involved (negative transfer). Some studies have beencarried out in order to analyze the facilitating effects of cognate words recognition whenreading in an L2. Authors such as Moss (1992) point out that, in the cases where the L1 andthe target language are historically related and share some helpful similarities, languagelearners should be systematically trained to take advantage of cognate words and therebyenhance their reading skills and their global understanding of the text.
As far as reading comprehension is concerned, Ringbom (1992), indicates that if the L2 is closelyrelated to the L1, the language learner will benefit from the existence of cognate words, given the fact that both, recognition and understanding of these words is less demandingthan completely alien words. In fact, many of these words are not eventually learned butthe formal similarity, especially in writing, helps the language learner to understand thetext and to accomplish a smooth reading but, conversely, there is little psycholinguisticprocessing. Rather, unconsciously, the language learner tends to consider cognate words asa help for his reading which do not require special attention. So, Ringbom (1992), introduces the idea of potential knowledge to refer to the learners’ knowledge or familiaritywith a word or grammar construction which, in fact, has not been seen before in the L2. Itgoes without saying that the closer the typological proximity between languages, the morechances the language learner has to find instances of this potential knowledge, at least asfar as receptive skills are concerned, i.e., listening and, especially, reading. Whereas theabsence of cognate words between the L1 and the L2 considerably reduces the amount of
‘familiar’ vocabulary that the language learner has access to, and the range between’active’ and ‘passive’ vocabulary diminishes considerably (Ringbom, 1992). Ringbom’sresearch centers on two languages which are rather close from a morpho-syntactic point ofview, i.e. English and French.
Ringbom (2001) divides various types of lexical transfer into two main blocks,transfer of form and transfer of meaning. The former type comprises mainly completelanguage switches and the use of deceptive cognates, which may be partially or totallydeceptive. The latter refers to other instances of lexical transfer like calques andsemantic extension on the basis of patterns in other languages (Ringbom, 2001). So, aswe can see in Ringbom’s classification, deceptive cognate words are broadly classifiedinto partial and total without further detail. Furthermore, this classification defines falsefriends, or deceptive cognates, as form-based transfer instead of as meaning-basedtransfer as suggested in Pinazo (1997).
FALSE FRIENDS IN EFL
In the same way as cognate words, or rather true cognates, bring about undeniable
Help in the development ofsome linguistic abilities in learners with specific linguisticbackgrounds, thereare also cognate words with a deceptive meaning, often known asdeceptivecognates or false friends, and which may entail a learning difficulty. Falsefriends are not exceedingly common in Persian-English but in some contexts, theyrepresent a true learning problem as they become rather frequent. So, although theiroccurrence is not too high, it is not so scarce either as not torequire special attention onthe part of researchers and language teachers. Arnold (1992) confirmed that not knowingthe meaning of some false friends inreading activities is potentially more dangerous thatnot knowing the meaning ofunfamiliar words, because in the former case studentsusually try to infer themeanings of those familiar words without checking them. Itshould also be takeninto consideration that when a language learner misunderstands afalse friend, itis very improbable that s/he will realize the mistake unless negativeevidence isprovided by means of explicit information (Lightbown and Spada 1993(. In relation to the degreeof difficulty in learning false friends, this may bedetermined by two inherentfeatures, that is, if they are total false friends or if they areonly partiallydeceptive. The first group comprises those false friends which have anutterlydifferent meaning in both languages (e.g.: Eng ‘Motorcycle’; Persian ‘motor’) whereas the second group, partial false friends, refers to polysemous words, oneowhose meanings is a false friend while another (or others) is a true cognateword (e.g.:Eng ‘Car key’ whereas Persian ‘switch’). It is preciselythis last type of false friends thatcan be most confusing for EFLstudents.Following this pedagogic perspective, Frantzen (1998), distinguishes two factors thatmay determine the degree of false friends’ difficulty: intrinsic and extrinsic factors. Intrinsicfactors emerge from theconfusing character of false friends per se, for example the fact thatsome ofthem have a deceptive meaning in all circumstances whereas some others may notbedeceptive in certain contexts. This factleads EFL students to a situation ofconsiderableuncertainty because, in some cases they are not confident if theirmeaning is misleading in all instances.
2.3. Vocabulary knowledge in L2
Few things have greater impact on how well one listens, speaks, reads and writes than the depth and breadth of one’s vocabulary knowledge. To be articulate, whether we are describing a person’s oral or written language skills, is to be a person who uses the most accurate and powerful word to express a concept. (Chris, 2004).
Many benefits result from having word power: the ability to better comprehend what is read, the ability to express oneself well when speaking or writing, and, of great interest in today’s political climate, the ability to score well on standardized and criterion-referenced tests of many kinds.
