The first classification dimension proposed by Schmitt (1997) was adopted from Oxford, who grouped strategies, as mentioned earlier, into six categories, namely: social (SOC), memory (MEM), cognitive (COG), meta-cognitive (MET), compensation (COM), and affective. Schmitt instituted another category (determination – DET), in order to answer for the case where definitions of new words are recognized without resorting to other’s people expertise. These additional strategies introduced by Schmitt seem to be approaching equivalent to the guessing intelligently in listening and reading, part of Oxford’s compensation strategies. The investigator identified the strategies which learners use to discover denotation of new words when they first encounter them (discovery strategies – DISCOV) from the ones they use to consolidate meanings when they confront the words again (consolidation strategies – CONS). The former group of strategies combines determination and social strategies, and the latter comprises social, memory, cognitive, and meta-cognitive strategies. Schmitt (1997) interpreted each strategy as follows: determination strategies are used “when faced with discovering a new word’s meaning without recourse to another’s person expertise”(p.205); social strategies are used to understand a word “by asking someone who knows it” (p.210); memory strategies are “approaches which relate new materials to existing knowledge” (p. 205). The definition of cognitive strategies was adopted from Oxford (1990) as “manipulation or transformation of the target language by the learner”(p. 43). Finally, meta-cognitive strategies are defined as “a conscious overview of the learning process and making decisions about planning, monitoring or evaluating the best way of study” (p. 205).
Schmitt (1997: 207-208) categorized vocabulary learning strategies into six main groups with 58 individual strategies in total:
DISCOV-DET : analyze part of speech, affixes and roots, check for L1 cognate, analyze pictures and gestures, guess from textual context, bilingual dictionary, monolingual dictionary, word lists, flash cards.
DISCOV-SOC : ask teacher for L1 translation, ask teacher for paraphrase or synonym of new word, ask teacher for a sentence including new word, ask classmates for meaning, discover new meaning through group work activity.
CONS-SOC : study and practice meaning in a group, teacher checks students’ flashcards or word lists for accuracy, interact with native speakers.
CONS-MEM : study word with a pictorial representation of its meaning, image word’s meaning, connect word to a personal experience, associate the word with its coordinates, connect the word to its synonyms and antonyms, use semantic maps, use ‘scales’ for gradable adjectives, pegword method, loci method, group words together: to study them spatially on page, use new word in sentences, group words together within a storyline, study word spelling, study sound of word, say word aloud, image of word form, underline initial letter, configuration, use keyword method, affixes and roots/parts of speech, paraphrase word meaning, use cognates in study, learn words of an idiom together, use physical action, use semantic feature grids.
CONS-COG : verbal/written repetition, word lists, flash cards, note-taking, use vocabulary section in textbooks, listen to tape of word lists, put L2 labels on physical objects, keep vocabulary notebook.
CONS-MET : use L2 media, testing oneself with word tests, use spaced word practice, skip/pass new word, continue to study word over time.
Another investigation of vocabulary learning strategies as a whole was conducted by Stoffer (1995), who developed a Vocabulary Learning Strategy Inventory (VLSI) containing slightly fewer items than Schmitt’s taxonomy. Stoffer clustered Vocabulary Learning Strategies into nine categories:
- strategies involving authentic language use
- strategies used for self-motivation
- strategies used for organize words
- strategies used to create mental linkages
- memory strategies
- strategies involving creative activities
- strategies involving physical action
- strategies used to overcome anxiety
- auditory strategies
Other notable classification scheme has been proposed by Nation (2001:218). Presenting this division, he intended to separate the aspects of vocabulary knowledge from the sources of vocabulary knowledge and from learning processes. Nation (2001:218) categorized vocabulary learning strategies into three general classes:
Planning : choosing what to focus on and when to focus on it.
- choosing words
- choosing the aspects of word knowledge
- choosing strategies
- planning repetition
Sources : finding information about words.
- analyzing the word
- using context
- consulting a reference source in L1 and L2
- using parallels in L1 and L2
Processes : establishing knowledge.
Finally, Gu and Johnson (1996) created a taxonomy on the basis of the responses to their self-reporting questionnaire. The researchers identified six types of strategy (1996:650-651):
Guessing strategies .
- Using background knowledge/wider context.
