Myrzakhmetov, M. M.; Smanov, I. S.: Improvement of lexical skills in the process of teaching English language at high schools

Myrzakhmetov, M. M.; Smanov, I. S.

Improvement of Lexical Skills in the Process of
Teaching English Language at High Schools

Myrzakhmetov, M. M.
candidate of pedagogical sciences, associate professor
М. Auezov South Kazakhstan state university
Tauke khan avenue 5, 160012 Shymkent, Kazakhstan
Smanov, I.S.
doctor of pedagogical sciences, professor
South Kazakhstan State Pedagogical Institute
Baytursynov str. 13, 160012 Shymkent, Kazakhstan


This article outlines some effective methods for improving lexical skills of high school students. The authors suggest exercises that had positive effects during the school practice. Introduction to new vocabulary should be based on the teacher-sounding speech in a foreign language, as well as on various kinds of visual support. For the formation of lexical skills in a foreign language, students need knowledge of situational, social and contextual rules, which are used by native speakers.

Keywords: linguistics, pedagogics, lexicology, vocabulary learning strategies, cross-cultural communication,

“The limits of my language are the limits of my mind. All I know is what I have words for”
Ludwig Wittgenstein

In modern multicultural informative society, foreign language becomes an indispensable condition for professional mobility, career development and social protection of an expert. In these circumstances, the importance of readiness to foreign language intercultural communication gets an essential topicality.

During the last decade considerable attention has been paid to the lexical component of language competence in the methodology of teaching foreign languages, which is explained by rethinking the nature of language and the role of lexical units in it. For example, some modern scientists reject the structural approach to linguistic units; they are of the opinion that the lexicon is filled with grammatical structures and its acquisition does not require much effort. Interest in the language units has increased in the publications of recent years; in different studies they are called lexical units, lexical phrases, prefabricated units, complex compound forms, multi- word chunks (Crystal 1995, p 163;. Lewis 1997, p 15). In this regard, a great responsibility rests on the scope of pedagogical education, where in the transition to new educational standards that should be implemented in training program for an innovative type of foreign language teachers, destined to ensure the formation of humanistic values in a creative cooperation with students, and self-realization in the pedagogical activity. Modern teacher must be free to carry out foreign-language cross-cultural communication, effectively teach it to their students to form their readiness to implement the cross-cultural dialogue; in short, they must have a highly professional competence, a key component of which is a foreign language communicative competence.

Most of the ongoing researches and teachers aim at the active involvement of arbitrary memory resources of students, which means that they are to take responsibility for the acquisition of knowledge themselves. It is important to note that the introduction of new components of learning is not only a clarification of the content of training, but it is also should be combined with the search for the development of adequate training facilities, which are background for the effectiveness of foreign language teaching process. Although didactic means do not exert a decisive influence on the results of educational work, however, they facilitate knowledge. It just must be properly selected and skillfully included in the methods used by the teacher and the organizational forms of learning. It can enrich the use of teaching methods and promote the growth of their efficiency.

It is known that new words are possible to learn in a context and separately. Introduction to new vocabulary should be based on the teacher-sounding speech in a foreign language, as well as on various kinds of visual support. For the formation of lexical skills are applied preparatory and speech exercises, which then must be added in communication and role-playing games, as a result for developing students’ receptive skills, such as listening and reading. Exercises for the development of lexical skills activate mental activity of students and are intended to reduce the number of lexical errors when performing communicative tasks [1].

For the formation of lexical skills in the classes of foreign language, students need knowledge of situational, social and contextual rules, which native speakers use widely. We use many techniques in order to allow students to memorize new words and use them correctly in their speech. Some of them are: write not just words and phrases of the word with other words; finding new words and phrases in the text; group words on various topics; to find synonyms, antonyms; make their proposals, using as many new words as possible. At the same time on their studies, it is advisable to carry out preparatory training exercise on the basis of work with the text: differentiated, refresher, wildcard and constructive transformation.

A crucial distinction is often made between knowing a word and using it. Knowing a word does not necessarily entail using the word automatically in a wide range of contexts (McCarthy, 1984, as cited in Adger, 2002) since for every vocabulary dimension there is a knowledge dimension and a skill dimension. Evidence suggests that the knowledge aspect requires conscious and explicit learning mechanisms whereas the skill aspect involves mostly implicit learning and memory (Ellis, 1994, as cited in Herrel, 2004). Vocabulary learning strategies therefore, should include strategies for using as well as for knowing a word [2]. What does it mean to know a word?

