4. Word Lists
As stated, I am required to teach vocabulary from given word lists. I should at this stage clarify what I mean by word list. The word list I am presented with is not a traditional word list (see appendix 1), and as such it doesn’t suffer from the problems that vocabulary word lists create (as recognised by Hoey (2000)), i.e. a lack of emphasis given to the importance of collocation (Indeed, such lists tend to remain just that, with a list of L1 ‘translations written in a column next to them). On the contrary, the word lists that I work with are derived from an understanding of what students need to know. In forming these word lists, consideration has been made to several important factors (identified by Gairns and Redman (1986)), namely; the number of times that a student will come into contact with this word during their academic career (frequency); their relative importance to any given task(s) in the coursebooks that are being used (need); the current language level of the student (level); and the logical collocations that a student may expect to encounter at their current level of study (again, need). As a consequence of these factors, coupled with the fact that coursebooks remain at the heart of the curriculum, I operate not with one word list but rather with two.
These two word lists differ greatly, although both take into account the aforementioned factors, and both are taught almost simultaneously. I shall now examine each of these factors in order to explain the word lists that are an integral part of my day-to-day teaching.
Frequency cannot be solely relied upon as a guide to usefulness , although there is a clear connection between these two concepts. There is some pertinence in considering the General Service List of Words , and this does form an important part of the ethos of vocabulary teaching in my institution. This doesn’t form the complete picture, however. Part of my institution’s mission statement purports to the preparation of students for study in an academic environment in which English is the medium of communication, and consequently a great deal of empahasis is placed on words that frequently appear in predominently academic contexts. Hence the use of the University Word List when calculating frequency .