The current study provides some insights into the hypothesis of incidental vocabulary learning (i.e., learning vocabulary as a by-product of reading or listening). The study is motivated by the question of how feasible it is for EFL learners to comprehend unfamiliar multiword units, idioms in the case of this study, by means of guessing from context, lexical inferencing, during the reading of authentic texts (i.e., the texts written for the speakers of a particular language, not especially written for the non-native speakers or the learners of that language).
Using qualitative and quantitative methods, the current study seeks to: (a) provide a tentative assessment of the efficiency with which a sample of Arab EFL-majoring students guess at the meaning of idioms (e.g., to talk shop, red tape, hard somebody's heel and by the skin of somebody's teeth), (b) identify the techniques that the sample learners use while guessing, and (c) assess the effectiveness of such techniques.
The subjects read a sample of short authentic texts that were retrieved from different websites. Moreover, the subjects were asked to: (a) report whether or not they were familiar with the sample idioms, (b) provide the meaning of these idioms in writing, and (c) report on how they attempted to guess the meaning of the unfamiliar idioms.
On one hand, the subjects were unable to come up with correct guesses in nearly half the number of the items that contained unfamiliar idioms; on the other hand, the subjects provided correct or partially correct guesses in the rest of the items. The subjects used a wide range of techniques that involved one or more of the following: idiom constituents, sentences (or phrases), the subjects' own mental images of idioms, metaphor, the whole text, the topics of the sample texts, subjects' L1, context, paragraphs, keywords and even wild guessing. In general, none of the techniques was more effective than the other was for guessing the meaning of the idioms.
In light of the findings, guessing from context during the reading of authentic texts can be one of the major sources of learning the meaning of idioms; yet, on its own, it does not seem to be enough for an optimal knowledge of the meaning of idioms.
|School:||University of Bahrain (Bahrain)|
|Source:||MAI 46/04M, Masters Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Language arts, Linguistics, Literacy, Reading instruction|
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