Lin states that “for most language learners, the vocabulary learning process is a painful experience with poor results; they put a lot of effort on it because they know that vocabulary plays an essential role in language comprehension” (2010).
“It is widely agreed that much second language vocabulary learning occurs incidentally while the learner is engaged in extensive reading” (Laufer, B. & Hulstijn, J. 2001). Except for the first few thousand most common words, vocabulary learning predominantly occurs through extensive reading, with the learner guessing at the meaning of unknown words because vocabulary is no longer a primary classroom focus, something to be taught and tested but rather, and something to be acquired incidentally by the student while reading.
The learning for the new words comes as a natural result of the process of reading. Thus, a conscious effort to memorize words without context is unnecessary. One day, I found that her writing was greatly advanced with academic vocabulary through a lot of reading of her own pleasure.
I hope it will be helpful for you to understand why extensive reading is important and incidental vocabulary acquisition with dictionary use is effective for enhancing your vocabulary.
The main research questions were: 1) What strategies do learners use and what knowledge sources and contextual cues do they appeal to when attempting to understand the unknown words they encounter while reading? 2) Are there some differences of inferencing strategies based on their L1 formal education background, personality, and L2 language proficiency?
The Korean guy who graduated medical school (graduate level), however the Japanese girl and the Vietnamese girl graduated only high school in their country. With my long experience with them for almost one and a half year, Van is more likely outgoing, extrovert, lower-fear of risk-taking, and higher ambiguity tolerance. However, Yoshi and Jay are more likely reserved, introvert, higher-fear of risk-taking, and lower ambiguity tolerance.
The students were asked to briefly answer their beliefs about the relationship of reading and vocabulary acquisition, reading styles, dictionary using styles, and guessing strategies. Many of the questionnaires were completed in great detail and were very helpful for their general idea about reading and vocabulary acquisition.
For example, Van has higher tolerance of ambiguity, however, Yoshi and Jay has lower tolerance of ambiguity. Van and Jay use usually monolingual dictionary, however, Yoshi use bilingual dictionary. Jay likes reading books his own interest, however, Yoshi and Van basically read English books on instructor’s recommendation. There are similar steps from their answers in dealing with unknown vocabulary. At first, they try to read the unknown words several times. And then underline the words that they don’t understand and try to guess the meaning from the context. In the end, they want to confirm if their inferencing is right by using dictionary.
For example, Jay and Yoshi tended to keep the meaning of the passage in mind, read in broad phrases, skip inessential words, and guess from context the meaning of unknown words. By contrast, Van tended to lose the meaning of sentences as soon as she decoded them, read word by word or in short phrases, and couldn’t differentiated between crucial terms and unnecessary words. Among them, Jay who has the highest formal educational background also more tended to identify the grammatical category of words, and use his knowledge of the world.
However, she could understand the main idea of whole reading text even though she didn’t try to figure out each unknown vocabularies.
Therefore, this result demonstrates that learners might not assess their lexical understanding very accurately. However, it can also predict they exhibit better self-evaluation when learners improve their lexical knowledge. For example, Jay and Yoshi comparatively didn’t have any difference in the number of unknown vocabularies in self-assessment and the number of unknown vocabularies in target word-lists.
In other words, it proves that higher involvement in a word induced by the task will result in better retention when meanings of words had to be inferred they were retained better than words with given meanings. However, higher language proficiency level students are better at guessing words from context than lower-level proficiency students. Van confessed it was so difficult to infer the unknown vocabulary from context and even asked me to teach how to do.
Moreover, between Yoshi and Jay, there was difference of using world knowledge for guessing unknown words because of formal educational background and age gap even though they have similar verbal ability. For example, Jay who has more experience of world could apply his own knowledge to infer unknown words beyond sentence. However, Yoshi tended to more likely rely on sentence-grammatical rules to figure out the meaning of target words.
For example, Van used a smaller context and had no command of grammatical and syntactic strategies. She use appropriately as well as lack inferencing strategies compare to Yoshi and Jay. On the other hand, the stronger students made use of context, world knowledge, syntax, grammar, punctuation and the roots of words in inferring meanings.
Therefore, it would be precarious to believe that naturally occurring contexts are sufficient, or even generally helpful, in providing clues to promote initial acquisition of a word’s meaning. Besides, they suggested if there were glossing of specific words in the end of the text, it would be generally effective because it enable them to involve in those words interactively.