IMPROVING THE VOCABULARY MASTERY OF EFL STUDENTS
Learning a language means learning its vocabularies. We use the vocabularies in communication either in spoken form or written form. We try to send messages, share information and ideas by using the language. In general, no language acquisition is possible without understanding the vocabulary, either in the first or the second language (Kweldju, 2004:18).
The process and the way that we go through in learning and using the target language usually take hard effort especially in learning a foreign language. This is because a foreign language is different from a mother language. The differences can be in the rules of the sounds system (phonology), the word formation (morphology), the word structures (syntax), the words’ meaning (semantic), and the social context (sociolinguistic). These can cause problems in learning a foreign language. However, teachers of a foreign language should always motivate their students to keep practicing using the language. They should use many methods which can interest their students in using the target language in classroom communication.
Students often find difficulties in using a foreign language because they lack of vocabularies and they often forget easily new vocabularies after they get the meaning from dictionaries. Sometimes in speaking classes, students can not speak fluently because they lack of vocabularies. They say only a few sentences because they can not find the appropriate vocabularies to be used in expressing their ideas. The same problem is found in writing classes that students can not write essays easily because they lack of vocabularies. Even though they have already learned the strategies or techniques in writing essays, still they find difficulties in constructing sentences. They find difficulties in choosing and using the appropriate vocabularies. This article is not aim at neglecting the students’ problems in sounds system, grammar, and so on. Nor is it aim at placing vocabulary as the most influential factor in foreign language mastery. It just intends to bring vocabularies as one of students’ most difficult aspect to the discussion. This writing concern with the ways teachers can use to help their students to improve the vocabularies since vocabularies are very crucial in learning a foreign language. This writing is hopefully can give suggestions to improve or enlarge students’ vocabularies toward English as a foreign language.
The Importance Of Vocabulary Learning
Vocabulary learning is the important aspect in learning a foreign language. Students will improve much if they learn more words and expressions. As a linguist David Wilkins (in Thornbury 2002:13) says that vocabulary learning is very important. ‘Without grammar very little can be conveyed, without vocabulary nothing can be conveyed.’ Thus, vocabularies are the flesh of a language while grammar is the skeleton. In order to be able to use the language productively, students must know certain amount of vocabularies, not only for communicating orally, but also written. It is in line with the concept of communicative approach in which learners have a big chance to use the language directly in classroom activities. This approach is useful in improving students’ vocabularies. Through the approach students are forced to use the language directly in either spoken or written communication.
The questions relate with vocabularies acquisition are what kinds of words one needs to know and how many words he must know. The vocabularies that should a student know first are the high frequency words. These are words that he uses most often in communication either in classroom activities or outside classroom. The high frequency words are called the general service vocabulary. Next, he also should know the academic or sub technical words which are not in general service vocabulary but occur frequently over a range of academic texts.
How many words a student must know is varied. Kweldju (1997) found that the average vocabulary sizes of students from fifteen English Departments ranged from 2041 to 3352 word families. A study conducted to 1776 students in 21 state graduate schools in Indonesia showed that the graduate students’ vocabulary size averaged 2861 words, while S2 students’ vocabulary size 2671 words and S3 students’ was 3211 words.
Learning the vocabulary of a foreign language presents the learner with firstly making the correct connections when understanding the language between the form and the meaning of words including discriminating the meanings of closely related words. Secondly, when producing the language, using the correct form of a word for the meaning intended.
A student of a foreign language must know about the words and word formation in order to be able to understand the form and meaning of words as well as to be able to use the correct form of word. The next discussion is about the definition of word, word classes, and word formation.
Definition of Word
There are some definitions of the term word. Longman dictionary of American English stated that word is written representation of one or more sounds which can be spoken to represent an idea, object, etc. Crowley et.al (1995:7) stated that the term word is a unit of linguistic analysis which has these characteristics: (1) isolability, means that words can be pronounced in isolation from other words, (2) mobility, means that words are item which can be moved around within a sentence to form new sentences, and (3) phonological independence which means that words are correspond to the minimal units of phonological analysis.
Class of Word
The classes of word can be divided into eight different classes such as nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, and determiners. Thornbury (2002:3) mentioned that there are two crude division of word that is content words (lexical words) and function words (grammatical words). Content words are those that carry high information load such as nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. The membership is unrestricted and still allow for the addition of new members. Meanwhile function words are words that mainly contribute to the grammatical sentence such as prepositions, conjunctions, determiners, and pronouns. The membership is restricted and definite.
Formation of Word
There are many ways of words formation. These develop and enrich vocabularies of a language. In English, the common word formation processes are (1) derivation, (2) compounding, (3) acronyms, (4) back formation, (5) blending, (6) clipping, (7) coinage, (8) functional shift, (9) false etymology, and (10) proper names. (Fromkin, 1988). Below is the definition of each process.
