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Key Issues in Teaching and Learning ESP Vocabulary

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Wadha Rashid

on 18 February 2016

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Transcript of Key Issues in Teaching and Learning ESP Vocabulary

Key Issues in Teaching and Learning ESP Vocabulary
Developing A Comprehensive ESP Vocabulary Program
1. Needs Analysis.

2. Key issues in Learning ESP vocabulary.

3. Key issues in Teaching ESP vocabulary.

4. Vocabulary Myths!

Key Issues

What to teach ESP learners
Needs Analysis
1. In an ESP context, vocabulary is not as important as grammar or other areas.
2. Using word lists to learn ESP vocabulary is unproductive.
3. Presenting new vocabulary in semantic sets facilitates learning.
3. The use of translation should be discouraged.
4. Guessing words from context is an excellent strategy for learning ESP vocabulary.
6. Teachers, textbooks, and curricula cover ESP vocabulary adequately.
ESP Vocabulary Learning Strategies
1. In an ESP context, vocabulary is not as important as grammar or other areas.
2. Using word lists to learn second language vocabulary is unproductive.
4. The use of translation should be discouraged.
5. Guessing words from context is an excellent strategy for learning ESP vocabulary.
6. Teachers, textbooks, and curricula cover ESP vocabulary adequately.
Types of ESP Vocabulary:
A large vocabulary is needed to function in an ESP context.
Different kinds of word knowledge are needed to use a word well.
Vocabulary Learning is incremental.
Vocabulary Learning requires consolidation.
Vocabulary learning requires enhancement of partial knowledge.
Key Issues in Learning ESP Vocabulary
Early Knowledge of a Word
Spoken form
Written from
No Knowledge
Full Mastery
Spoken form
Written form
No Knowledge
Full Mastery
Developing Knowledge of a Word
Spoken form
Written form
No Knowledge
Full Mastery
Advanced Knowledge of a Word
There is no "best" teaching methodology.
Best Teaching method depends on ...
The words themselves.
- Different words/phrases need different teaching strategies:
Definition or explanation.
demonstration or gesture.
Synonym or antonym.
Giving examples.
Define in situational context.
*Certain approaches might be more suitable for certain words.
How would you teach the following words?
1. surgeon.
2. bite.
3. filthy.
4. awake
5. tools.
6. jealous.
- Different learners favor different approaches.
- Learning Strategies use. [ How many vs. How well the strategy is used?]

The general Teaching Approach
- Intentional vs. incidental learning.
Intentional Learning:

Leads to more robust and faster learning.
involves deeper engagement leading to better retention.
focuses on important vocabulary selected by the teacher (e.g. high frequency, technical, ..etc)
Incidental Learning:

addresses words that cannot be explicitly taught for time reasons.
fills out the kinds of contextual word knowledge which cannot easily be explicitly taught.
Provides recycling for words already taught explicitly
occurs while improving other language skill areas (e.g. reading)
1. Why is language needed?
Purposive Domain
For study;
For work;
For training;
For a combination of these;
For some other purposes, e.g. status, promotion, examination.
2. How will the language be used?
: speaking, reading, writing, ...etc.
: e.g. telephone, face-to-face.
Types of text or discourse
: e.g. academic text, lectures, catalogues, ...etc.
Communicative event
3. What will the content areas be?
e.g. medicine, biology, commerce, etc;
technician, craftsman, postgraduate, etc.
Setting (Physical and psychological)
4. Where will the language be used?

Physical setting:
e.g. offices, lecture theater, hotel, workshop, library;
Human context:
alone, meetings, demonstrations, on telephone;
Linguistic context:
e.g. in own country, abroad.
5. When will the language be used?
Concurrently with the ESP course or subsequently;
Frequently, seldom, in small amounts, in large chunks.
Needs Analysis (ESP syllabus):
Earliest studies focused on vocabulary and grammar (the elements of sentence). [1960's - 1970's - Peter Strevens, Jack Ewer, and John Swales]
1987 - the ESP course should be more relevant to learners' needs. (Hutchinson & Waters).
1988 - "Lexicostatistics" (Swales, 1988) & "frequency analysis" (Robinson, 1991) focused on the grammar and "structural and non-structural" vocabulary. = certain grammatical and lexical forms are used much more frequently.
Register Analysis - Discourse Analysis - Genre Analysis
Different approaches to needs analysis attempt to meet the different needs of the learners.
Dudley-Evans and t. John (1998:125)
1. Environmental situation.
2. Personal information about learners.
3. Language information about learners.
4. Learners' lacks.
5. Learners' needs from course.
6. Language learning needs.
7. Professional information about learners.
8. How to communicate in the target situation.
1. General academic vocabulary.
They are far more likely to appear in written texts than in speech.
They appear in all sorts of texts.
They often represent subtle or precise ways to say relatively
simple things.
Because they are found across many types of texts, they are highly generalizable.
2. Domain- Discipline specific.
3. Topic-specific.
4. Passage critical:
General Academic Words
Key Issues in Learning ESP Vocabulary
1. "While without grammar very little can be conveyed, without vocabulary nothing can be conveyed" (Wilkins).
2. "The main obstacle for learners is not lack of reading strategies but rather insufficient ESP vocabulary knowledge." (Haynes & Baker)
What the research says ...
3. When it comes reading comprehension "vocabulary is most important, syntax least important" (Laufer & Sim).
4. "Language consists grammaticalised lexis, not lexicalised grammar" (Lewis).
What the research says ...
What can we do?

1. Understand exactly how much of your students' ability to understands you (or a text) is impacted by vocabulary issues.
2. Become more aware of the problem of vocabulary for our students.
3. Choose materials that emphasize vocabulary.
1. "Adults, when given a list of items to attempt to memorize, have the ability to recall seven - plus or minus two- without any special training." (Miller)
2. By grouping the words into logical clusters, are we able to remember the words more easily? [
3. "Asking learners to memorize lists of words is not the most interesting way to present new vocabulary ... They will only gain superficial knowledge of the new words and will not be able to actually use the words"
UNLESS a translation, synonym, or simple definition is added to the list.
What can we do?
1. Don't hesitate to use vocabulary lists.
2. Don't rely only on word lists.
3. Include your students' likes and dislikes as well as their classroom expectations in your teaching.
1. Learning vocabulary is faster for many learners if the meaning of the word is given through an L1 translation. (Nation, 1982)
2. L1 translation can be given when words or concepts are very difficult or impossible to illustrate clearly.
3. Translations are not bad but are in fact a helpful tool in learning new foreign language vocabulary.
What can we do?
1. Do not stop a student who is jotting down a translation of a new English word.
2. Let students help each other; especially the weak ones.
3. Look for the translation of difficult words or concepts.
1. While it is possible for learners to derive vocabulary meaning from context, this procedure by itself does not foster retention of meanings. (Pressley, Levin, & McDaniel).
2. Inferring meanings from context is less effective than more intensive or explicit forms of instruction. (Delaney)
What can we do?
1. Teach the use of context clues as a good
strategy, but recognize that learners cannot rely on this strategy for vocabulary growth.
2. Choose context clues exercises and activities that match the proficiency level of your learners.
3. Guessing the meaning exercises should be done in class so that teachers can give immediate feedback.
4. Reading can be a conduit for vocabulary growth, especially when done with vocabulary exercises.
" No matter how well the student learns
, no matter how successfully the
of L2 are mastered, without
to express a wider range of meanings, communication in an L2 just cannot happen in any meaningful way
" (McCarthy, 1990)

The most comprehensive needs analysis model:

1. Identify the population.
2. Identify the purpose of the ESP course.
3. Analyze & interpret the data.
4. Formulate the SLOs.
(precisely defined - embedded - experiential.
5. Decide on the types of vocabulary to be taught.
- Needs analysis = needs assessment
- Needs analyst (?).
What is ESP?
-... the
specific needs
of a particular group of learners.
- If there is no needs analysis there is no ESP.
Q. How can ESP exist without knowing what the learners' specific needs are?
English for medical purposes
Doctors - nurses - technicians ...etc
Other ways of dividing ESP (vocabulary) (Huhta, 2010):
1. Academic: general EAP + discipline specific.
2. Professional: business, technology, law, and professional purposes.
3. Vocational: entry level - field specific.
Our suggested division of ESP vocabulary:
1. General Academic words.
2. Discipline- or Domain- specific words.
3. Topic-specific words.
4. Passage-critical words.
Instructional implications?
Frequently used and repeated as the language of the discipline.
Language necessary for reading, writing, listening, and speaking about the content.
- Since the words are widely used, in-depth instruction and frequent use is required so cognitive action is automatic .
- The vocabulary should be used in classroom activities, in-depth discussions, learning tasks, and preparation for testing.
Instructional implications?
- These words would be cumulative in a discipline so frequent references to the words and their use would be critical.
- Necessary to understand and communicate learning about the topic.
Instructional implications?
- These words are critical to comprehension and communication of information about a topic (PT?) or concept, so direct instruction and guided practice about how the words connect to the topic or concept would be necessary.
- Context specific.
- Words critical for understanding a specific passage or entire text.
Instructional implications?
- Direct instruction would be required if the word is common or basic.
- If the word is rare/less frequent = definition / why / how
- Vocabulary is something teachers assume that learners will somehow pick up.
- There is hardly an overall plan of vocabulary instruction in the curriculum.
What can we do?
1. Do something with vocabulary in EVERY lesson.
2. Once you teach vocabulary, you must test vocabulary.
3. Use technology!
- Two ways to look at the amount of vocabulary needed:
1. Native speakers.
2. Learning outcomes.

Communicating in daily conversation:

1. 1956 2000 word families.
2.2003 3000 (96% of CANCODE)
3.2006 6000-7000 word families
Voc. requirement = 2000-3000 and 6000-7000
This division of vocabulary is widely used:

High frequency words:
These belong to about 2000 word families
Academic words:
These are those used which are common in the academic world,
irrespective of the subject. eg policy, phase, adjusted, sustained.
Technical words (Topic-specific):
These are closely related to the topic and subject area of the text. They differ between the subjects. Each subject typically has 1000 word families.
Low frequency words:
eg zoned, pioneering, perpetuity, pastoral. They make up about
5% words in an academic text. They include all non-academic, non-technical and not
high-frequency words.


An economics textbook of

- 82.5% of the words were from the first (high frequency) 2000 word families (1577 of these word families were used.)

- 8.7% of the words were from an Academic list.

- 8.8% of the words came from a huge variety of 3,225 rarer word families.
Q. How many exposures are necessary to learn an ESP lexical item?
- Teach students how to revise their vocabulary.
- Understand the way human memory works and
how it forgets things
- The Principle of Expanding Rehearsal: [5-10 minutes - 24 hours - 1 week - 1 month - 6 months]
- Attach new knowledge to established knowledge (grouping parameters)
1. Initial learning of a word = form-meaning connections. (and maybe a bit of morphology)

2. Additional exposures are necessary.

3. Each knowledge type = greater / lesser.

Cannot spell a word
knows some letters
phonologically correct
fully correct spelling
4. Some word knowledge aspects are likely to become acquired sooner than others.
Thank you!
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