Monday, 7 November 2011

The lexical load: 5 forms of repetition

Here in the heart of the oil industry, no-one says anything about oil.

No-one stumbles for a word, no-one mixes up a moon pool with a mousehole, and no-one asks me any questions like, 'How do you say нефть in English?'.

There is a good reason for this: the highly technical and complex vocabulary associated with the oil industry is well known to my learners already.

All of them come equipped with spreadsheets full of hundreds of specialist terms, most of which I have only a passing acquaintance with.

This is a shame in some ways as the nouns which fill these lists are eminently teachable and learnable.

Be that as it may, what my learners want is generally a mixture of GE and BE vocabulary, rather than ESP.

And I specify vocabulary here because it figures much more prominently on learners' wish lists than grammar (in an almost inverse proportion to its prominence on GE learners' wish lists).

So what is the best way to deal with this higher-than-usual demand for lexis?

 I'm sure there are many ways which I hope people will share but my own approach is based on five forms of repetition: recycling, recontextualising, refocusing, reconsidering, and reviewing.

Repetition in itself is a key determinant of lexical durability as we are more likely to remember a word if we encounter it a minimum of six or seven times, so recycling is at the heart of my approach.

It also helps vocabulary retention and use if a word is recontextualised, such as might happen in a narrow reading over several lessons.

Alternatively, we can help learners to refocus on a word or phrase if we temporarily decontextualise it, guiding them through the maze of connotations, registers, inflections, collocations, colligations and the like, before reinserting it into a meaningful context.

The insights gained this focus on form can be used to help a learner reconsider a word for, as Scott Thornbury avers, if you create a situation in which the learner has to make a decision about a word, especially a demanding decision, such as writing a sentence with it, the word is much more likely to 'stick'.

Finally, all this work requires some form of review, both as a learning tool to refresh the memory and motivate the learner, but also to test what has taken and what needs revision.

(Image: XcBiker)

No comments:

Post a Comment