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Vocabulary Component Of Language

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Language
Wordcount: 5331 words Published: 16th May 2017

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Vocabulary is an important component of language knowledge because without knowing lots of vocabulary students will get difficulty when they express their ideas. As Zhihong (2000:18) said, “Without a sufficient vocabulary, one cannot communicate effectively or express ideas.” It means that having limited vocabulary might cause difficulty for students as foreign language learners to communicate with others and express their ideas. They might be stuck when using the language.

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According to Luppescu and Day (1993: 266),” Building a large vocabulary is essential when learning English because people with large vocabularies are more proficient than those with limited vocabularies.” In other words, when students have lots of vocabulary, they can communicate relatively well than those who lack of vocabulary. Thus, students should have enough English vocabulary in order to be able to undertake their studies successfully.

Having lots of English vocabulary is important for anyone who wants to use the language. Decarrico (2001: 205) states, “Vocabulary learning is central to language acquisition, whether first, second, or foreign.” It means that learning vocabulary is the prior component that must be given to the students during their study of the language. They must he exposed with the vocabulary of the language they are studying. Thus, teachers are expected to develop their students’




vocabulary by giving them the techniques or strategies of learning vocabulary. In the same fashion, students are also expected to have their own strategies in learning vocabulary. According to August and her colleagues (available at pwww.readinrockets.orWarticle/9943), vocabulary learning strategies include:

– Dictionary use

In this strategy, learners can find multiple word meanings as well as

importance of choosing the appropriate definition to fit the particular context.

– Morphemic Analysis

This strategy is the process of deriving a words’ meaning by analyzing its meaningful parts or morphemes. Such word parts include root words, prefixes

and suffixes.

– Contextual Analysis

It involves inferring the meaning of an unfamiliar word by scrutinizing the text surrounding it. Instruction in contextual analysis generally involves

teaching students to employ both generic and specific types of context clues.

They also suggest several strategies that appear to be especially valuable for building the vocabularies of English Language Learners. These strategies include taking advantage of students’ first language if the language shares cognates with English, teaching the meaning of basic words, and providing sufficient review and reinforcement. Based on the several strategies given above, it can be said that vocabulary learning strategies are specific actions taken by the learner to make


learning easier, faster, more enjoyable, more self directed, more effective, and more transferable to new situations.

Nation (1986:3) has listed 3,000 high-frequency English words and recommends these words as the basis of selection and order of vocabulary in teaching English at schools. He said that the learners of English as a foreign language need to master a productive knowledge and receptive knowledge of 1,000 and 2,000 high-frequency words. These skills will enable learners to communicate their ideas in the language they are studying whether in oral or written.

Nurweni and Read (1999: 161) conducted the study in Lampung and discovered that students had some knowledge of 1226 English words. They also cited several researches: Quin (1968) conducted a vocabulary size of High School students graduated in Salafga and discovered that the subjects knew less than 1,000 of the most frequent English words after six years of study in high school and another study conducted by Suwarno & Kartini (1998) in Bengkulu, they discovered that the students knew around 2,000 of the high-frequency words. All of the researches were about the vocabulary size of Indonesian learners especially students of High School (University level); the result showed that their vocabulary knowledge was still limited.

The recent researches about vocabulary knowledge were conducted by Karwuur (2005) and Kurniawati (2004:ii). Karwuur conducted her research by analyzing the junior high schools English textbooks. She analyzed three English textbooks used by junior high school levels and discovered that those books


contain 1196 high-frequency words out of 2000 high-frequency words listed in Nation (1986:10-80). Kurniawati conducted a study of vocabulary knowledge of junior high school stuqents in several state junior high schools in Jakarta and discovered that the students were estimated to know 819 words receptively and 409 words productively out of 1,000 and 2,000 vocabulary levels.

In Indonesia, English is a compulsory subject for students from elementary school to university level. As stated in the 1999 English Curriculum, students of junior high school are expected to have good language skills so that they are able to communicate well. Based on it, students in Junior High School level are expected to cover 1,000 words.

From all the research above, there has not been any research yet to discover the vocabulary size ofjunior high school based on English textbooks. The explanation above inspired the researcher to find out more about the size of students’ English vocabulary at Junior High School in Jakarta based on the vocabulary found in their textbooks used at Junior High School level.

1.2 Problem Statement

Based on the background of the study above, the researcher is interested in finding out the number of words known by the students of Junior High School based on their textbooks. The research question of this study is formulated as follow: How much is the size of the junior high school students’ knowledge of the English vocabulary learned from their textbooks?