- Derivation: It is the process that derives new words by using prefixes and suffixes. Some common prefixes are anti-, dis-, in-, pre-, post-, un-, and re-. Some common suffixes are –ation, -able, -al, -er, -ed, -ful, -ity, -ing, -ly, -ness, and –y. For instance, from the word believe (verb) can be derived into some adjectives by adding prefix and suffix like follow: believable, unbelievable.
- Compounding: It is the process that forms new words by putting together two or more existing words. For instance by combining noun and noun like girlfriend, landlord, or mailman.
- Acronyms: It is the process that forms new words by uniting the initial sounds or letters of words then pronounceable as a new separate word. For example the word laser from light amplification through the stimulated emission of radiation or UN from United Nation.
- Back Formation: It is the process that uses analogy in a rather backwards manner to derive new words. For instance the word revise is derived from the word revision.
- Blending: It is the process that combines parts of two words, usually the initial part of a word and the last part of another word. For example the word brunch is the blending from breakfast and lunch.
- Clipping: It is the process that derives new words by shortening the words so it is easy to be pronounced without paying attention to the derivational morphology of the word. For instance the word dorm from the word dormitory and the word lab from laboratory.
- Coinage: It is the process that derives new words by using no morphological methods but just take the brand of some products to name the things refer. For example the word aqua to name all bottled mineral water and the word Kodak to name any kind of camera.
- Functional Shift: It is the process that derives new words by moving the part of speech of a word and no changing of its form. For instance the word run can be used as noun and also as verb.
- Morphological Misanalysis: It is the process that derives new words by introducing new words taken from similar words. This can be because of actual misunderstanding, or intentional (creative) extension of morphemes. For instance the word workaholic derives from alcoholic.
- Proper Names: It is the process that derives new words from names of persons connected with them. For example the word watt from James Watt the name of the person who invented electricity.
These processes of words formation can be introduced to students in order to give them the rule of deriving new words which they can apply and to improve their vocabularies. The knowledge of words and words formation processes is beneficial to help the students in learning vocabularies. First, they can learn the principles in forming words. Then, the knowledge leads them to be productive and creative that is by applying the principles in order to ‘create’ words. As the result, they may improve their vocabularies.
Suggested Activities To Improve Students’ Vocabulary
This part proposes some activities that teachers can use to vary their techniques of teaching vocabulary. These activities should be chosen by determining the students’ level, the teaching objectives, and the time allocation.
1. Introduce words in lexical sets to make good sense. The meanings of the words can be made clearer by contrasting them with closely related words in the same set. For example if the topic of your lesson is about The Airport, the following lexical set may be useful:
boarding Pass transit
Teacher can ask the students to make or to complete the set related with the topic Allow them to use their dictionaries.
2. Take the form of derivation or affixation in your reading or speaking classes as the activity of vocabularies development, for instance the adjective formation below.
Adjectives formed with –ed describe our reaction to someone or something.
For example terrify + -ed becomes terrified. Example:
I was terrified when I saw the movie.
Adjectives formed with –ing describe the person or the thing that causes the
The movie was terrifying.
The other adjectives formations are:
Amuse – amused – amusing
Annoy – annoyed – annoying
Bore – Bored – Boring
Tire – Tired – Tiring
Interest – Interested – Interesting
Teachers can ask the students to use these adjectives in vocabulary exercises for instance by filling the gaps in sentences.
3. Encourage students to bring to class jokes, magazines, and newspapers in English that they like reading. They will find many examples of word formation that they may do not know the meanings. Below is the example from Reader’s Digest (1993:53):
Happy New Year!
“We jingle the bells in December and juggle the bills in January.”
From the example, the suffix –gle expresses the idea of movement. The author makes use of the similar form and meaning in jingle and juggle for a comic purpose. Then, ask your students to find words with j- (or phoneme [dz] that express the idea of movement. By using their dictionaries they will find these words in the same list of movement: jerk, jet, jiggle, jitney, jitterbug, jitters, jive, jog, joggle, jolt, jostle, journey, jump
4. Ask students to write another list of words with meanings associated with the word for example twilight as can be seen in the example below taken from a newspaper advertisement (Kompas, 2007):
Arrangement by Adie M.S.
Ask the students to make a list with associated meanings with twilight. Students will come across words like two, twice, twain, ‘tween (from between), twelve, twenty, tweezers, twin, twine, twist. They will learn a lot of new words and memorize them easily since they are all associated.
The methodology of the research is very important in every research as a guideline to attain the objective of the study. Chapter three provides information about methodology of the research that the writer applies in has study. They are design of the research, population and sample, instrument of the research, procedure of collecting data and technique of analyzing data.
- Design of Research
Research design in this study was to seek and to answer the question of the study “Does the use of English movie can improve students’ vocabulary mastery?”
In doing so, I intended to use quantitative research to complete this study. Wikipedia (2007) in its article said that Quantitative methods were research methods dealing with numbers and anything that was measurable.
Wikipedia (2007) in its article also said, the objective of quantitative research was to develop and employ mathematical models, theories and hypotheses pertaining to natural phenomena. The process of measurement was central to quantitative research because it provided the fundamental connection between empirical observation and mathematical expression of quantitative relationships.
