How advanced adult Chinese students learn the English vocabulary through reading: Two case studies
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractMost published studies of ESL/EFL vocabulary learning were grounded in the paradigm of L1 English literacy research. This case study, however, emphasized a simultaneous examination of the functions of the dictionary, of the learner's native language, as well as of the context, as one unitary process of ESL/EFL vocabulary learning through reading defined in its own terms. Four Chinese students (three graduates and one undergraduate) participated in the study. Each was assigned to read a passage, to take a vocabulary test based on reading, and to answer questions concerning her approach to vocabulary learning. They were allowed to use a dictionary for reading--but not the test--and to report their thoughts orally in English or Chinese or both. All these were recorded and transcribed. The final report was based on the protocols from two of the four cases. A series of lexical-semantic notions were applied to represent the learners' knowledge statuses in finer terms. Word, the basic unit of analysis, is defined as a lexical item, a combination of a lexical form and its essential meaning aspects. Context is defined as a set of relations--the semantic, the grammatical, and the rhetorical--a lexical item holds to the other items. The analyses thus better reflected the complex aspects of the English vocabulary--denotation, reference, sense, semantic traits, etc. These are potentially useful for designing sophisticated quantitative studies. The implications are manifold: the students should realize the scope of vocabulary learning in estimating their knowledge--whether be able to illustrative meanings, to distinguish synonyms, to perceive the selectional restrictions, etc.; they should train to absorb the contextual information to establish, refine, and substantiate their knowledge, as well as to infer meanings; they should learn to use the dictionary effectively and pay attention to absorbing information on usage; they should form a systemic perspective on translating English words into equivalents of their native language; ESL teachers, need to know a good deal of the students' native language to effectively deal with the issues concerned in teaching and research; and these L2 cases also threw light on the nature of L1 literacy teaching and research.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Language, Reading and Culture