1.3 Target Population

The population of my research is Junior High School (SMP) level students. From this population, the sample for this particular survey is the third level of SMP students. They are students who are taken from several private schools in Jakarta.

1.4 Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the study is to investigate the English vocabulary size of Junior High School students, especially those from private schools in Jakarta.

.1.5 Limitation of the study

This study is limited to third graders junior high school students located in Jakarta. The number of the students included is 311 students.

1.6 Weaknesses of the Study

The researcher realized that this study has some weaknesses. Among them are:

This study is emphasized only in English vocabulary size

There is no clear border between receptive and productive competence in order to measure vocabulary size ofjunior high school students


– The time taken is limited because the population was being prepared for the National examination, so that the researcher has limited time to take the data needed.

1.7 Benefit of the Study

Hopefully, this study gives information about the vocabulary size ofjunior high school students. It is expected that the information is useful as an input for English teachers to know their students’ English achievement especially their vocabulary. Thus, the teacher might be able to prepare the lesson with good techniques and strategies in order to lead the students more interested and motivated in expanding their vocabulary, especially the high-frequency words and studying English.





In this chapter, vocabulary in language learning will be firstly discussed, followed by testing vocabulary, then vocabulary selection and kinds of vocabulary size test. Finally, measuring vocabulary size will be explained in the last part of this chapter.

2.1. Vocabulary in Language Learning

Coady and Hicklin (1997:5) stated that, “Vocabulary is central to language and of critical important to the typical language learner.” Zhang Xi (1992:3 3) also says that, “Mastering vocabulary is an important aspect of learning a language.” It can be concluded that vocabulary is very crucial for the language learners to acquire and master. In English learning process vocabulary is still quite difficult for students to acquire new or unfamiliar words. In fact, if the students do not know enough words, it is impossible for students to understand ideas to express their thought. As Luppescu & Day (1993:265) said, “Building a large vocabulary is essential when learning language because learners with large vocabularies are more proficient than those with limited vocabularies.” It means that students will succeed if they have much vocabulary because they know what should they speak, write and they can comprehend what they hear and read. It is also supported by Anderson and Freebody (1981: 77), “Vocabulary knowledge is an excellent predictor of general language ability. In the language use, vocabulary becomes



important to them so it must be paid attention by both teachers and students.” In this case teachers have many roles in the process of teaching and learning vocabulary because not only the meaning of words but also the words knowledge whereas the students should be active in learning process. Harmer (199 1:242) states that, “In playing the role of facilitating, the teacher should always be ready to offer help if it is needed and is available whenever the students wish to consult them.” Thus, the teacher should make a good plan in teaching English especially vocabulary and prepare the lesson by using an interesting method.

Courtright and Wesolek in their research report (2001:3) indicate that, “It is an importance to incorporate interactive vocabulary activities into English classes. It can be designed to fulfill the following purposes”:

1. Exposure (concept of clarifying word meaning and illustrate appropriate usage)

2. Expansion (concept of using the appropriate word form in context)

3. Expression (concept of demonstrating word knowledge in either oral or written original expression using the target words)

While each of the three purposes should be covered at each level of language proficiency, the proportion of class time spent on activities for each purpose will vary according to the level of the students. At beginning levels like junior high school students for example, teachers tend to spend more time clarifying the meaning or exposing the students to the words and refining usage. Moreover the material and interesting media selection need to be given more


attention to the teachers as a facilitator in the learning process in order to increase the students’ vocabulary size.

In the learning process, the goal of learning plays an important role in the main point. As stated in the English curriculum ofjunior high school (Depdiknas 1999) that the goal of vocabulary learning of Junior high school student who use English as a foreign language is to prepare themselves with vocabulary that can be used in expressing idea and communicating with other people. Furthermore, they are also expected to master 1,000 words. The curriculum states both the number of words which should be acquired and the list of words that should be taught. In the other words, junior high school students are provided with the amount of vocabulary which is classified into some topics. Based on this reason, students need to prepare themselves with a good language skill in order.to be able to communicate their ideas in the target language both oral and written.

According to the foreign language teaching methodology, linguistic competence is generally categorized into skills that refer to both receptive competence (listening and reading) and productive competence (speaking and writing). As cited by Herudjati and Hendarti (2004:v), “The crucial role of teachers is to help students master the target language.” It means that the process of mastering the target language, the students need teacher’s role to fulfill final purpose of the learning language. In this case, the teachers as both motivators and facilitators must be wisely motivated, facilitated, and encouraged students to improve their productive competence. Thus the teachers’ role is very important to




motivate their students in learning vocabulary especially to stimulate the students in producing their vocabulary whether in oral or written language.

