A comparison of three learning strategies for ESL vocabulary acquisition
Vocabulary acquisition has been pinpointed as of the most basic objectives of schooling. In this regard, students learning English in secondary schools in South Africa face a formidable task. It has been estimated that by the last year of high school the typical student has learned 40 000 words, an • average of around 3 000 words per year. Consequently, it is easy to understand why the need to answer questions like "How does word knowledge develop?" and "How can its growth be promoted?" is of such importance to educators. The purpose of this study was to compare the effectiveness of three memory strategies for learning ESL vocabulary, namely, the keyword method, the semantic processing method, and the keyword semantic method. Four intact ESL classes were divided into three treatment groups (keyword semantic and keyword-semantic) and one control group. These students then received four days of instruction. Both recognition and cued-recall instruments were used to measure effects both 1 day and 9 days after treatment. The results of this study indicated the following: A statistically significant as well as a practically significant difference between the semantic strategy group and the keyword strategy group on the cued-recall test administered 1 day after treatment. A statistically significant as well as a practically significant difference between the combined keyword semantic strategy group and the keyword strategy group on daily tests as well as on multiple-choice and cued-recall tests. The differential effects for the instructional treatments revealed that the combined keyword-semantic strategy group differed statistically significantly as well as practically significantly from the keyword strategy group, both immediately after treatment and nine days after treatment on the cued-recall as well as the multiple choice tests. It would, therefore, seem as if the combined keyword-semantic strategy promotes more vocabulary acquisition on both the recognition and cued-recall tests than the keyword strategy and the no strategy conditions (i.e., control group) . However, these are not the only strategies to be considered. Other strategies need to be compared as well, in order to gain an overall picture of the optimal use of learning strategies for vocabulary acquisition. Students are not always aware of the power of consciously using strategies for making learning quicker, easier, more effective, and even more fun. Teachers need to help their students develop an awareness of vocabulary learning strategies and enable them to use a wider range of appropriate strategies.
- Humanities