The Journal, Volume 7, 2000

Selected articles from the November 1999 TESOL France Colloquium: "Words, Words, Words... Le poids des mots".

Download the introduction and editor's notes here.


1. Vocabulary Acquisition for a Lifetime: How do children do it?
Susan H. Foster-Cohen
Download the article here.
2. Le lexique comme système : contrastes anglais-français
Michel Paillard
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3. Les principes de base de la formation des mots
Jean Tournier
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4. Lexical Varieties : Speech Acts, Institutionalized Expressions and Teaching Functional Language
Preston Perlus
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5. Lexical Learning: What Do Teachers and Students Need to Know about a Word or Lexical Expression?
Dennis Davy
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6. Words: What are They, Which to Teach and How to Teach Them?
Felicity O'Dell
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7. The Business Vocabox: Activities for Developing and Activating Vocabulary in the Business English Classroom
Johanna Stirling
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8. Exploiting the Exposé: A User's Guide
Cheryl Lee Caesar
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9. Stories in Language Teaching
Andrew Wright
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by Sally Bosworth Gérôme, Editor

One does not usually think of fashion when one thinks of language teaching but unfortunately the pressure to follow the latest style in clothing is not very different from the pressure an EFL teacher feels in the classroom. At some periods the teacher is pushed into focusing on grammar and structure, at other points the pressure is to teach communicative techniques. Until recently, vocabulary learning has been out of style. Vocabulary lists to be learned by heart were (fortunately) a thing of the past and no one had come up with very many interesting ways to go beyond them.
By drawing attention to "words", the 1999 TESOL France Colloquium went beyond the unfashionable vocabulary learning class to look at the problem from a variety of levels. Some of the conference centered on the more practical aspects proposing ways to teach the acquisition of new words in the classroom, but many workshops and speeches approached the subject through a discussion of research in the fields of word formation, language acquisition in general, and the importance of institutionalized utterances.

What better way to begin a journal on "Words, words, words... 'le poids des mots" than with Susan Foster Cohen's article on how we learn our first words. Luckily children are not the only successful word learners. This article explains that adults too are successful in developing both their mother tongue and their second language vocabulary and that they face many of the same problems children do.
Where do these words come from? How do words become part of a language? Michel Paillard's explanation of how words are formed in both French and English is original and interesting. Learning about this process is one way to approach learning the vocabulary of a foreign language.

Jean Tournier studies word formation from a slightly different angle. His diagram on how a word goes from the fuzzy area of the potential lexis to become an officially recognized part of the lexicon is helpful for visualizing the process.

Fortunately, one of the present fashions of EFL course books is to include extensive exercises on what are often called "word partnerships". Research has shown that these multi-unit items are not only fundamental in initial vocabulary acquisition but also are somehow organized and stored in our memories for later retrieval. Preston Perluss describes the use of these institutionalized expressions in speech acts.

For both those who have been interested in lexical learning for a long time and those who are beginners in the field, Dennis Davy provides the link between the articles on lexical research and the more pedagogical articles on how to teach vocabulary. Starting from many of the aspects discussed in the previous articles, Dennis Davy gives both teachers and students food for thought concerning vocabulary.
Felicity O'Dell looks at what is special about teaching and learning vocabulary in comparison with teaching and learning grammar. How can we help our learners to retain the words they need? Having gained a passive understanding of words, how can students then transfer that lexis from their passive to their active vocabularies? What can we as teachers do to facilitate that process in our learners?
A TESOL Journal would not be complete without some really practical activities that can be used directly in the classroom. Johanna Stirling provides just that with ideas on how vocabulary that has already been presented in the normal course of the business classroom can be reactivated. The activities proposed are not at all limited to business English but could be used in any context.

Cheryl Lee Caesar has enriched her oral presentation classes by finding ways to help her students to learn all the wealth of vocabulary that they encounter during each presentation. By making this type of class more communicative, she helps students to benefit more from the varied input.
It is fitting that this journal arrive at its conclusion in the same way that the colloquium came to a close. Andrew Wright believes that our bodies are made of the food we have eaten and our minds of the stories we have heard. His article convincingly argues that stories provide language teachers with the opportunity to contribute to the development of their students. Stories not only offer raw material to improve vocabulary but as Andrew Wright says, "We are who we are through stories."

This journal is particularly diversified with authors from many different countries and origins. They each offer a fresh perspective on the vast subject of vocabulary acquisition. New technologies have provided vast data bases of "words", radically changed research in the field. The EFL teacher now has a unprecedented opportunity to more efficiently help his or her students.

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