Vocabulary in ESL Reading: A Narrative Self-Study by Tutoring an Arabic-Speaking Syrian Woman


  • Yushuo Zhang Memorial University of Newfoundland


Vocabulary learning is of great importance for learners’ language acquisition. All language learners learn new words through receptive skills: listening and reading. Of the two, reading has the advantage of providing visual information and more time for learners to remember and consolidate unfamiliar words. This narrative emphasizes the important role of vocabulary in reading activities, and delineates three factors that more or less contribute to vocabulary growth through reading, namely morphological awareness, learning vocabulary in context, and extensive reading. A narrative methodology was employed in a self-study research project, in which a 35-year-old Arabic-speaking woman was tutored. Based on the theoretical knowledge and the literature she had learned and reviewed, the author explored the practical effectiveness of the reviewed pedagogies for teaching vocabulary and reading. This research did not only further deepen the author’s understanding of second language vocabulary teaching and learning through reading, but also stimulated her passion for exploring the cycle of research, praxis, and reflection. In addition, in light of her learning and teaching experience, the author called for explicit vocabulary instruction besides incidental vocabulary learning through reading. She also emphasized the enormous influence of bilingual dictionaries and vocabulary notebooks on vocabulary growth. Emerging issues and implications of this self-study process were also discussed.

Keywords: ESL reading; vocabulary; morphological awareness; incidental learning; extensive reading.