You are on page 1of 4




Without grammar very little can be
conveyed, without vocabulary nothing can be
(David Wilkins)

the major challenge of learning and using a
language whether as L1 or as L2- lies not in
the area of broad syntactic principles but in
the `nitty-gritty of the lexicon (Singleton)
the heart of language comprehension and
use is the lexicon (Hunt and Beglar)
the single most important task facing
language learners is acquiring a sufficient
large vocabulary (Lewis)
In 2010 a joint Harvard/Google study based on a
computer analysis of 5,195,769 digitised
1,022,000 words
expanding at the rate of 8,500 words per

So, can a precise word total ever be known? No, says Professor David Crystal,
known chiefly for his research in English language studies and author of around
100 books on the subject.
"It's like asking how many stars are there in the sky. It's impossible to answer," he
An easier question to answer, he maintains, is the size of the average person's
He suggests taking a sample of about 20 or 30 pages from a medium-sized
dictionary, one which contains about 100,000 entries or 1,000 to 1,500 pages.
Tick off the ones you know and count them. Then multiply that by the number of
pages and you will discover how many words you know. Most people vastly
underestimate their total.
"Most people know half the words - about 50,000 - easily. A reasonably educated
person about 75,000 and a really cool, smart person well, maybe all of them but
that is rather unusual.
"An ordinary person, one who has not been to university say, would know about
35,000 quite easily."
The formula can be used to calculate the number of words a person uses, but a
person's active language will always be less than their passive, the difference being
about a third.
Prof Crystal says exposure to reading will obviously expand a person's vocabulary
but the level of a person's education does not necessarily decide things.

grammar vs. vocabulary
closed system - open system

acquisition vs.
learning of vocabulary

words vs. vocabulary items

L1 incidental vocabulary learning hypothesis
vocabulary is learned gradually through repeated
10-12 exposures necessary to memorize a word
extensive reading better than explicit instruction
basic vocabulary for understanding reading
5,000 words
When teaching vocabulary
we teach form (pronunciation and spelling)
through, though, thought, tough, thorough

we teach grammar
mouse-mice, forget-forgot

we teach collocation
strong wind/coffee vs. ???? wind/???? coffee
the fast train - a ???? shower
fast food - a ???? meal

we teach different aspects of meaning
(connotation /denotation)
Connotation is the emotional and imaginative association surrounding a word.
Denotation is the strict dictionary meaning of a word.

e.g. snake

Positive/negative connotation
refreshing chilly
plain natural
clever sly
snob cultured
cop officer
skinny slender
statesman politician
domineering assertive
we teach meaning relationships (synonyms,
antonyms, homonyms)
(skinny, slim, thin, lean, slender)
(chubby, fat, heavy, large, plump)

we teach word formation

Ways of presenting the meaning of new items

short definition
detailed description
examples (hyponyms)

illustration, drawings, silhouettes,
puppets & mascots

associated ideas, collocations

Cues to help memorizing
Use visual reminders - pictures, diagrams, colours
Get children to colour pictures of things they can name
Use the sound and rhythm of words
Use other senses to support meaning
Use gestures, movement and actions
Repeat new words as often as possible (in context)
Use words in bizarre/personal sentences
Translate words in L1
Create associations concepts, lexical sets

How to elicit language?

a Wh- questions: What's this?
b Questions using intonation only: A dog?
c Questions using inversion: Is this an
d Unfinished sentence questions: This was a.?
e Either/or questions: Is this a cat or a dog?

Recycling vocabulary
Groups of 4-5 ask them to recall as many
words as they can from the last lesson on the
topic of.
Ask students to stand up in a circle; Clap out a
beat and say One, two three, WORD; the next
student gives another word. If someone does
not know the word, he/she sits down.
How to foster independence?
1) Encouraging strategies for dealing with
unfamiliar words in texts
selecting words which are relevant for understanding
practicing deducing meanings of words from their
form or from the context

2) Developing reference skills
3) Encouraging the use of vocabulary records
spidergrams, aranging words according to topics


Practising vocabulary

Identification tasks (e.g. find the words in the text
related to vegetables, listen out for a particular
word, unscramble anagrams, etc.)

Selecting tasks ( e.g. choose the odd one out)

Matching tasks (e.g. memory game, matching words
with pictures)

Sorting activities (e.g. sorting adjectives into positive
and negative)

Ranking and sequencing activities (put the words
into some kind of order)

Games and game-like activities
guessing games

Coffeepot (Do you coffeepot at home?)

Chinese whisper