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Learners of English as a Second language and Vocabulary Building

Learners of English as a Second language (ESL), have an undeniable need for new and varied vocabulary. The onus of doing so invariably falls on the school/institute of the teacher, with the home and social environment of these learners not being equipped enough to provide them with English speaking opportunities.

Increasing the need and opportunity for the ESL learners to communicate in English is a sure shot strategy to enhance their proficiency in the language. As a teacher, one should ensure that not only opportunities to improve their social English but also chances to expand their academic English are provided to these learners. While providing them with newer yet achievable challenges to scale the next milestone in English language learning, sensitivity to ESL learners’ fear of making mistakes should be ensured.

The English language teacher will need to adopt other strategies also to enrich the level of vocabulary of the English as a Second Language learners. Reading out aloud both narratives and expository formats, to the students is one such method that can be adopted for developing their vocabulary. The learners through this means get an exposure to the use of words in context, while also getting the chance to listen to its correct pronunciation. The vocabulary so learnt is more effective than isolated memorization.

Modelling the correct use of various language elements like grammar, pronunciation, sentence structure or word order is another popular and effective strategy to improve their vocabulary use. The ESL teacher, instead of reprimanding the learners for the errors made by the English as a Second Language learners while speaking in English, can while on one hand reaffirming the thought they want to convey, on the other hand say the word or sentence correctly. This will help the learners positively gain a new word or sets of words to add to their active vocabulary.

Certain strategies can be used by the teacher to enhance the vocabulary of ESL learners who have already attained basic proficiency in English as their language in use. Introducing the use of figurative and literal vocabulary can be done by gradually slipping in idioms, proverbs, phrasal verbs, and other figures of speech into the language used in the closed environment of the classroom. The ESL teacher by sprinkling such language enriching elements allows the learners to adopt them into their day to day use.

Use of suffixes and prefixes to increase their vocabulary database can also be introduced over a period of time. The teacher can show them how the use of various suffixes and prefixes to a base word can create new words. She can also through the use of suffixes and prefixes teach the students the art of infering the meaning of new words.

In short, there are various simple yet effective strategies to teach and enhance the vocabulary of the English as a Second Language learners. An audio-based software helps achieving this purpose. A good English Language lab would surely cater to this need of language learning, which when used strategically by the ESL teacher will undoubtedly make the efforts of the teacher in improving the vocabulary of her students worthwhile.