Learning vocabulary is a very important process in learning a foreign language. It is a complex process which requires adequate mastery of form, meaning and usage.

Through this process; Ss should be able to: –

1- Spell and pronounce the words correctly when they use them in writing or speaking.

2- Understand without difficulty the meaning of the words they hear or read.

3- Know the correct collection of vocabulary as well as associations.

4-Use vocabulary in appropriate grammatical sentences.


So, knowing and teaching vocabulary requires a good planning, effective presentation, demonstration and adequate practice because any ineffective vocabulary teaching and learning may lead to undesirable results as: –

1-Unappropriate use of the vocabulary items in different situations; e.g.My house was injured in the fire. (damaged)

So, the choice of words is as important as knowing their meaning.

2- Using vocabulary in a meaningless or in an unidiomatic way. E.g. He looks at his lost keys.  (Looks for)

3- Incorrect usage of grammatical form, stress, pronunciation and spelling. e.g. ( two-too-to )  ( inn-in ) (record {v } record {n } )  ( book – food )

4- Ignorance of varieties of language and using them at the wrong level.

5-Inability to retrieve learnt vocabulary while communicating in a language .


1- Content vocabulary ( Active / productive vocabulary and Passive /receptive vocabulary.)

2- Function / structure vocabulary.

1- Content vocabulary: – they are closely related to one’s experience. Active and passive vocabulary are usually called content words because they carry lexical meaning in themselves.

Active / productive vocabulary is used in everyday speech and it is learned for performance in any communication act. So, they should be taught through focusing on their pronunciation and correct form to help Ss remember them easily.

Passive /receptive vocabulary:- it is not essential for production in speaking or writing . It is meant for recognition and understanding. This vocabulary is needed for comprehension. Active vocabulary in a certain situation can be considered passive in another context. 

2- Function / structure vocabulary: – they are considered as part of the grammatical system of the language since (because) their main functions are grammatical. They are limited in number. There are about 200 words in English as (auxiliaries, conjunctions, and articles), their meaning is mainly derived from the functions they serve.

Function words are also used to: –

  1. Join fragments of structures together into larger units as with prepositions.
  2. Join pairs of sentences or phrases as in co-ordinating conjunctions (but,or,and,nor )
  3. To connect a subordinate idea to the main sentences as with subordinating conjunctions (while, if, although, because, after).

Function words have high frequency in the language, that is, words like (a, an, the, auxiliaries) occur very frequently in any piece of writing in order to establish the grammatical structure of sentences.


When we teach English vocabulary to Arab speakers , we should put in our mind that Arab learners of English do not have the advantages of cognate ( the same origin ) features or similarities in the alphabet , spelling, affixes, pronunciation e.t.c. because Arabic and English are not cognate languages and each has a different word formation and syntactic system . So, the teacher should describe the lexical items that show:-

a)Internal change in form as :- man-men, foot –feet, sing-   sang.

b) External change in form as: – kind-kindness-kindly.

c) Both external and internal changes forms as: – explain –explanation –explanatory.

d)              No change in form but a difference in function As: – sheep (singular and Plural) – record (noun – verb) .

The word formation process is an effective aid to vocabulary building. Knowledge of affixes (prefix – infix and suffix) help Ss a lot to:-

1) Derive new words from already known words.

2) Increase their ability to utilize the vocabulary system.

3) To understand the basic meaning of other related words if their root is familiar to them.

4) Improve their spelling skill.

5) Be aware of the correlation between various affixes and their functions and meanings as (tion for nouns – ly for adverbs – able for adjectives – un for not)

       In introducing new items of vocabulary, the teacher must draw the pupils’ attention to the verbs and nouns that are usually accompanied by certain preposition. Those preposition should be memorized along with the verb or noun they are associated with because this combination changes the basic meaning of the word as (look at-for-after-in –like).

    There are other word formation processes that help us to produce new forms as compound, blends, and clipped forms. Compound words are formed by two or more individual words as (football- blackboard –basketball-) or hyphenated as (finger–print, brother–in-law) or separate words as (Prime Minister).



     It s not easy to grasp a meaning of a word because it may change from one situation or context to another .So , the teacher must avoid teaching the meaning from lists of unrelated words. Instead, he should concentrate on appropriate context, so as to make the connotational meaning of the words clear and easier to learn, also all different uses of each structure word should be taught.

   Types of meaning :-

1) Lexical meaning                        2) Grammatical meaning

3) Connotational meaning             4) Idiomatic meaning


1) Lexical meaning is often called the dictionary (denotation) meaning, which is common to all speakers of the same language. It does not change from one situation to another nor is it affected by personal experience as (girl –cat –hit).






2) Grammatical meaning is essential for understanding the language. It is determined by syntactic relationship within the language or grammatical signals (Grammatical signals as :- a – an- the- his -…control the meaning and help in discovering the exact meaning of the word ) as :-

The cat chased the mice              The mice chased the cat.

(The lexical meaning of the word cat – mice – chase is the same in both sentences but the grammatical meaning is different according to the situation of the word)

3) The Connotational meaning (cultural meaning): – some words have different meanings related to the culture which is different from a language to another. For example: – the word (dog) may differ from one person or a community to another. Also, a behavior of a person may seem to some people polite or good. Yet, another people can judge the same behavior as impolite or bad.

4) The idiomatic meaning: – idioms, proverbs and cliches constitute an integral part of language and are extensively used. Ss must therefore learn them as apart of vocabulary system and teachers should teach them in appropriate relevant context. Ex: – “It was raining cats and dogs” means it rains heavily not cats and dogs which have no connection with raining.



     There are various ways of explaining the meaning of a word as: –

1) Demonstration: – this technique involves:

  1. a) Direct association.
  2. b) Acting (dramatize – mime – using gestures –dialogues – role-playing).
  3. c) Word games –cross word puzzles.

2) Explanation: – this technique consists of:

  1. a) Description.
  2. b) Synonyms and antonyms (equivalent and opposites) as lory –truck, give –take.
  3. c) Translation: – it can save time and effort in some situation but it should not be used too often.
  4. d) Context: – in this kind of explaining the word, the teacher should provide the Ss short texts and ensure that they have understood the main points of the passage before discussing words and phrases supported by the contexts.

3)Visual Aids: – This method involves the use of photographs, -drawings, maps, wall pictures, flash cards, slides, video films and computer. They help the teacher to present the vocabulary in a visual context.












How to introduce new vocabulary

       There are several ways to introduce new items, the most appropriate techniques to any vocabulary are: –

1) Recognition stage.  2) Receptive stage.  3) Productive stage.

1)Recognition stage: – in it, the teacher presents the phonic form, graphic form, the lexical meaning and the grammatical position of the new words. He follows many steps: –

  1. a) Pronounce the word two or three times and Ss repeat.
  2. b) Create a situation or use it in a context .

c)Clarifies the meaning through using visual aids, demonstration, etc.

  1. d) Show the visual form of the new word, spelling.

2) Receptive stage: – the teacher provides the learners with exercises that stress reception rather than production. It is also important to check their understanding of the meaning.

3) Productive stage: – in it teachers should concentrate on how to use the new words productively and correctly. So, they should provide exercises to Ss and request them to use them in situation context.

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