Besides teachers’ role, textbook usage is also one of important factors to support the learning process. According to Kizilirmak (1991 :47)”The textbook, after all, is the main resource of the material for most language teachers.” It was also agreed by Karwuur(2005:i3), that textbook is one of the teaching materials which is the most accessible and effective for most teachers to support their teaching programs. Thus, the students’ achievement should be considered with the role of the textbook usage during the learning process.

From the theory above, this study will be focused on the students’

vocabulary achievement based on their textbooks target.

2.2 Testing Vocabulary

According to Novozhilova (Available at:

jip://www. natek.freenet.kz/novozhilova.html), Testing is an important part of every teaching and learning experience. Well-made test of English can help students in at least two ways. First, such tests can help create positive attitudes toward the ciass. Second, English tests can benefit students is by helping them master the language. Properly, made English test can help create positive attitudes toward instruction by giving students a sense of accomplishment and a feeling that the teacher’s evaluation of them matches what he has taught them. It is also agreed by Nation (1999:8). He said that testing usually has two effects: (1) It provides information for the teacher and learners; (2) it influences the teacher’s



and learner’s attitudes. That is, testing can encourage learning and arouse interest in it.

Besides those effects of the testing above, good English tests also help students to learn the language by requiring them to study hard, emphasizing course objectives, and showing them where they need to improve. In other word, the result of tests can help teachers answer the important question “Have I been effective in my teaching?” It means that the tests can be used to diagnose our own efforts as well as those of our students. Then, test is beneficial for students, teachers, and even administrators by confirming progress that has been made and showing how can best redirect our future efforts. In addition, good test can sustain or enhance class morale and aid learning.

Test of language sub skills do not show exactly how well a person uses English, but they can help teachers diagnose students’ strengths and weaknesses in oral or written communication. Generally, language tests are simply instruments or procedures for gathering particular kinds of information, typically information related with students’ language abilities. In this case, the test of vocabulary is used to diagnose areas of student needs or sources of learning difficulties, to reflect on the effectiveness of materials and activities, and to encourage students’ involvement in the learning progress for further classroom- based applications of language test. Novozhiiova adds that’ the reasons for testing can be identified as follows:

1. Testing tells teachers what students can or cannot do-in order words, tests show the teachers how successful their teaching has been. It provides



wash-back from them to adjust and change course content and teaching style where necessary.

2. Testing tells students how well they are progressing. This may stimulate them to take learning more seriously.

3. By identifying students’ strength and weaknesses, testing can help identify areas for remedial work.

4. Testing will help evaluate the effectiveness of the program, course-books, material, and methods.

Thus, teaching and testing are two inseparable aspects of the teacher’s task. They have an essential role in developing the students’ communicative competence.

2.3 Vocabulary Selection

Vocabulary selection is related to the materials in used to enrich and develop students’ vocabulary. According to Read (2000:148) “Vocabulary size test is merely samples of items representing their perspective frequency level, not words that are of interest in their own right.” It means that to select the vocabulary that will be tested, the test taker must consider to the criteria of vocabulary selection. Karwuur (2005:10) notes that the selection of vocabulary should be based on the learners’ needs and the consideration of whether it is useful to them or not. Not to be different from them, Richards (200 1:7) said that there are two major criteria that should be considered by the teacher in selecting and organizing vocabulary from the classroom, they are; frequency and range of words. It is also


agreed by Nation (1990: 18-19) that frequency and range of the words are the main criteria in making selection of vocabulary for teaching learning in a class.

Moreover, vocabulary selection is also related to direct and indirect vocabulary learning. In direct vocabulary learning, the students do exercises and activity that focus their attention on vocabulary. Word-building exercises, guessing word from context, learning word in lists, and vocabulary games are included in direct vocabulary learning. In indirect vocabulary learning the students’ attention is focused in some other feature such as message that is conveyed by a speaker or writer. As cited in Nation (1999:2), Krashen (1981 a) said that those arethe input theory of language learning. Nation (1999:3) also states that there are four ways in selecting vocabulary. They are as follows:

I. Material is prepared with vocabulary learning as a consideration. In this case the selection and grading of vocabulary has been given a lot of attention before the course begins.

2. Words are dealt with as they happen to occur. It means that if an unknown word appears in the reading passage, the teacher gives some attention to it at the moment it causes a problem.

