English Education and Polysemy


The process of learning and teaching two languages and cultures can be a very transformative experience. This paper explores how knowledge is constructed by learners and teachers through two languages. From an applied linguistics approach, we focus particular attention on the correlation between L1 and L2 in language education. How does L1 affect the L2 learning process? How can teachers help students become aware of the polysemous meanings of words in L1, and realize that there is not always a simple one-to-one correspondence between L1 and L2 words? To try to answer these questions, we conducted a pilot study about the effectiveness of polysemy instruction regarding L1 and L2 errors. We gave two groups of subjects an English translation task concerning “dekiru” (a Japanese verb), and gave the experimental group instruction about the polysemy of “dekiru”. We found that instruction about polysemy prevented L2 errors to some degree, while some differences in meaning seemed difficult for the subjects to recognize or understand. After the study, a questionnaire was given to the same subjects to examine whether they had become more conscious of the polysemy of “dekiru” (L1). The results show that awareness of polysemy had increased in both groups, and that to some extent, the students recognized the different meanings of “dekiru” correctly. However, they seemed to have difficulty recognizing some of the meanings of “dekiru” even in Japanese. Additionally, the subjects showed a subtle change in their perception of the English word “can”.

Author Information
Nozomi Oda, Shujitsu University, Japan
Laurence Dante, Shujitsu University, Japan

Paper Information
Conference: ACE2014
Stream: Languages education and applied linguistics (ESL/TESL/TEFL)

This paper is part of the ACE2014 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon