A Study of Differences in Vocabulary Learning
Between English and Non-English Majors
Abstract: The present study is an attempt to investigate the differences in the use of vocabulary learning strategies between 39 non-English majors and 26 English majors and the correlations thereof with their vocabulary. The instruments adopted a questionnaire, a vocabulary test and individual interviews. Detailed analysis of both qualitative and quantitative data has yielded the findings as follows: 1) The English majors tend to adopt a variety of vocabulary learning strategies; 2) Subjects in different majors are found to be significantly different from each other in several vocabulary learning strategies; 3) There exists a certain correlation between students’ vocabulary learning strategies and their vocabulary.
Key Words: vocabulary; vocabulary strategy; English majors; non-English majors,
1.Theories on English Learning Strategies 2
2. Study Methods 3
2.1 Study Objects 3
2.2 Study Subjects 3
2.3 Study Tools 3
2.3.1 Vocabulary Learning Strategies Survey 3
2.3.2 Vocabulary Evaluation 4
2.4 Data Analysis 4
3 Results and Discussion 5
3.1 Learning Concepts results 5
3.2 Learning Strategies Descriptions 6
3.3 Differences 9
3.3.1 Strategy Differences in Sex 9
3.3.2 Strategy Differences in Major 10
3.4 Relevance 14
3.4.1. Correlation between accomplishments and vocabulary 14
3.4.2. Relevance between independent strategies and vocabulary and results. 14
4. Conclusion 17
The famous linguist D.A.Wilkins once has said: “Without grammar, few can be expressed, without vocabulary; nothing can be expressed.” Levelt also has said: “Vocabulary is the driving force of language output." For lack of vocabulary, language learners find it hard to accurately express their points and exchange their ideas with others freely. Therefore, if we want to cultivate the learners’ comprehensive skills of listening, speaking, reading, writing and translating, we should help to build the learners’ vocabulary first. According to "College English Syllabus", the vocabulary requirement for CET4 is 4200 words, for CET6, 5500 words and for TEM4, 6000. However, a great part of the students can not meet this requirement, which hinders their development of language skills. Clearly, the lack of the vocabulary has been a "bottleneck" for their English learning.
To enlarge vocabulary, memorizing strategies have been particularly important for learners. Well-established vocabulary learning strategies are the important way to improve the proficiency of the English learners. Language learning is a continuous process through one’s entire life, while the vocabulary learning strategies play an important role for students’ language learning. Mastering the effective learning strategies can lay the foundation for students’ further learning. Therefore, we believe that the study of students’ vocabulary learning strategy, whether for English or other second language learners, is very necessary to solve problem.
In recent years, China's foreign language scholars give more and more attention to English vocabulary learning strategies and have done a lot of fruitful researches for undergraduate and graduate students. But most of the researches focus on the use of the vocabulary learning strategies and its correlation with the score of CET4. Cohen, Nation and other scholars discuss the various vocabulary learning strategies and their advantages and disadvantages in details. Ahmed, Lawson and Hogben, Sanaoui and others do some comparative studies on vocabulary learning methods between top students and poor students. However, the different cultural groups of learners have different vocabulary learning strategies and perspectives. Yet few researches have done comparative study between English professional and non-professional students in their vocabulary learning strategies.
In light of the above reasons, this study used two parts of vocabulary learning strategies questionnaire and a vocabulary test, conducted a survey between the English professional and non-professional students, and aimed to identify the different learning strategies between the two, and their impact on vocabulary learning results.
1.Theories on English Learning Strategies
Wen Qiufang divides the strategies of English learners into two categories: management strategies and language learning strategies. Management strategies refer to the management of one’s learning activities, such as setting goals, making plans, selecting strategies, and self-controlling strategies. Language learning strategies include students’ opinion on how to master the language knowledge, language skills and interpersonal skills. They include functional-training strategy, mother-tongue-reliant strategy, repetition strategy, etc.
O ’Malley and Chamot offer another strategy division at two levels: metacognitive strategies and cognitive strategies. The former can be divided into four kinds: planning, self-evaluation, self-censorship and selective attention. The latter can be divided into sub-rote strategy, classification strategy, the context strategy, dictionary looking-up strategy, guessing strategy, exercises practicing strategy and association strategy.
