Searching for meaning: vocabulary acquisition with genuine semantic development and form-meaning mapping

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Stewart, Tod L.
Hamada, Megumi
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Thesis (M.A.)
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One of the most important parts of learning a second language is vocabulary acquisition since a robust vocabulary reaches across each of the language skills of listening, speaking, reading, and writing. There is considerable debate on how students best learn vocabulary. Second language research (SLA) suggests that deliberate learning activities which focus on associating a meaning with a foreign language form are a significant step towards language proficiency. However, SLA research also suggests that, for some words which have more than one English translation, making this association can be particularly difficult. The goal of this project was to first identify many of the English words Chinese students have difficulty learning. To accomplish the goal, English word pairs that have a single Chinese translation were identified. These words are particularly difficult for Chinese learners because a dictionary alone will not allow them to properly map the meaning of the word to the form since they will map the single Chinese definition to both English words. The research identifies interference from a learners L1 that occurs when a learner is acquiring L2 vocabulary with a single L1 translation. In this case rote memorization, a prevalent vocabulary acquisition technique in China, will not allow for the true acquisition and fluent use of the English words.