Terminology databases in language learning
Vocabulary acquisition is a succes key in language learning
The rapid acquisition of vocabulary has always been paramount in language learning. In fact, the number of words a language learner master in a foreign language indicates her/his level of language competence.
Different learning techniques and approaches have been developed throughout the centuries to enable efficient and effective vocabulary learning. From the loci approach of the mid age, the super-learning methods of the 80ies to the most recent TELL-methods (Technology Advanced Language Learning Methods): Each period in history has seen the rise and fall of diversified practices for the acquisition, ordering and storing of vocabulary.
Our brain has a natural mechanism for organizing vocabulary into semantic structures
Direct observation of brain activities have opened unexpected perspectives into the ways are brain uses to manage vocabulary. Today we know that cognition relies on a natural mechanism of semantic structuring. This mechanisms is meant to ensure efficient and contextual retrieval of linguistic information.
Neuroimaging studies suggest a large, distributed network of semantic representations that are organized minimally by attribute, and perhaps additionally by category. (See Semantic Memory, Wikipedia)
Recent Alzheimer research studies prove that Alzheimer disease affects—already in early disease process—semantic categorization knowledge. The loss of language and vocabulary is not at random. It particularly affects hyponymy, hypernymy and synonymy relations. These relations are essential to enable language expression and rational thinking.
The advantages of using terminology databases in language learning
If our brain already works using an innate system of semantic categorization, a good way to learn the vocabulary of a language could therefore be the use of a terminology database and terminology management principles. Through the use of a terminology database learners:
- learn to select and manage preferred lists of terms;
- work with grammar categories (verb, nouns, adjectives, adverbs) and learn to distinguish them;
- manage synonyms, hypernyms, hyponyms, contraries learning the relations between words;
- learn to manage personal taxonomies; these that can be used in the blogs for categorizing postings and tags;
- reflect in contrastive analysis about differences among languages and cultures;
- create personalized vocabulary exports for reviews exercises;
- include the collected vocabulary in mobile apps (e.g. for the creation of personal flashcards or language learning games).
The result of this experiment was the development of a learning process that focuses on the systematic acquisition of semantic units (words) and structures (taxonomies).
The future of language learning
The urgent need for the acquisition of foreign language competence among refugees and the already implemented best practices in terminology management for language learning could open the way for new research studies that see a wider use of terminology management and terminology databases also for learning purposes. In my blog Enhancing learning through Semantic Knowledge Management I summarize the results of my language learning experiment.