In 1995, I bought a book called ” “21st century guide to building your vocabulary”.It has been sitting on my bookshelf for ages and I thought it’s worth reminding the world of its existence. Here’s the download:
The idea of its authors was that we will need excellent communication skills in order to prosper in the following, 21st century. This idea still seems to be valid, just think about the US president who is, by all means, a true example of a perfect orator.
However, what happens in classrooms is quite different.Students of all ages tend to be reading less and less and teachers are much more preoccupied by having fun classes, which should miraculously lead to effective learning, than by their students really understanding the contents being presented. The issue becomes even more serious when it comes to remembering vocabulary of a foreign language. Mind you, this is just a personal opinion based on years of experience and there are always resplendent exceptions to the rule.
Many secondary school students, and even college students, doing our language courses have a limited vocabulary range of their own mother tongue. Many times they just don’t know the simplest of nominal words, not to mention abstract nouns explaining more complex ideas.
As a solution, I usually tell them to make lists with a definition in English, and example sentence and then the translations, in this case into Catalan and/or Spanish if the word is completely new to them followed by a Catalan/Spanish definition and example sentence.
You can imagine how many student actually do this! The most they would do is write a Spanish/Catalan translation, which makes no sense, of course , as they don’t know the word in the first place.
Needless to say, my suggestion of having their own glossary, which they could consult before doing any language exam, is not fun. So we start on a vicious circle of vocabulary games, vocabulary exercises and so on just to avoid the easiest way of expanding vocab, which is READING and taking out some of the words and expressions you find important or you might want to use in the future or for t writing tasks and presentations.
I am aware of the fact that the grammar translation method has been dead and buried for decades. However, in the times when a great deal of teaching is done by using new technologies, I think students might be double challenged by aiming to improve their overall language skills using one of the oldest teaching materials – a book.