroom would involve providing students with an explanation and providing examples to the students. Finally, encouragement would be given to students to attempt this method while at the same time explicitly informing them that if this method does not work for them that they should not use this method.

Words are viewed by Sociolinguists as a central element in the social system of communication (Harley, 1995) and as it is understood from educational studies in L1, the expansion of the lexicon is a key to educational success. L2 vocabulary is therefore, critically important in that it assists with achievements. For example, the more one hears words spoken or sees those words in written text and recognizes those words, the more the individual is able to use strategies that assist with understanding the words that are not recognized and therefore the more the individual can use strategies in order to understand what is not yet recognizable. This is true whether the grammatical rules of the language are known as of yet. The individual who reads more is the individual who knows more vocabulary and in turn, reading is easier for this individual. There is an apparent link between the printed word and knowledge of vocabulary. A L2 vocabulary that is large assist the individual in overcoming problems in speaking because, if there is a word that us unknown, the individual has access to other words to approximate the meaning of the unknown words. The writer of this work has observed, recently in the teaching experience, that vocabulary learning is a separate and structured activity and is not included in the Languages other than English (LOTE) curriculum. The emphasis is communication as well as the four skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing and although it is generally recognized that L2 learners need to develop large vocabularies in order to become proficient in the skills of the Target Language, given the time constraints of the L2 classroom it is impractical to learn vocabulary in such a structured and explicit way. It is apparent that, given the time constraints and focus on communication in the target language, that the most beneficial way for teachers to help their students develop a stable, comprehensive vocabulary is not to give them decontextualized or isolated word lists, but to incorporate them into reading, listening and speaking tasks, which focus on the keywords. Instructional activities and curricula need to be designed to enrich the L2 content of lexical structures. A few ways of.


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