Knowing a word is not an all or nothing situation; it is a complex concept. According to Dale (1989, as cited in Taylor, 1990) the extent of knowledge a person has about individual words can range from a little to a lot and it also includes qualitative connotations about words. Dale (1989, as cited in Taylor, 1990) provides a description of the extent of word knowledge in terms of 5 stages:
1. The student has no knowledge about the word;
2. The student has a general sense of the word;
3. The student has a narrow, context-bound knowledge about the word;
4. The student has a basic knowledge of the word and is able to use it in many appropriate situations;
5. The student has a rich, de-contextualized knowledge of the word and can use it in various appropriate situations.

Knowing a word implies knowing many things about the word: its literal meaning, its various connotations, its spelling, derivations, collocations, frequency, pronunciation, the sort of syntactic constructions into which it enters, the morphological options it offers and a rich variety of semantic associates such as synonyms, antonyms, homonyms (Nagy and Scott, 2000, as cited in Taylor, 1990) [2].

In order to activate vocabulary in a speech in the classes of English language various kinds of exercises can be used i. e.:
- listen to the dialogue and make the same on the same topic;
- retell dialogue in monologue form, using key words and adding details with own estimates;
- make a dialogue on the basis of keywords;
- make a dialogue based on reading your monologue using speech clichés;
- come up with a continuation of the story read, using new words;
- make a plan listening to your new text;
- answer the questions in the process of reading the text that is strange to you;
- associate every new word with different situations;
- come up with interesting proposals or situations with new words.

Thus, it is important to say that when teaching a foreign language, a new lexicon must be presented in a familiar lexical environment based on the grammatical material that has been already mastered. It should also include complex exercises, educational and creative opportunities for students to use the new language in all forms of verbal communication. It is impossible to study the vocabulary without phonetics, grammar and vocabulary.
Such exercise as “brainstorming” can offer the next task on the lexical theme “Clothing”: What sort of clothes do you like to wear? Do your parents like them? What do you usually wear at university? What sort of clothes does your mother wear? What sort of clothes does your father wear? Do you like your parents’ clothes? Have you ever tried to design your own clothes yourself? What do you usually wear when you go out? Do you like to look cool? What is there in your wardrobe?
Association. Learners learn to associate the new vocabulary or target word with something they already know or something that is meaningful to them (Schmidt and Schmidt, 1995:45).
Semantic mapping. This method is used to motivate and involve students in thinking, reading and writing. It enhances vocabulary development by helping students to link new information with previous experience. This is done by making an arrangement of words into a picture, which has a key concept at the centre and related words and concepts linked with the key concept.
Learning vocabulary through story innovation. The learning vocabulary through story innovation strategy was introduced by Martin and Brogan. It is a procedure for innovating sentence patterns by using the structure of a sentence to create a semantically new one through word substitutions. Story innovation is a way for learners to enjoy writing and reading and learn vocabulary in a scaffold format. The finished product is a new text that is easy for learners to read because they are familiar with the patterns in the original story and with the new vocabulary used to create the innovation. Effective vocabulary teaching strategies enhance words’ retention, broaden the depth and breadth of word knowledge and therefore expedite the vocabulary development of the English language learner [3].
During this research, we have discovered new insights, challenges and possible solutions to the problems experienced by the teachers in the English classes at schools and universities.
Firstly, most educational institutions have a deficit in second language vocabulary and teachers have a limited time for direct instruction. In this regard, it is important for teachers to develop creative methods to expose learners to vocabulary in many ways that develop and reinforce word meaning throughout the school day as well as in and out-of school settings. This can be done by using technology, additional reading texts and games for students that provide incentives for students to listen for new words or previously taught words outside the vocabulary lesson; one can also use word walls to display the target vocabulary.
Secondly, some teachers have a difficulty in choosing whether to concentrate on developing vocabulary or promoting extensive reading. Learners need sufficient vocabulary to read effectively, while at the same time extensive reading is a necessary component for acquiring a sufficient vocabulary. One should support and complement the other rather than contrast each other [4].
Finally, we have come to realize the importance for English language learners to have an extensive knowledge of the breadth and depth of words. English language teachers should constantly remember that their students have not yet developed their English language proficiency to a level where they can understand all the oral and written information they encounter in English for academic purposes classroom, hence the importance of effective vocabulary teaching strategies. Also, we have become aware of the fact that language is an organic entity, which constantly changes. Future English teacher must keep abreast of the latest developments within their field of proficiency.

1. Adger, C.T. (2002). What teachers need to know about language. McHenry, IL: Center for Applied Linguistics.
2. Herrel, A.L. (2004). Fifty strategies for teaching English language learners. An ESL teacher‘s tool kit. 2nd ed. Winnipeg. Canada. Penguin Publishers.
3. Zimmerman, C.B. (2007). Vocabulary learning methods. Cambridge Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
4. Zwiers, J. (2008). Building academic language. Newark International Reading Association.