Killing more than two birds with one stone: Teaching topical vocabulary through idioms

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Anastasia S. Syunina
Iskander E. Yarmakeev
Tatiana S. Pimenova
Albina R. Abdrafikova


A great number of researches underlie a big role idioms play in teaching foreign languages. While a great deal of these researches focuses on the positive impact idioms play in the English classroom, there is a need for more empirical research aimed at teaching idiomatic language purposefully [1]. According to the reviewed literature, no study has investigated the use of idioms, in the classroom and/ or over an entire course, to explicitly teach topical vocabulary. A tentative assumption that learning vocabulary in context is easier and more efficient, which was based on the evidence from the classroom, became a starting point for this study. The leading research method was a three-stage experiment. To successfully conduct the experiment, there were compiled a list of an active vocabulary and a list of English idioms that contain this vocabulary. All these were to meet the syllabus topics. Sixty two school students were observed in this experiment. The obtained results were positive, indicating the fact that teaching vocabulary in idiomatic expressions turned out to be more appealing to learners and more effective than “teaching laundry lists of vocabulary alone” [2: 18]. The paper discusses issues and practices of teaching topical vocabulary in EFL class and offers general recommendations for foreign language instructors.

Keywords: EFL class, experiment, learning vocabulary in context, syllabus topics, teaching vocabulary through idioms, topical vocabulary.


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