It is barely this week that I learned about the importance of I.S.P. Nations’ four principles of vocabulary teaching. It emphasizes that each of the students have an opportunity to learn vocabulary across four strands rather than teaching the vocabulary itself. Sufficient time allocation for the study of each of the principles is necessary to enable the students’ acquaintance with the vocabulary knowledge from each strand and diversify in all language skills. This will help them to learn and explore vocabulary with “balanced range of learning opportunities” (Nunan 133). The I.S.P. Nation’s four principles of vocabulary teaching are meaning-focused input and output, language-focused learning and fluency development.
The meaning-focused input concentrates on the learners’ receptive skills. It allows the students to develop vocabulary skill from listening and reading. In order to have effective meaning-focused input, learners should know at least “98% of running words”. They should know about 2000-3000 of the most common words that are in the language taught at the early stages. “Learners should understand high frequency words before low frequency words” (Nunan 136). However, it is important to know, “the high frequency vocabulary needs to occur in all four strands of a course” (Nunan 139). Learners may have to understand the various types of high frequency, academic, technical and low frequency words. Students should watch educative programs on television, read extensively and listen to inspirational talks appropriate for their level. The reading and listening will provide an “incidental learning” for the learners. These will help them to learn the most common words that occur in the English language. With practice, they will learn to develop strategies to understand the meaning from the context. “They will eventually learn the other 2% of difficult and unfamiliar words” (Nunan 135).
The language-focused learning is similar to, “the deliberate learning” (Nunan 134). It involves “deliberate learning” techniques such as memorizing vocabulary by translating words into their original language. By reading intensively, the students are able to prepare word or picture cards (a two-sided card with each of the languages on the sides). The students would use the dictionary for inference to enrich their vocabulary mastery. The TESOL book by Nunan recommends that “25% of the course time” be for the language-focused learning. Practicing pronunciation, studying vocabulary, spelling and grammar and learning the discourse are the ways of deliberate learning.
In addition, the meaning-focused output involves learning of vocabulary through speaking and writing. Vocabulary can be learned by focusing on the productive skills. From the productive use of the vocabulary, students will be able to learn the “aspects of vocabulary knowledge” that were never understood during listening or reading process. Even if they have the opportunities to use the words, they learned from language input, it would be a good practice for student analyze their reading and to be original in their writing. Essay writing would be a better application for the learnt words.
The fluency development occurs when the learners are able to retrieve vocabulary and their best used in essay writing. “The learners make the best use of what they already know” (Nunan 134). One way to develop fluency is by involving students in interactive speaking, listening and writing. The speedwriting under specified time would be a good example to fluency development. This enhances familiarization with the subject matter.
Moreover, I have learned that vocabulary is the most important part of learning English language. Having strong vocabulary knowledge allows the learner to communicate efficiently and empowers them to be better readers, writers, speakers and listeners. Learners find strategies to approach and figure out the context of a new word in a sentence, story or in conversations. The words they learn become part of their active vocabulary when they meet the same words repetitiously in their studies.
In conclusion, English teachers have an uphill task to ensure that students exhaustively understand and properly apply the vocabulary. On the other hand, students have the responsibility of developing interest in the understanding of English language. Students are supposed actively indulge in in-depth reading and writing to understand the words applications. As a result, students will be able to understand better, as they read and listen often. They will be able to speak and write successfully. This would lead to self-independent and being able to “take control of their own vocabulary learning” (Nunan 150). Teachers should assess students’ capabilities to enable progress. It is essential that teachers recognize students’ needs and focus on appropriate level of vocabulary.