- Population and Sample
Population and sample are important elements in research. “Population is total member of research respondent.” (Arikunto, 2006:130). In addition, http://www.thefreedictionary.com/population mention that population is the entire aggregation of items from which sample can be draw, a branch of applied mathematics concerned with the collection and interpretation of quantitative data and the use of probability theory to estimate population parameters.
In this case, the population is the entire of the first grade students of SMK Abhariyah in the academic year 2008/2009. The number of population is 20 students.
After determining the population, I obtain a sample, which is obviously important step in conducting a research. I use a sample research to represents the population. Arikunto (1998:117) says that a sample is a part of population, which is investigated. In this sample research I have a purpose to generalize the result of study. The number of population that is used in this study is 20 students. Because of the limitation number of population which is only 20 students, I take the whole population as the sample of the research. Arikunto (2006:134) says that if the population is less than 100 people, we could use all of them as the sample. If the population is more 100 people, we could take 10-15% or more than 20-25% of its sample. Because the number of the fifth grade students of SD N 2 cangkringrembans Karanganyar Demak is less than 100 students, so the number of sample is 20 students.
According to Arikunto(2006:160), research instrument is a device used by the research while collecting the data to make his work become easier and to get better result, complete and systematic in order to make the data easy to process.
I used two kinds of instruments in doing it, they were test, and questionnaire in order to identify whether or not it was an effective way to teach vocabulary to elementary school students.
Referring to en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Test_(student_assessment) (2007) in its article it said that In education, certification, counseling, and many other fields, a test or exam (short for examination) was a tool or technique intended to measure students' expression of knowledge, skills and/or abilities. A test had more questions of greater difficulty and requires more time for completion than a quiz. It was usually divided into two or more sections, each covering a different area of the domain or taking a different approach to assessing the same aspects.
In completing this study the test would be based on an achievement test which was the result later used as data. In order to get an enough data I divided the test into two: they were pre test and post-test. The purpose of giving the classroom tests was to check the students’ achievement as an indicator of progress toward educationalobjectives set for the students. According to Arikunto (2006: 150-151), it was the reason why the role of pre and post-test was important toward this study which it would determine whether the use of circle game was effective or not to apply to elementary school students.
Oxford university press (2007) in its article said that a questionnaire was a research instrument consisting of a series of questions and other prompts for the purpose of gathering information from respondents. Although they were often designed for statistical analysis of the responses, this was not always the case.
Arikunto (2006:151), questionnaire could be in the form of multiple choice, essay, check-list and rating-scale so respondents would only select one of the provided answers in it. In conducting this study, I used a multiple-choice questionnaire, in which, the respondents only selected one of the provided answers (by crossing (A, B, C or D) in each question).
- Method of data collection
The technique used in this research was questionnaire and tests. The aim of using questionnaire in this research was to know how the students’ respond about the teaching strategy applied,and the tests method was used to know whether students were successful or not in teaching vocabulary using movie.
This study was undertaken through three activities. At first, it was a pre-test, second was the post-test which to measure students’ achievement, and third applied the questionnaire to know students’ respond on strategy used by researcher. To give a clear understanding, the three steps of the activities would be explained as follows:
Pre-test consists of twenty-five items in the form of multiple choices.
Post-Test was done after pre-test, cycle I and II were conducted. It was aimed to measure the students’ achievement after the cycles and to compare the result between pre and post-test that would be processed in to data. Materials of the test were taken from the vocabularies taught in the activities before.
The questionnaire was conducted after the four activities above were completely done. It was purposed only to gain data from the students’ response about the teaching strategy applied. The questionnaire consisted of five questions and it was in the form of multiple choices.
The students’ success and failure in doing the activities plan above would be assessed by referring to the criterion issued by department of education and culture. The criterion said that a student could be said to pass the test if he/she could solve 65% of the whole problems.
- Data analysis
The data analysis was used to draw the conclusion of the research data. This study consists of three activities in which it used a method of quantitative to process the data. Then I would compare them, in order to know the result of this study, whether or not, the increase in the students’ results happened in this study. Below was the formula to get valid result, I used to process the data gained:
P = R X 100 %
P = Percentage
R = Score Achieved
N = Number
Vocabularies are very important when we learn a language, not only in a native language but also in a foreign language. The complexity of vocabularies may cause the problem in the mastery. In English as a Foreign Language classroom, the most difficult aspects are the retention of vocabulary. Teachers work hard to improve the vocabulary of their students by using many methods and activities. Yet, this effort sometimes does not give good result because of the complexity of vocabulary learning in a foreign language.
There are many ways to improve vocabularies recognition. This article only proposes a small part of the ways. Teachers of EFL can develop many other ways to enrich the students’ vocabulary. Teachers should use the appropriate method in the classroom by considering the objectives of teaching, the students’ level of acquisition, and the time allocation. The most important thing is that the teacher should always motivate their students to develop good reading habits as one basic way to enrich their vocabularies. Once they develop this habit, they will be able to learn many things including vocabularies improvement.
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