Taiwanese university English majors' beleifs [i.e. beliefs] about English dictionaries and their dictionary strategy use

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Date

2003-05

Authors

Huang, Dafu

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Abstract

In the context of learning English as a foreign language in Taiwan where the influence of the grammar-translation teaching method is deep-rooted in learners' beliefs, English dictionaries are considered a necessary and important learning aid in translation and expansion of English vocabulary. Although English learners in Taiwan clearly rely on dictionaries during different learning stages, and dictionary use constitutes an integral part of learners' reading and writing activities, our understanding is fairly limited as to how learners use dictionaries and why they use them as they do. Thus, this study investigated Taiwanese university English majors' dictionary beliefs, their dictionary strategy use, the relationship between their dictionary beliefs and strategies, the effect of English proficiency on dictionary beliefs and strategies, and the relationships among these learner variables. A total of 414 Taiwanese university English majors completed survey instruments developed for this study. Two major instruments were employed to assess the participants' dictionary beliefs and their dictionary strategies: (1) the Belief About English Dictionary Questionnaire (BAEDQ), and (2) the English Dictionary Strategy Questionnaire (EDSQ). To triangulate the quantitative data and clarify the contexts of students' dictionary use and their lookup behaviors, interviews were conducted with six proficient and six less proficient English students. The quantitative results suggest that: (1) learners believed that using dictionaries was necessary to facilitate English learning; (2) learners used memory, metacognitive, general cognitive, and task-bound cognitive strategies widely for translation aid and conscious learning of vocabulary, (3) learners' dictionary beliefs were associated with their use of dictionary strategies, (4) high proficiency learners tended to use more effective or thoughtful dictionary strategies than low proficiency learners, (5) high proficiency learners tended to have stronger motivation for dictionary use, better lookup skills, and to consult more types of dictionaries and use more kinds of dictionary information. The results of this study suggest a positive perspective on dictionary use in foreign language learning than typically. Understanding students' dictionary beliefs and strategy use may also enable EFL teachers to help students develop effective learning strategies and ultimately improve their English abilities.

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