Sunday, May 31, 2009


Check out this book review of Paul Nation's, "Learning Vocabulary in Another Language" for some background information, or better yet, just read the book.

In my own studies of Korean and teaching English, here in Korea I've become increasingly convinced that it's all about vocabulary. The number that gets tossed around frequently is 2000. That is, if you know the 2000 most common words in a language, you can get by with basic conversation and daily life stuff. And of course, this makes sense, because you can know all the grammar but if you don't know the vocab of what you're hearing or reading, you can't make any sense of it. And for writing or speaking, if you don't want to look/sound like a 3 year old, you probably need to know a few more words than they do.

So these days, I've been really into studying vocab, as my form of studying Korean. And now that I know a lot more vocab, grammar is intuitively working itself into my brain as I see and hear the vocab being used around me in the correct grammatical way. I think the best way to learn new vocab is to write out the words on flashcards, with Korean on one side and English on the other. Then start out learning the Korean-English and once you're proficient at that, switch to the harder one, having to reproduce the words in a language that's not your own. Of course, mix up the cards each time you go through them so you don't start to rely on patterns.

And for teaching? I really don't teach vocab in my classes because I'm kind of at a loss as to how to do it. Some stuff comes up in the book each unit, but it's not substantial. And how to test it as well? But I see the importance of it and would like to start. Please help with any ideas!

1 comment:

Robin Hudson said...

They are expected to study the vocab before we start the unit. They know they are responsible for all vocab in the text. If there are any words they want to talk about, we do that. This is one of the rare times I lecture.

As for testing, on the midterm and the final, I have a short, 20-question, multiple choice vocab test. I say a word twice, and they have to circle the word or phrase on their paper that means the same thing. Part 2 of the test is free talking in their groups. I go around the room and listen to each group several times. I tell them I expect to hear them work in vocab from the units we did.

Remember that university students have been studying English since the 6th grade. They've been force-fed vocab for 6 years or more. They just need a refresher for most common vocab and, because they already have extensive vocabularies, they pick up new words pretty quickly.

I find most misunderstandings come up because they've been taught the wrong thing buy their Korean teachers, ex: "hip" for butt, "waist" for back; or Konglish they've never been told is wrong, ex: "one-piece" for dress, "manicure" for nail polish.