It is also clear that acquiring knowledge in all realms of learning – the natural and social sciences, the arts, and mathematics – requires one to master the meanings of the related technical vocabulary terms for that field. (Chris, 2004).
Words are the most central elements in the social system of communication (Labov, 1973). Words are tools of thought, and one will often find that one is thinking badly because he is using the wrong tools (Aitchison, 1989).Lewis (1990) points out the importance of vocabulary learning:
“Increasing ones vocabulary does not merely mean learning the definitions of a large number of words; it does not mean memorizing scores of unrelated terms-what it means- is becoming acquainted with the multitudinous and fascinating phenomenon of human existence for which words are, obviously, only the verbal descriptions (p.25).”
A Lot of Words to Learn
According to Chris (2004), estimates of the number of words that the average high school senior knows range from a high of 50,000 to a low of 17,000 (Nagy and Anderson, 1984; D’Anna et al., 1991). This translates to learning 3,000 to 4,000 new words a year for English speakers. Second language learners have an even greater vocabulary acquisition task in front of them (Garcha, 2003; Hirsh and Nation, 1992).
Students from low-income backgrounds also tend to have limited vocabularies, especially for academic terms. Hart and Risley estimated a 30-million word gap by age three between the average number of words heard by the children of parents on welfare and those whose parents are professionals (2003). Oral language does not typically use the rich variety of vocabulary words that writtenLanguage, especially expository text, does. Hayes and Ahrens analyzed the distributions of words in a variety of oral and written contexts ranging from printed scientific texts to television shows to adult speech (1988).
In spite of the crucial role of vocabulary in the structure of a language, it has been neglected, or at least given little attention, in the recent second language researches, as has been noticed by some scholars (Carter, 1987; Mearsa, 1983). Henning (1973) calls the recent lack of attention to vocabulary acquisition u
nfortunate since he believes that one’s learning of the terms and expressions of a language i.e. , its vocabulary is fundamental even in the earliest stages of the acquisition of that language.
As attested by Celce-Murcia (1997, P.243) there is no doubt that over the past thirty years the teaching of vocabulary has been of secondary importance. In tracing the history of language teaching, one comes across the fact that much emphasis has been put to “structures” and, laterally, “functions”. Course books have provided little guidance other than word lists, so that apart from turning to the specialized supplementary materials, such as dictionary workbooks, teachers have been hard put to satisfy their students demands for “words” (Taylor, 1990 P.78).
Because of the large number of words individuals need to learn, direct instruction cannot be used to teach the meaning of all words that students will encounter during their school years. Students must be taught how to acquire word meanings independently, both as they hear new words and as they encounter them in reading. They need to be encouraged to read as widely as possible to be exposed to greater quantity and variety of words.
Use of Cognates for English Language Learners
Bilingual students whose first language is a Romance language like Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese and Romanian, are not beginning from ground zero when it comes to vocabulary acquisition in English. (Chris, 2004).
These students can often call on their knowledge of cognates in their native language to determine the meanings of the words in their second language. The number of cognates they will encounter tends to increase with the grades as they encounter increasing numbers of words with Latinate roots, especially in their science and social studies courses.
Nagy and Nagy, et al. found that not all second language learners automatically recognize and use cognates (1988; 1993). The teachers in their studies were able to teach their students to better use the cognate knowledge that they did possess in their native language, Persian.
Words have two dimensions, a label and the concept(s) or meaning(s) behind the label. Often English language learners, especially if they are orally proficient and literate in their first language, already know the equivalent concept for new English words they encounter. In these cases they can be quickly taught the English label, usually by just translating the English word for them into their native languages. In other cases, theyknow both the concept and the label in the form of a cognate.
It should also be noted that some cognates are well known in one language, but not the other. Consider for example, assassinate in English and حسنين (حسن صباح) in Persian. The English word is a frequent one and the word in Persian is a rare or strange label for the concept.
A teacher does not need, by the way, to be bilingual in order to use cognates for teaching. The teacher can look words up in a cognate Persian-English dictionary to see if it is a cognate. Of course there is not any dictionary of this type in Iran, but the book is going to be published soon.
Recently, however, contemporary scholars, particularly the cognitivists, communicationists, and functionalists have focused language teachers attention once again on vocabulary. Currently in language teaching in the United States there is an increased interest in vocabulary as a component of the second language class or program. Vocabulary is viewed as a component of standardized language tests; new texts are being published which support it as a study; and attention is being given by methodologists and program planners as to the most effective ways to promote command of vocabulary among learners (Brown, 1985, P.322).
According to Celce-Marcia (1979:244) there is a