Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education


Date of this Version



Published in Diverse by Design: Selected Papers from the 2009 Central States Conference, eds. Carolyn Gascoigne and melanie Bloom (Eau Claire, WI: Crown Prints), pp. 1-16.


Copyright © 2009 Central States Conference on the Teacing of Foreign Languages


Vocabulary is central to the learning and teaching of a second language as it affords learners access to all forms of oral and written communication that includes literature, music, and content knowledge. Word knowledge is power as words serve as building blocks to learning. Vocabulary building often occurs through reading; however, in the foreign language classroom due to the heavy concept load involved in reading a second language it is unlikely that students will acquire the essential vocabulary needed to comprehend the content and information they encounter in many texts. One of the major roles of the teacher then becomes to assist students to learn vocabulary as well as to equip them with strategies for learning words. This article addresses the following questions: How can vocabulary be taught efficiently in a way that engages the learner and promotes long-term retention for easy retrieval for future communication? What types of input and tasks can the teacher provide her learners in order to move vocabulary from input to intake and into the developing system in order to retrieve this information as needed for output? How is vocabulary best introduced and practiced to ensure optimal retention?