3. Vocabulary is taught in connection with other language activities. In other words, it should be concerned with real life.

4. Time is spent either in class or out of school.

From all the ways above it can be said that selecting words is not an easy

thing to do because there are not only some aspects determining the vocabulary



selection but also the curriculum guidance on English subject coveriiig the words should be taught and which should be left out.

Having good enough vocabulary influences the students in some ways:

they understand what they read, what they hear, what they want to say, and write. Because vocabulay is an important component in language learning, it is used in all ianguage skiHs whether in reading, listening, speaking, or writing. It can not be separated each other. Vocabulary learning in the Junior High School level needs more attentions because according to the previous researches found that the problem ofjunior high school students is they lack of vocabulary so they could have difficulties in both receptive and productive English skills. Therefore, this study focused on the words included in the junior high school textbooks used by the students; the result gained will indicate that the junior high school students have a progress in learning the vocabulary. The textbooks refer to the 1999 curriculum guidance.

2.4 Types of Vocabulary Size Test

Based on the frequency and the word range, Nation (2002:6) divided

vocabulary into 4 groups. They are:

I. High frequency words

High frequency words are words that occur frequently in running text or

speech of the native speaker. These words are very important so the students

should be familiar with those words.


2. Academic words

The academic words are the words that used in the common academic text.

3. Technical words

These words are closely related to the topic discussed.

4. Low frequency words

These kind of words are included all the words that are not high frequency

words, not academic words and not technical words for a particular subject.

He also says that the word-frequency counts help teachers and course designers in several ways. (a) They can help a teacher develop a feeling about which words are useful and should be given attention and which are infrequent. (b) They can provide a principled basis for developing words list for teaching, for designing graded courses and reading texts, and for preparing vocabulary test. (c) Where frequency counts give information on range, they are also useful for developing specialized words list. Thus, the vocabulary for the junior high school students that useful is high-frequency words which have a wide range.

The test is very important in order to know the students progressive and the teacher effectiveness in teaching learning process. There are several types of test that can be used to test the vocabulary size:

I. Multiple choice test

Cross the choice that gives the best meaning of the word

A tome 1. a rough split

2. a pain in the back


3. a large, heavy book

4. a type of horse

2. Yes/No or checklist test

Tick the words you know


achieve _____

survive _______

environment ______

3. Translation test

Translate the underline word into your first language.

A bird has two wings.

4. Matching items


private complete

royal first

slow not public



Those types of vocabulary test have the advantages and disadvantages. According to Nation (2001:81), they are:

Multiple-choice items

Multiple-choice items are difficult and need more time to make it but they are very quick and easy to score if the answers are clear. The test takers’ performance is too dependent on the choice of distracters and they tend to guess the answer.


2. The Y/N or checklist items

Are easy to make and score but this tent to make the test taker overestimate of their vocabulary knowledge.

3.. Translation items

The translation test are easy to produce and they ask the students to perform a task which is equal to what they do when reading or listening, but the scoring can be complicated and scorer need to know the students’ mother tongue.

4. Matching items

The matching items are quick and easy to produce but it gives the test taker an opportunity to guess whey they answer.

There are several types of test to measure students’ vocabulary size. In

choosing the suitable test type, the principles suggested by Nation (2001:345) are:

1. The test has plenty of items.

2. The test item type requires the learner to use the kind of vocabulary knowledge that wants to be tested.

3. The test is easy to make, mark, and interpret, and has good effect on the learning and teaching.

After the purposes and uses of the testing have been decided, the next point to consider is what kinds of information have to be known. In this case, to know the vocabulary size of the junior high school students, the researcher gave a test used to measure their vocabulary. Considering all the types of vocabulary size tests presented above, this study used translation test as a tool to measure


students’ vocabulary size. In this test, the students are expected to translate the target words given. As Rebecca (1990: 84) stated that, “Translating can be helpful strategy early in language learning, as long as it is used with care.” In this test, the students are allowed to use their own language as the basis for understanding what they hear or read in the new language. Thus, the English vocabulary size ofjunior high school students will be obtained.




This chapter incLudes research objective, the research methodology, the subjects of the study, target vocabulary, techniques of data collection method, and data analysis.

3.1. Research Objective

The aim of this research is to find out whether the students have the adequate vocabulary size. In order to know the size of the students’ vocabulary knowledge, the translation test was employed. The test is intended to measure how much the junior high school students know the vocabulary they learned from their English textbooks.

