How to learn Vocabulary

Learning vocabulary is the most important prerequisite for learning any foreign language because you cannot communicate precisely without words. But very many students are still asked to learn word lists with equivalents in their native language.
"The learning of word lists is faulty not only because each word is usually associated with its mother-tongue equivalent, but also because each word is linguistically and situationally isolated. However, words are not learnable as isolates." (D.A. Wilkins)
For example, if you want to formulate an idea in a foreign language you retrieve from your memories quite easily words that express your concept in your mother tongue. If you have been taught in terms of single word `core´ meaning solely by means of translation equivalents and your teachers have not provided you with information about collocational possibilities and restrictions, then you will very likely `translate´ collocations from your first language into the target language in an unacceptable form. You will quite naturally combine words from the word pairs you have learnt from the word lists, like pearls on a string. Unluckily the result is often very poor and may end up with misunderstanding. Recent research shows that we learn language in chunks which fall into categories like sentence heads, collocations, idioms, phrasal verbs, metaphors, proverbs, etc. For example, have and get derive meaning from their collocations as well as from context.

Sentence head: "Could you please ... In reply to ..."
Collocation: "have a bath/ fit/ heart/ ..., awareness for the environment ..."
Context: "Could you open the door?" (request for information or action)

The learner´s exposure to lexical items embedded in natural linguistic contexts will develop her/ his sensitivity to the collocations native speakers prefer, for a collocation is the "mutual expectancy of words" (Firth). Every learner, and also every native speaker, has a far larger `passive´ than `active ´ vocabulary. Massive exposure to the target language is instrumental for the learning of collocations. The semantic structure of a language can only be provided by extensive reading. This is the reason why I called my collocational dictionary The Advanced Reader´s Collocation Searcher.
ARCS is an electronic dictionary in which words are listed in terms of their firm and acceptable collocations. A collocation may be words which are various parts of speech and which relate to each other in various ways, i.e. noun plus adjective, verb plus adverb, verb plus noun object, verb plus noun subject, etc.
ARCS is on a CD-ROM with 40,000 nodes/ headwords with real examples and synonyms, all possible German equivalents. The latter form a semantic field. The file size is about 6 million words or over 3 thousand pages. You can search for single words in English or/ and German.
And you can use Boolean searches as well. Because of the very great number of authentic examples it can serve as a concordancer as well.

Horst Bogatz

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If interested in research, you may want to read the following


Aitchison, Jean. Words in the Mind. An Introduction to the Mental Lexicon. New York: Basil Blackwell Inc., 1988. ISBN 0-631-14442-0 Order: Words in the Mind
Benson, M., Benson, E., Ilson, R. BBI Combinatory Dictionary of English: A Guide to Word Combinations. 1986 Order: BBI Combinatory Dictionary of English
Benson, M., et al. Using the BBI Combinatory Dictionary: A Workbook with Exercises. 1991 Order: Using the BBI Combinatory Dictionary
Brown, H. Douglas. Principles of Language Learning and Teaching. Order: Principles of Language Learning and Teaching
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ARTICLES I (theoretical):

Benson, M. The Structure of the Collocational Dictionary. In: International Journal of Lexicography, 1989.
Bloksma, L., Heylen, D., Maxwell, K.G. Analysis of Lexical Functions. In: D. Heylen (ed.), 1993
Bouillon, P., Viegas, E. A Semi-polymorphic Approach to the Interpretation of Adjectival Constructions: A Cross-linguistic Perspective. In: Euralex, 1994
Church, K.W., Hanks, P. Word Association Norms, Mutual Information and Lexicography. In: ACL 1989, Vancouver
Dubois, D., Pareita, H. Ontology of Concepts and Categories: is there any difference? A Few Empirical Data and Questions for an Ontology of Categorial Knowledge. In: Formal Ontology, Padova, March 17-19,1993.
Hausmann, F. J. Un dictionnaire des collocations est-il possible? In: Travaux de Linguistique et de Littérature XVII, 1. 1979
Hausmann, F. J. Wortschatzlernen ist Kollokationslernen. Zum Lehren und Lernen französicher Wortverbindungen. In: Praxis des neusprachlichen Unterrichts 4.pp. 395-406, 1984
Heid, U., Raab, S. Collocations in Multilingual Generation. In: EACL 1989, Manchester.
Heylen, D. (ed.) Collocations and the Lexicalisation of Semantic Information. In: Collocations, technical report ET-10/75, Taaltechnologie, Utrecht.
Iordanskaja, L., Kittredge, R. Polguère, A. Lexical Selection and Paraphrase in a Meaning-text Generation Model. In: Paris, C.L., Swartout, W., Mann, W. (eds.), NLG in AI and Computational Linguistics. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
Marcus, M. Generation Systems should Choose their Words. In: Third TINLAP, 1987.
McDonald, D.D. On the Place of Words in the Generation Process. In: Proceedings of the 4th International Workshop on NLG, 1988.
McKeown, K.R., Swartout, W.R.Language Generation and Explanation. In: Zock, M., Sabah, G. (eds.) Advances in NLG. NJ: Ablex, 1988.
McKeown, K.R., Hatzivassiloglou, V.Translating Collocations for Bilingual Lexicons: A Statistical Approach. In: Computational Linguistics 1. pp. 1-38, 1996.
Mel´cuk, I.Paraphrase et lexique dans la théorie Sans-Texte. In: Bes, G., Fuchs, C. (eds.) Lexique 6, 1988.
Mel´cuk, I., Arbatchewsky-Jumarie, L., Elnitsky, L., Lessard, A.Dictionaire explicatif et combinatoire du francais contemporain. Montréal. Presses de luniversité de Montréal, 1992.
Nogier, J.-F, Zock, M. Lexical Choise by Pattern-matching. In: Knowledge-Based Systems, 5 (3), 1992.
Pustejovsky, J., Anick, P. On the Semantic Interpretation of Nominals. In: Coling 1988, vol. 2: 518-523.
Pustejovsky, J. The Generative Lexicon. In: Computational Linguistics, 17(4), 1991.
Pustejovsky, J. Type Coercion and Lexical Selection. In: J. Pustejovsky (ed.) Semantics and the Lexicon. Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1993. Academic Press.
Pustejovsky, J. Linguistic Constraints on Type Coercion. In: P. St-Dizier and E. Viegas (eds.) Computational Lexical Semantics. Cambridge: CUP, 1994.
Pustejovsky, J. Semantic Typing and Degrees of Polymorphism. In: C. Martin-Vide (ed.) Current Issues in Mathematical Lingistics. Elsevier North Holland Inc., 1994.
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Weinreich, U. Webster´s Third: A Critique of its Semantics. In: International Journal of American Linguistics 30: 405-409, 1964.

