Principles of vocabulary teaching

3rd December 2019 : 13:00 - 14:00

Category: Seminar

Research Group: Applied Linguistics

Speaker: Norbert Schmitt, University of Nottingham

Location: Department of Education, Seminar Room G/H

Convener: Hamish Chalmers

Applied Linguistics Lunchtime Seminar Series


All teachers realise that their students need to know vocabulary in order to function in English. But the best way to best help our students learn this vocabulary remains an unresolved issue. Some commentators (such as Stephen Krashen, 1985) assert that sufficient vocabulary can be learnt simply from exposure to English, particularly reading. Other commentators (such as Batia Laufer, 2005) argue that much vocabulary needs to be taught. As is usually the case, some middle ground is probably the best course. This would include maximum exposure to English, both inside and outside the classroom, and also explicit teaching of selected vocabulary. There is also the question of how to carry out the explicit teaching: what are the most effective teaching techniques and tasks? Luckily, there has been an explosion of research into second language vocabulary learning in the last 25 years, and this presentation will discuss some of the key findings. I will introduce some of the key principles for vocabulary teaching that have come out of this research, and also look at the case for teaching English as a Second Language in today’s world.


Norbert Schmitt began his career in 1988 as an EFL teacher in Japan and quickly became interested in how language learners acquire their second languages. During his Masters study at Temple University, Japan, he began researching how students learn vocabulary in particular. He extended this interest in vocabulary through his PhD research at the University of Nottingham in 1994. Upon completion of his PhD in 1997, he joined the University of Nottingham staff, and became colleagues with the two prominent vocabulary specialists already there (Professor Ronald Carter and Professor Michael McCarthy).

Prof. Schmitt has researched second language vocabulary issues for nearly 25 years, and his interests have broadened to all aspects of lexical study, including vocabulary testing, formulaic language, corpus-based research, and the interface between vocabulary knowledge and the ability to read and listen in English.


In 2019, the University of Oxford’s Department of Education celebrates the 100th year since the passing of a statute creating what was known in 1919 as the University Department for the Training of Teachers. To celebrate our centenary a year-long series of activities will be delivered to address some of the department’s top initiatives for 2019, answer some of the big questions facing education today and to reveal the advancements the department has made to the study of and research in the field of education. Join us as we mark our 100th year and discover more about our anniversary here.

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