3.2. Research Methodology

The methodology used in this research is survey. As stated on the website available at http://www.socialresearchmethods.net/kb/survey.htm), survey research is one of the most important areas of measurement in applied social research. The broad area of survey research encompasses any measurement procedures that involve asking questions of respondents. In survey, the samples are highly preferred a big class. Denscombe (1992:22) stated that being enhanced representative of the samples and allows greater confidence to making generalization use the large sample.



3.3. Subject of the study

Subjects in this study were private Junior High School students in Jakarta. The subjects were taken from nine different private schools in Jakarta by using a purposive random sampling. The researcher took 9 schools out of 685 schools. The selection was based on their achievement in the national exam score. First, the researcher selected three private schools randomly that had the highest national exam score and classified them as high-level private schools. Then, the researcher selected another three private schools that had the average national exam score and classified them as medium-level schools. At the last, the researcher selected three private schools that had the lowest national exam score and classified them as low-level schools. One class was taken as a sample from each school. The main purpose of having high, medium, and low-level is to discover whether there is a significant difference in the achievement of the students vocabulary size learned from their textbooks.

3.4. Target Vocabulary

The target vocabulary was taken from the words in English textbooks for Junior High School. Before the sample was taken, the words were edited. Function words like the, a, to, in, that were not included in the test of this kind of words; articles, prepositions, pronouns, conjunctions, auxiliaries, etc.- are called as function words and seen as the grammar of the language. Thus the researcher sets out to test vocabulary by’ focusing on the content words as the target words.


The target vocabularies were selected from 2235 words which are used in Junior High School English textbooks. Following Thorndike and Lorge’s method

• of estimating vocabulary size as cited by Nation (1990:76), the researcher selected

every tenth word of the lists after the function words were elirninated. Consequently, there are 200 words tested to the participants.

3.5. Data Collection method

The translation test is employed to collect the data in order to know how many English words were known by the students. In the test, each target word was provided in the sentences which are underlined, then, the students were asked to write the meaning. in Indonesian on the answer sheet provided. The direction was also given in Indonesian.

The test consisted of 200 items. Each item consisted of one short-simple sentence in English in which the target word was underlined. The students were asked to write the meaning of the underlined word into Indonesian.

The translation test is as follows:



Tes mi dimaksudkan untuk mengetahui banyaknya kosakata yang telah saudara kuasai berdasarkan buku bahasa Inggris yang dipakai. Setiap soal terdiri atas satu kalimat yang di dalamnya terdapat satü kata yang digaris bawahi. Tuliskan makna kata tersebut dalam bahasa Indonesia pada lembar JAWABAN yang telah disediakan.

Coba kerjakan tes dibawah mi!

1. She uses a dictionary to check difficult words.

2. The room is dark,

3. She gave you an example.


There are two points in collecting the data, here are as follows:

3.5.1. Try Out of the Instrument

The pilot study was conducted to calculate the reliability and validity of the test. The try out was calculated by using the Spearman Brown Method. The try out result indicated that the reliability coefficient for translation test is 0,8 8. Thus, it can be said that the test was reliable.

The following is the formula of the Spearman Brown method:

– N-(X)(Y)


r11 = (i+rXy )


r = Pearson r

= the sum of score in X-distribution

-= the sum of score in Y-distribution

>XY = the sum of the products of pairs X- and Y-scores

= the sum of the squared scores in X-distribution

Y2 = the sum of the squared scores in Y-distribution

N = the number of paired X- and Y- scores (subjects)


Based on the computation, the result is 0.88, while the rt for N 20 IS 0:44. So the result of the validity and reliability is higher than

the critical r. It can be concluded that the test is valid and reliable enough to be used as a test instrument.

3.5.2. Scoring Test

The type of the test used in this study is the translation test. It is

used to identify whether the students knew the words in the textbooks they use.

Following Nurweni and Read’s study on vocabulary size of

Indonesian university students which also used translation test, there were four possible answers, which were acceptable, they are:

I. The answers gave a meaning of the word that was in relation to the context and grammatically correct.

2. The answer which gave a meaning of the word that was in relation with the context but it was grammatically incorrect.

3. The answer gave a meaning of the target word that was not in relation with the context but it was one possible meaning of the target word

and grammatically correct.

4. The answer gave a meaning that was not in relation with the context but it was one possible meaning of the target word and grammatically



In this study, the four different types of answer were all accepted as correct. For example: He is pjtin the room with blue colour. The answers might be: mengecat, cat, melukis, lukis. All the answers are considered correct. Every correc


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