ARTICLES II (Data-driven learning):

Aston, Guy Corpora in language pedagogy: matching theory and practice. In: G. Cook and B. Seidlhofer (eds.) Principle and practice in Applied Linguistics: Studies in honour of H.G. Widdowson, Oxford University Press, pp. 257-270, 1995.
Aston, Guy Enriching the learning environment: Corpora in ELT. In: Wichmann, Fligelstone, McEnery and Knowles (eds.), pp. 51-64, 1997.
Bahns, Jens Lexical collocations: a contrastive view. In: ELT Journal 1/93, p. 56, 1993
Botley, Simon, Julia Glass, Tony McEnery, Andrew Wilson Proceedings of Teaching and Language Corpora 1996. In: UCREL Technical Papers, vol. 9.
Fligelstone, Steve Some reflections on teaching, from a corpus linguistics perspective. In: ICAME Journal 17, pp. 97-109, 1993.
Flowerdew, John Concordancing in Language Learning. In: Martha Pennington (ed.) The Power of CALLAthelstan, pp. 97-113, 1996.
Gavioli, Laura Exploring texts through the concordancer: Guiding the Learner. In: Wichmann, Fligelstone, McEnery and Knowles (eds.) Teaching and Language CorporaLongman, pp.83-99, 1997.
Hardisty, David and Scott Windeatt Computer-assisted Language Learning. OUP. See activities 13, 17, 22, 23, 87, 1998.
Jappy, Tony Concordancing and practical grammar. In: The journal of TESOL France, 2,2, pp. 193-209, 1995.
Johns, Tim Whence and Whither Classroom Concordancing? In: Bongaerts, T., P. de Haan, S. Lobbe, and H. Wekker (eds.) Computer Applications in Language Learning (Foris), pp. 9-27, 1988.
Johns, Tim From Printout to Handout: Grammar and Vocabulary Teaching in the Context of Data-driven Learning. In: CALL Austria 10, pp. 14-34, 1990.
Johns, Tim and Philip King (eds.) Classroom Concordancing. In: Birmingham University English Language Research Journal 4, 1991.
Karpati, Ildiko Concordance in Language Learning and Teaching. Unversity of Pecs, 1995.
Kettemann, Bernhard On the Use of Concordancing in ELT. In: TELL & CALL 1995/4, pp.4-15, 1995.
Legenhausen, L. and Wolff, D. Zur Arbeit mit Konkordanzen im Englischunterricht. In: Der Fremdsprachliche Unterricht: Englisch 25/4, pp. 24-29, 1991.
Lennon, Paul The Place of Collocation in English Languge Teaching. In: English 4/95, p. 130, 1995.
Milton, John Exploiting L1 and L2 corpora for Computer Assisted Language Learning Design: the role of an interactive hypertext grammar. In: Botley, Glass, McEnery and Wilson (eds.), pp. 233-243, 1996.
Mindt, Dieter Corpus, Grammar, and Teaching English as a Foreign Language. In: Gerhard Leitner (ed.) The English Reference Grammar: Language and Linguistics, Writers and Readers. Tübingen, 1986, pp. 125-139.
Mindt, Dieter Corpora and the Teaching of English in Germany. In: Wichmann, Fligelstone, McEnery and Knowles (eds.) pp. 40-50, 1997.
Murison-Bowie, S. Linguistic Corner 1: What is Concordancing and Why Should We Do It? In: TELL & CALL 1993/4, 1993.
Murison-Bowie, S. Linguistic Corpora and language teaching. In: Annual Review of Applied Linguistics 16, pp. 182-199, 1996.
Pemberger, Marianne Konkordanzen bei der mündlichen Reifepüfung. In: TELL & CALL 1995/1, pp. 26-28, 1995.
Sibillis, Ulrich Kollokationslernen durch Lektüre. In: Neusprachliche Mitteilungen 3/92, p. 158, 992.
Stevens, Vance Classroom concordancing: vocabulary materials derived from relevant, authentic text. In: English for Specific Purposes 10, pp. 10-15, 1991.
Stevens, Vance Concordancing with Language Learners: Why? When? What? In: CAELL Journal 6/2, pp. 2-10, 1995.
Tribble, Chris & Glyn Jones Concordances in the Classroom. Longman, 1990.
Waitzbauer, Manfred Contexts - ein Übungsgenerator auf der Grundlage von Textkonkordanzen. In: TELL & CALL, pp. 42-44, 1993.
Willis, D. Syllabus, Corpus and Data-driven Learning. In: IATEFL Annual Conference Report: Plenaries, pp. 25-31, 1993.
Wu, M.H. Towards a contextual lexico-grammar: an application of conordance analysis in ESL teaching. In: RELC Journal 23(2), pp. 18-34, 1992.

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