The Way of the Word : Vocabulary learning strategies in an upper secondary school in Sweden

University essay from Mälardalens högskola/Akademin för utbildning, kultur och kommunikation

Abstract: One of the hardest challenges that learners may face during the process of acquiring a second language is learning vocabulary. Knowledge of vocabulary is an important factor when achieving the competence to communicate in a foreign language. There are multiple strategies available when it comes to learning new words, depending on factors such as the learner, the environment, and the context. Essentially, as Nation (2001) maintains, there are two ways of learning vocabulary: "incidental learning" and "direct intentional learning". Although there is a growing body of research on vocabulary learning strategies employed by students, studies in the Swedish context that take into consideration both students’ and teachers’ perspectives are scarce. Against this background, this mixed methods study examines on the one hand which strategies to learn and remember new words are preferable from the students' perspective and on the other hand it also investigates what strategies the teachers are actually using and encouraging in the English subject in a Swedish upper secondary school.    The reported preferences of the students indicate that they do not explicitly use vocabulary learning strategies (VLSs) to any great extent at all, while their teachers' view is that the students should largely be responsible enough to care for their own vocabulary acquisition. However, the students suggest one VLS to be of great advantage to themselves: to use their teacher as help rather than for example dictionaries or textbooks. This is, however, something that the teachers do not encourage in their classrooms, although previous research has shown the benefits of using source language translations in second language learning.   

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