Teaching vocabulary using short texts

| December 31, 2003
Teaching vocabulary using short texts

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Scott Thornbury

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Scott Thornbury is freelance teacher trainer and materials writer, who, until recently, directed the ELT Diploma program at International House, Barcelona. His previous experience includes teaching and training in Egypt, UK, and New Zealand. He has an MA (TEFL) from the University of Reading. His writing credits include several books for teachers: About Language: Tasks for Teachers of English (CUP), How to Teach Grammar (Pearson), Uncovering Grammar (MacMillan Heinemann), and How to Teach Vocabulary (Pearson). His latest book for students is called Natural Grammar (Oxford).

Traditionally, vocabulary used to be offered to learners in the form of lists. Nowadays, the tendency is to present vocabulary in texts. For vocabulary building purposes, texts – whether spoken or written – have enormous advantages over learning words from lists. For a start, the fact that words are in context increases the chances of learners appreciating not only their meaning but their typical environments, such as their associated collocations or grammatical structures. Moreover, it is likely that the text will display topically connected sets of words (or lexical fields). Research evidence suggests that words loosely connected by topic may be easier to learn than more tightly connected lexical sets.

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