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A Literature Review of Vocabulary Learning in CALL Environments

Free «A Literature Review of Vocabulary Learning in CALL Environments» Essay Sample

CALL refers to the application of computer in the process of teaching and learning a second (L2) or a foreign language (Shao 2012, p. 202). According to Son (2001, p. 28), the language training applying computers (CALL) helps ease a learning process for both learners and teachers of second and foreign languages. It is due to the fact that teaching and learning involves the application of a courseware that offers several on-screen activities in few ways. Shao (2012, p. 2002) also observes that training in CALL environments takes an advantage of the fast growing technological advancements to ease the study process. However, Shao (2012, p. 202) justifies the consistency in the definitions of CALL by making reference to the term used by Hu Zhuanglin. He has defined CALL as the use of computers in a language learning environment. Further, Son (2001, p. 28) states that there has been a lot of interest among researchers about computer assisted study processes. While making references to different journal articles, this literature review seeks to give an overview of vocabulary learning in CALL environments.

Development and Application of Lexical CALL Programs

Several researchers have worked to provide the direction on how to design CALL programs for teaching and learning of vocabulary. Son (2001, p. 28) states that the related programs that are designed to be applied for lexical learning are created in the following way. They can attend to and facilitate the learners’ need to develop a manageable degree of the second language (L2) lexicon, enhance the level of interaction in the identification, process, and practice the words being involved. Meanwhile the programs facilitate L2 and foreign language learning and teaching by improving in-depth schooling and to make the study focused on the language structure be something less exhausting. It also helps in the data development and recording on the approaches applied in learning languages, results, difficulties, and achievements of the learning process (Son, 2001, p. 28). The author, Son (2001), identifies a sample program used in language learning environments. He refers to such that has been developed with the application of the hyper card and applied in learning a wide range of languages including German, French, and English. Son (2001, p. 28) as well identifies another program used in the CALL learning environment known as online Kanji dictionary.

Loucky (2006, p.367) states that there has been much focus on the active roles that learners should be playing when learning L2 or a foreign language. As such, the author (Loucky, 2006, p. 367) suggests that language teachers and other stakeholders in such study surroundings have made massive efforts in the development of viable strategies. They have also come up with more communicative methods of teaching that can facilitate L2 schooling or learning the foreign language. All these ones have been witnessed over the past 30 years. From this argument, it is clear that L2 and learning the foreign language is more effective in CALL environments. The reason is that the computer based programs that are designed to aid in lexicon development and practice are interactive in nature. They give learners an opportunity to practice the language and improve their areas of weaknesses. The process of learning and training can go on in the absence of a tutor. The programs that are developed to facilitate any learning process are developed to provideinstructions to be followed by learners (Rusanganwa, 2015, p. 100). As such, the computer based programs satisfy the needs that Loucky (2006, p. 367) defines as the essence of empowering students and making them define greater authority and confidence in the L2 and foreign language learning process.

According to Johnson and Heffernan (2006, p. 64), vocabulary teaching by the use of online databases is more effective. Such vocabulary storages are effective tools for teaching and learning words in L2 and foreign languages. The author gives an example of such database that is applied by English trailers. These ones have several words, lexical items, and scripts that help students in the language learning process. Words, phrases, and lexical items are stored in the database. Therefore, students can retrieve them whenever they intend to learn or confirm any word or phrase during the learning process. Johnson and Heffernan (2006, p. 64) also state the following fact. In case of an additional trailer to the site, a database search helps to identify the words that are already in the storage and such ones being not in the system (Johnson and Heffernan 2006, p. 64).

Al-Jarf (2000, p. 1) states that the CALL provides self-access, as well as individualized and interactive modes of instruction that have been applied by many research studies. For example, the author identifies computer software designed to facilitate Kanji learning in a self-centered mode of study. The research done to examine the implications of use of computer in learning L2 and foreign languages has showed the following fact. Students that have used the multimedia tool to learn languages performed better in a learning process. Al-Jarf (2000, p. 1) explains this finding by stating as follows. The students who developed some interest in using the computer based language learning program have performed better due to the affection towards target languages. To further explain this finding, it is important to review some factors that come in play in the learning process of L2 and foreign languages.

Age is a significant factor that determines the easiness with which a language learner can develop proficiency in the L2 language study. As opposed to the first one L1 that children accept at a tender age (below 12 years), L2, and foreign language training take place at a later stage when the learners’ brain has been fully developed (after 12 years). As such, the interest that Al-Jarf (2000, p. 1) appreciates in students using computer programs is essential in facilitating L2 and foreign language learning after attaining 12 years and above.

Use of Online Lexical Resources

Son (2001, p. 29) states that a lot of importance is attached to the use of dictionaries in the process of language learning. The dictionary application is in itself a strategy that teachers of L2 focus on. It is identified as such that improves the process of reading through increasing the easiness with which students understand the language. Son (2001, p. 29) refers to the statement by Hosenfeld et al. (1981) that suggests the following fact. Language learners should know when to use a dictionary during the learning process.

Comparing a paper vocabulary to a computerized one used in CALL learning environments, Son (2001, p. 29) states the following fact. Paper dictionaries help language learners as they give references being sequentially printed from a start to an end. The author identifies an aadditional feature in computerized vocabularies that make them more effective in L2 and foreign language learning. These ones give opportunities to learners to get auditory and visual information being presented in a textual and graphical form with an auditory advantage. The latter one is provided where students go through several paths of exploration (Taylor 2013, p. 67). Son (2001, p. 29) also argues in support of computerized dictionaries stating that they offer learners a more detailed explanation of words. Students are able to explore every phrase in details to add to the essential data provided in initial links. When conducting the research to get teachers’ perception on the use of computerized dictionaries, Dashtestani (2013, p. 58) documents a response given by a teacher from his respondents. He has stated that using electronic vocabularies alongside other facilities makes the learning process effective.

Shao (2012, p. 203) summarizes the importance of vocabulary learning in CALL environments based on four categories. First, the author identifies the surrounding to help in ensuring efficiency of the learning process due to the application of the media combination. According to Shao (2012, p. 203), language teachers have adopted multimedia in teaching. The author lists such forms used in vocabulary learning. They include the combination of written texts and videos, pictures and sound devices being installed or brought in a learning environment to facilitate the process. According to Shao (2012, p. 203), “multimedia offers the ability to exist within the same space.”

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Shao (2012, p. 203) also attributes effectiveness of vocabulary learning in the CALL environment to the interactive nature of the learning process. When schooling by use of computer-delivered materials, learners are able to work alone in their groups and effectively use such reference materials. It makes students take control of the learning process hence boosting their ability to understand and retain vocabularies that they acquire. Other importance is its non-judgmental nature and efficiency (Shao, 2012, p. 203). The author states that the learning process is free from the public loss of face. Efficiency is evaluated with respect to the time taken to access the information on the meaning of the vocabulary, its usage, and the easiness of navigation to get to the dictionaries. Shao (2012, p. 203) states that pupils can accept more vocabularies in a CALL environment after mastering the relevant software and how to navigate it (Prince 2012, p. 113).


The illustrations given in this literature review justify that vocabulary learning in CALL environments is very effective. The schooling surrounding presents an opportunity for L2 pupils and learners of foreign languages to develop autonomy of the learning process. In this way, they freely interact with training tools and correct their errors without any victimization from other students and teachers. Student centered language learning is effective. The reason is that because when they are given opportunities to assist in creation of annotations for target words, they understand words better than when the annotations are given to them. CALL environments increase their motivation and interest in the learning process due to additional features provided by the multimedia. Such ones include audio and visual applications that make the learning process more practical, memorable, and interesting.

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