Innovation in Language Learning

Edition 17

Accepted Abstracts

Teaching and Learning Arabic Vocabulary

Barbara Bakker, Dalarna University (Sweden)


Within the frame of structural approach to language teaching, research has mainly focused on how to teach and learn language rules and systems and little attention has traditionally been paid to vocabulary teaching and learning. The general idea about vocabulary has been that words are just words, implying that learning new vocabulary is just a matter of mnemonic exercise. However, during the last 30/40 years, vocabulary learning and teaching has emerged as a newly recognized aspect of language acquisition, with vocabulary learning strategies as one of the main research topics. Research in this field has so far mainly focused on English vocabulary acquisition, with a few single or comparative studies involving European languages and ever fewer about non-European languages. The almost total lack of research about Arabic language acquisition for non-native speakers is striking, especially when considering the importance of morphology and lexicography within the Arabic tradition. This paper is a contribution to the field from the Arabic language acquisition perspective. The topic is introduced by a brief outline of the field’s central definitions and theoretical framework and an attempt is made to put them into a learning and teaching Arabic vocabulary perspective. An ongoing research project is then presented, involving two beginners’ courses for non-native speakers (Arabic 1 for beginners and Arabic 2) taught at Dalarna University, Arabic Department. The frequency ranges of the words taught in the courses are first outlined, and an account of the way(s) chosen to measure the students’ vocabulary proficiency follows. The spring term results for the vocabulary proficiency tests are subsequently presented, together with a discussion on how more focused vocabulary teaching, including training on vocabulary learning and learning strategies, can be implemented next term in order to improve these results.

Keywords: Arabic, vocabulary teaching, vocabulary learning, learning strategies, word frequency, incidental learning, intentional learning.

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