James E. Alatis Plenary
Victoria University of Wellington
Wellington, New Zealand
Teaching Vocabulary: Is It a Waste of Learning Time?
Saturday, April 2, 11:30 am-12:30 pm
Recent writing on first language vocabulary learning (Baumann and Kame'enui, 2004) has focused quite strongly on the value of teaching vocabulary, seeing teaching as being a very positive thing to do. This plenary shows that teaching vocabulary has very limited value because of the very small contribution that teaching can make to overall knowledge of a word. Teaching can also have negative effects if it is not done well. Good teaching needs to focus on high-frequency words, avoid interference, involve rich instruction, involve thoughtful processing, take account of spaced retrieval, direct attention to underlying concepts, and provide learner training in vocabulary learning. Direct teaching should only be a small part of a well-balanced vocabulary program that provides opportunities for learning through meaning-focused input, meaning-focused output, language-focused learning, and fluency development.
Paul Nation is a professor of applied linguistics in the School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand. He has taught in Indonesia, Thailand, the United States, Finland, and Japan. His special interests are language teaching methodology and vocabulary learning. His latest book is Learning Vocabulary in Another Language.