Vocabulary learning is the fundamental step of English study, especially for the non-English majors. Mastering suitable vocabulary learning strategies plays a particularly important function. The questionnaire results of vocabulary growth and Vocabulary Learning Strategies by Zhao xincheng show the situation of 71 non-English major students in one year. 1. The vocabulary growth has a significant correlation with management strategies and word-association strategies. At the same time, the association strategies have a forecast for the growth of vocabulary. 2. There are some differences in the use of vocabulary learning strategies between the high points group and the low one. 3. In the process of vocabulary learning, the high points group uses more cognitive resources in vocabulary processing.
Yuan Fengshi’s study attempts to investigate the difference in the use of language learning strategies (LLS) between 515 non-English majors and 317 English majors and the correlation with their academic achievement in English. Analysis indicates that significant differences exist in all LLS between the two groups. Their LLS and their respective CET4 and TEM4 scores show certain correlations.
Feng Yufang’s paper reports an empirical study on various kinds of vocabulary learning strategies employed by the English majors at different proficiency levels in the Chinese context. The subjects are first-year and third-year English majors from Yanzhou University。The author found the English majors use variety of vocabulary learning strategies, and different proficiency level students use different vocabulary learning strategies. There exists a certain correlation between vocabulary learning strategies and vocabulary size
2. Study Methods
2.1 Study Objects
The study is designed to answer the following questions:
1) Is learners’ vocabulary relevant to their academic performance?
2) Are there any relevance between one’s vocabulary strategies and vocabulary?
3) Are there any relevance between one’s vocabulary size and academic achievement?
4) Are there any difference in vocabulary strategy using between English major and non-English major?
5) Will gender cause difference in vocabulary strategy using?
6) Will vocabulary learning concepts influence vocabulary strategy using?
7) Will vocabulary strategies influence vocabulary size?
8) Will vocabulary strategies influence the academic achievements?
2.2 Study Subjects
There are 39 non-professional freshmen participating in the investigation, 11 girl students and 28 boy students. And 26 English major seniors participated, 23 girls and 3 boys. Almost all the students come from Zhejiang University of Science and Technology.
2.3 Study Tools
2.3.1 Vocabulary Learning Strategies Survey
The Vocabulary Learning Strategies survey can be divided into three parts: First, personal information, including sex, major, grade; Second, the vocabulary learning concepts; Third, the vocabulary learning strategies, including mother-tongue-reliant strategy , initial memory strategy, inference strategy, consolidation memory strategy, communication strategy, extra-curricular development strategy, planning strategy. The options of the second part adopt a 7 points system (1~7). Such as 1= absolutely disagree; 2= disagree; 3= tend to disagree; 4= Neutral 5= tend to agree; 6= agree 7= absolutely agree. The options of the third part adopt a 5 points system (1~5). Such as 1= never or rarely; 2= usually not; 3= sometimes; 4= usually; 5= always. The questionnaire is attached in appendix.
Term Concept No. of Questions
Emphasis Q. 1
Difficulty Q. 2
Reading Q. 3
Rote Q. 4
Strategies No. of Questions
Mother-tongue-reliant strategy Q.3,4
Initial memory strategy Q.13,1,16,2,17,18
Inference strategy Q.19,11,7
Consolidation memory strategy Q.20,10,21,5.
Communication strategy Q.9,8
Extra-curricular development strategy Q.15,12
Planning strategy Q.6,14
2.3.2 Vocabulary Evaluation
There are 80 words in the vocabulary test, which is from the appendix of New English-Chinese dictionary by Lu gusun. The students need to write down the Chinese meaning of the known words, and if he writes down a correct meaning, he gets one point. The final Vocabulary equivalent is the scores multiplying 300.
2.4 Data Analysis
The questionnaires were sent and collected in April, 2008. There are 87 valid questionnaires in all. The statistic software SPSS is used to calculate the mean points of each scored learning strategy, the independent samples T-tests and correlation to the data.