Ron Martinez – Five vocabulary myths
1. It takes at least 10 exposures to a new word before it can be learned:
Quantity vs. Quality, the time the word is exposed does not mean that the person will learn. People need to give some internal meaning. First they need to notice the word, retrieval and create.
“Neurons that fire together, wire together.”
Build it up, let it grow and build it up again, meaning that it does not mean how many times a kid sees a word, this kid needs to understand it and process.
There are some situations that cannot be set up by the teacher, in some cases kids show interest in things that teachers did not imagine, it is a natural curiosity.
By only reading a text or a book, the student can learn some vocabulary, but if the teacher point some words out, students will learn a lot more. Exposure is not enough. Encouraging students to read and make links is also important.
2. A good vocabulary means knowing many words.
It does not matter if you know a lot of vocabulary if you do not know when or how to use it.
It is more about the way students can use and recombine words correctly.
3. Students can guess meaning from context.
They may guess it wrong and even though it does not make sense, they will stick with their guessing.
Specially at lower levels, students may be understanding much less than you think, and misunderstanding more than you think.
4. Students should not use their L1s when learning vocabulary.
Guessing the context is worse then looking the word up in the dictionary. The problem when translating is that words may have lots of meanings and we need to learn how to use it wisely.
We need to be open and let students use their L1s when learning.
5. The vocabulary input in textbooks has been carefully planned.
Maybe the vocabulary students are learning in text books are not as important as book writers think it is. Students need to expand their lexical learning field. Perhaps it would be interesting asking students what interest them. We need further engagement with reading and listening input.
Botton line, we should not rely so much in textbooks and go further when teaching.