Teaching L2 Vocabulary: What Goes on in the ESL Classroom?


  • Alice Su Chu Wong Academy of Language Studies Universiti Teknologi MARA, Sabah
  • Jocelyn Yee Vun Lee Academy of Language Studies Universiti Teknologi MARA, Sabah


ESL learners, vocabulary instructions, Malaysian ESL classroom, L2 vocabulary acquisition


Students’ lack of vocabulary knowledge has been an on-going concern among English as a Second Language (ESL) practitioners. Despite the consensus on the critical role of vocabulary instruction in language learning, many studies argue that teachers often dismiss vocabulary to focus more on grammar, reading and writing. It is unclear whether this neglect is due to overemphasis on exam- oriented system or teachers’ lack of awareness of lexical importance. The present study aims to investigate the vocabulary teaching strategies of twenty secondary school teachers and the pedagogical challenges they face in the classroom. A descriptive research design was employed, where data were gathered through a qualitative survey in the form of open-ended interview questions. Using grounded theory analysis (Charmaz, 2006) the data were then categorized and coded using thematic analysis. Findings from the current work suggest that teachers considered vocabulary to be significant, but they do not have a grounded approach in teaching it. Instead, they rely on a limited range of approaches in the classroom. Practical implications for effective vocabulary instructions in the ESL classroom are presented.