- Using linguistic cues/immediate context.
Dictionary strategies .
- Dictionary strategies for comprehension.
- Extended dictionary strategies.
- Looking-up strategies.
Note-taking strategies .
- Meaning-oriented note-taking strategies.
- Usage-oriented note-taking strategies.
Rehearsal strategies .
- Using word lists.
- Oral repetition.
- Visual repetition.
Encoding strategies .
- Visual encoding.
- Auditory encoding.
- Using word-structure.
- Semantic encoding.
- Contextual encoding.
Memorising lists of facts by linking them to familiar words or numbers by means of an image.
Remembering lists by picturing them In specific locations.
Establishing an acoustic and image link between an L2 word to be learned and a word in L2 that sounds similar.
“Without grammar, very little can be conveyed. Without vocabulary, nothing can be conveyed” (Wilkins 1972:111).
“Vocabulary is central to language and of critical importance to the typical language learner” (Zimmerman 1997:5). Lack of vocabulary knowledge will result in lack of meaningful communication.
The main benefit that can be obtained from all learning strategies is autonomy, students can take charge of their own learning (Nation, 2001:222) and gain independence and self-direction.
Nation (2001:222) believes that a large amount of vocabulary can be acquired with the help of vocabulary learning strategies and that the strategies prove useful for students of different language levels.
The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (2001:107-108) also acknowledges the role of learning strategies (study skills).
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There is a range of factors that affect strategy choice, including vocabulary learning strategies. According to Ellis (1994: 540 545) there are two broad categories of such factors:
Individual learner differences: age, learning style, personality type, motivation.
- Age: young children tend to use strategies in task specific manner, whereas older ones use generalized and more sophisticated strategies (O’Malley and Chamot 1990).
- Learning style: according to Oxford (1989), general approach to language learning determines the choice of L2 learning strategies. For example analytic learners prefer strategies such as contrastive analysis and discerning words and phrases, whereas global students use strategies to find meaning: guessing, scanning, predicting and to converse without knowing all the words: paraphrasing, gesturing.
- Personality type: Erhman (1990) suggests that each personality type is associated with ‘assets’ and ‘liabilities’ where language learning is concerned. For example, extroverts are assigned to have willingness to take risks (an asset) but with dependency on external stimulation and interaction (a liability). Another finding mentioned by Erhman was that introverts showed greater use of strategies involving searching for and communicating meaning than did extroverts. Other result reported by Erhman and Oxford is that ‘feeling’ revealed using general study strategies to a greater extent than ‘thinking’.
- Motivation: Oxford and Nyikos (1989) found that “highly motivated learners used more strategies relating to formal practice, functional practice, general study, and conversation/input elicitation than poorly motivated learners” (Ellis 1994:542). The particular reason for studying the language: motivational orientation, especially as related to career field was also important in the choice of strategies.
Situational and social factors: learning setting, type of task, gender.
- Gender: On the basis of Oxford and Nyikos (1989) and Erhman (1990) research, females reported greater overall strategy use than males in many studies. Although sometimes males surpassed females in the use of a particular strategy.
- Type of task: The specification of the task may help learners in using particular strategies, but cannot predetermine the actual strategies that will be used.
Learning setting: Scholars (Ellis 1994) have pointed out a number of differences in the usage of learning strategies in a classroom and in more natural setting. Studies of classroom strategies by Chamot (1988) showed that social and affective strategies were used infrequently by adults, excluding ‘questioning for clarification’. However, Wong-Filmore (1976;1979) reported frequent use of social strategies by young learners in a play situation.
The task of vocabulary learning is to see the distinction between knowing a word and using it. Learning vocabulary should focus on remembering words and using them automatically in the right contexts (McCarthy, 1984). Evidence suggests that the knowledge aspect requires employment of conscious mechanisms of learning while the skill aspect involves implicit learning (Ellis, 1994). This is essential in selecting strategies for both using words as well as knowing them. One can also view vocabulary learning strategies as a series of related sub-tasks. Learners are free to guess the meaning of a word heard for the first time and then use it in a context from available clues. The learner can resort to taking notes or using a dictionary, or repeating the word a number of times, or trying to commit the word to memory. Some learners may even us the word actively. The use of each of these strategies will determine to what extend the learner will learn a new word.
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