Vocabulary learning through reading: Does an ELT course book provide good opportunities?


English was introduced in Malaysia through the colonial education system by the British. It is learned as a second language in both primary and secondary schools (Hiew, 2012). At the higher learning level, students are required to register for a stipulated credit hour of English courses based on the results of tests administered by the Malaysian University English Test (Hiew, 2012). In Malaysia, children, especially those residing in rural areas experience contacts with English language only during English classes (Musa, Lie, & Azman, 2012). English language learning highly focuses on mastering listening, reading, writing and speaking skills (Musa, Lie, & Azman, 2012). Classroom activities mainly involve reading comprehensions, answering questions and essay writing with limited listening and speaking (Musa, Lie, & Azman, 2012). Most Malaysian students fail to attain reasonable English literacy, even after at least eleven years of learning English in school. The government strategy is to import labor by bringing native-speaking teachers who will enhance the teaching of English in schools ( Musa, Lie, & Azman, 2012). The suggestion implied by this decision is that there is a dire need to upgrade English language standards in the country. This paper discusses the relevance of vocabulary learning through reading with pedagogical implications in Malaysian schools English language teaching (ELT) context.

The ELT curriculum in Malaysia has undergone various transformations as a result of globalization needs (Selvaraj, 2010). Among initial steps for English upgrade was the introduction of a tougher public English examination known as English 1119 that is based on O-level syllabus set by the Cambridge examination syndicate. The new curriculum includes direct writing, summarizing, and continuous writing ( Selvaraj, 2010). The literature component includes poems, short stories, and novels. Content incorporated language teaching was introduced to cope with the development in the grounds of science and technology. Selvaraj (2010) recommends the use of communicative skills for implementing the new syllabus. Malaysia’s current pedagogical implication indicates a shift from the traditional teacher-centered teaching model to a student-centered one (Dass & Ferguson, 2002).


Matsuoka and Hirsh (2010) research identifies that there is a strong link between vocabulary knowledge and reading comprehensions. English being a second language in Malaysia has a high relationship between vocabulary and the measures of reading (Matsuoka & Hirsh, 2010). The measures of reading are paragraph comprehension and close task as stated by Matsuoka and Hirsh (2010) in their literature review (p.1). The findings further indicate that proficiency in vocabulary significantly increases proficiency in reading…..

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