Words to Explain Words: How Teachers Explain Second Language Vocabulary


Vocabulary plays one of the most crucial roles in language competence and learning, and has gained considerable attention in second language acquisition research and education. However, the largely learner-centered research has focused directly on learner thoughts, behaviors and development, paying little attention to the role of teachers' vocabulary explanations and their effects on learner outcome.In this case study of two English Medium Instruction (EMI) professors at a Japanese university, teacher explanations and elaborations of vocabulary were investigated. Three consecutive lectures and interviews with each professor were recorded and transcribed for analysis. This study described the what, when, why, and how of teacher vocabulary explanations. The primary focus of the EMI classes was teaching content through English, making vocabulary explanations doubly important, as they potentially played two roles: clarifying word meaning and teaching content.The results seemed to indicate a tight relationship between various contextual factors (i.e., student proficiencies and experiences, course aims, course content, teaching style) and approaches to vocabulary explanation. The EMI format in particular seemed to influence the explanatory behaviors, both linguistically and typologically. Vocabulary was most often explained in definitions or paraphrases in the second language English and treated as concepts directly related to the course content. The findings suggested the need for more research on teacher lexical explanation sensitive to teaching and learning contexts. The reflections presented in the interviews and the variety shown in teacher behavior supported the need for attention to vocabulary explanation in teacher training and curriculum-building.

Author Information
Mizuki Moriyasu, Independent Scholar, Japan
Ernesto Macaro, University of Oxford, United Kingdom

Paper Information
Conference: ACLL2018
Stream: Applied linguistics research

This paper is part of the ACLL2018 Conference Proceedings (View)
Full Paper
View / Download the full paper in a new tab/window

Comments & Feedback

Place a comment using your LinkedIn profile


Share on activity feed

Powered by WP LinkPress

Share this Research

Posted by James Alexander Gordon