Learning Academic Vocabulary

Online ENGLISH Courses Engliterra vocabulary in dictionary

Second-language learners have long realized the importance of vocabulary for improving language proficiency. Research indicates that learners need to have access to a minimum of 3,000 words in order to even begin to comprehend authentic texts. Students wishing to study in English at the
university level may need up to 10,000 words. Students need to develop learning strategies that will enable them to acquire less frequent vocabulary.
In addition to developing a wide vocabulary, learners wishing to operate in academic environments in English also need to become familiar with a special type of formal vocabulary that is common in academic discourse. Commonly known as academic vocabulary, these words are found in a wide variety of academic disciplines. They are not specific to any one discipline but are the “support vocabulary” (sometimes referred to as “sub-technical vocabulary”) necessary for speaking or writing precisely in a variety of fields. Examples include the words analyze, predominant, and theory. In a typical academic textbook, these words make up around 10 percent of the total text. Apart from facilitating the precise statement of ideas, these words contribute to the more
sophisticated tone that is characteristic of academic texts.
• Words must be encountered numerous times to be learned. Studies have concluded that it takes from five to sixteen or more repetitions for a word to be learned.
• Learning a word entails more than knowing its meaning, spelling, and pronunciation. In fact, there are a number of other types of word knowledge, including a word’s collocations, grammatical characteristics, register, frequency, and associations. In order to use a word with confidence, a learner must have some mastery of all of these types of word knowledge. Some can be taught explicitly (for example, meaning and spelling), while others can only be truly acquired through numerous exposures to a word (for example, frequency and register information). Extensive recycling can help learners gain intuitions about types of word knowledge that are best learned in context. Exposures to the target vocabulary must be provided in both reading passages and in a number of exercise sentences, which model as many different contexts as possible. At the same time, these exercises focus on elements that can be explicitly taught: meaning, the derivative forms of a word (word families), and collocation.
• Different contexts provide different kinds of information about a word. For example, it is possible to learn one meaning from a particular context (for
example, to monitor an election in an international relations context) yet require a different context in order to learn a separate meaning (for example, a computer monitor in an information technology context). Thus, leaners should be exposed to the target academic vocabulary in reading passages and in a number of different exercise types. The exercise sentences should model as many different contexts as possible.
• Students learn best when their attention is focused on the material to be learned. To make the target words should be made more noticeable by using bold type and colour.
• Learners typically do not know all of the members of a word family, even if they know some of these word forms. However, a learner must know the correct form of a word (noun, verb,
adjective, adverb) for a particular context and be able to deal with the derivative forms of the target words.
• Equally important for the natural use of words and the appropriate use of vocabulary is collocation. Collocation exercises are designed to improve students’ intuitions about the collocations a word takes (emotional stability, political stability).

Scroll to Top