Grammar provides the overall patterns, and vocabulary is the material to put in the patterns. Without grammar we can convey a little, but without vocabulary we can convey nothing. Vocabulary teaching is an indispensable part of English curriculum. But some traditional vocabulary-teaching methods seem to isolate the words from the context or break away from the scientific rules, that they can’t help students to develop a language competence in the long run but cause them to lose interest in English. Middle school English teachers should take great responsibility for this, since they are the premier ones who introduce students to the field of English. In this paper, I would provide eleven scientific vocabulary-teaching techniques. I think they could be valuable for middle school English teachers during their teaching process.
Technique vocabulary context competence
[关键词] 教学方法 词汇 语境 语言能力
In China, English teachers have sometimes tended to overlook the importance of the lexical system. This is especially obvious in the middle school. This phenomenon might have resulted from the fact that linguists have worked out a perfect equivalent Chinese vocabulary system to English vocabulary system, so that teaches and students can more easily deal with the vocabulary than with the grammar and sound of English which are quite different from the Chinese grammar and sound system.
Lexical items may also have appeared to be of secondary importance because they have sometimes been seen as that which is used to “flesh out” the structure or to exemplify parts of the sound system. However, without lexicon the major meaning-caring element in language is missing. Therefore, the acquisition of vocabulary is an integral part of English teaching.
On the other hand, there are teachers who have tended to overemphasize the learning of words in the lengthy vocabulary lists. The old English textbook (JUNIOR ENGLISH FOR CHINA, People’s Publisher of China, 1990) bears silent witness to such an approach.
The solution here is to seek scientific techniques of vocabulary teaching. Students should be exposed to the vocabulary needed to express the ideas they want to communicate. The vocabulary items should not be strictly limited, nor should vocabulary acquisition be stressed to the exclusion of other parts of the language system.
In the following part, I will discuss four topics: I. The importance of vocabulary teaching in middle schools. II. The drawbacks of several traditional vocabulary teaching methods. III. Three distinguishing features of English words and 11 scientific techniques for middle school teachers to deliver vocabulary teaching. IV. By adopting scientific vocabulary teaching techniques, teachers can help students improve their language acquisition ability and language competence.
I. The importance of vocabulary teaching in middle school:
Word is one of the three basic language units(sound, word , grammar). It is essential to communication. One of the famous linguists Wilkins once said that, “Without grammar very little can be conveyed, without vocabulary nothing can be conveyed.”(Wilkins, ENGLISH STUDY, Foreign Language Study Institute, 1987) Little children learn to speak in isolated words and then in chains of nouns and verbs. A child who says “Mum bye-bye bike” is easily understood by English-speaking adult. Students who are immersed into a new linguistic settling tend to pick up vocabulary first, and then gradually develop a more accurate, structural framework in which to use these words. And they must continually be learning words as they learn structures and as they practice the sound system. Therefore, vocabulary teaching is an indispensable part of English lessons in middle school, and an important task for the teachers. Whether a middle school English teacher can follow scientific methods to teach vocabulary or not directly bring good or bad influence toward the students. If his methods are suitable for the students and beneficial for them in the long run, he could arouse their interest on English and help them to develop a solid foundation of language acquisition ability; whereas if he fails to do so, it might result in the students’ diffidence toward themselves and might cause them to disgust English.
II. The drawbacks of several traditional vocabulary teaching methods:
i. Teach words in isolation:
Middle school English teachers in china usually ask students to learn vocabulary lists in which words are isolated from the context. In one case, they let the students pick out all the new words in the text, list them on a paper, and consult the dictionary for the Chinese or English meanings; for example, “display” mean “show”, “arrive” means “reach”. In another case, they try to get the students to associate each word with an image or an object; for example, they hold up a picture of a car and say “This is a car.” Both these teaching techniques imply that learning vocabulary means learning individual word one at a time. These two methods may save time and be fast-effective. However, the relationships between words are as important as the meaning of the word in isolation: how “car” contrasts with “bus” and “truck”, and how it is related to “driver” and “engine” are as important as the word itself.
Neglecting the study of the relationships in English vocabulary system might result in students’ slowness in comprehension a