Demystifying the Lexical Approach: Building Blocks for Language Acquisition

The lexical approach offers a refreshing perspective on TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). It shifts the focus from memorizing grammatical rules to acquiring meaningful chunks of language, empowering students for successful communication. Let’s delve into the characteristics of this approach and explore practical ways to integrate it into your TESOL classroom.

Characteristics of the Lexical Approach

  • Focus on Lexis: This approach emphasizes “lexis,” which encompasses not just individual words but also the complex web of connections between them. Think of it as building blocks – words naturally co-occur to form meaningful phrases and expressions.
  • Chunks Over Rules: Instead of dissecting sentences into grammatical components, the lexical approach prioritizes learning prefabricated chunks of language, like “make a difference” or “by the way.” These chunks are the building blocks of natural-sounding English.
  • Implicit Grammar: Grammar acquisition becomes an implicit process. By repeatedly encountering chunks in context, students intuitively grasp underlying grammatical patterns.

5 Ways to Leverage the Lexical Approach in TESOL

  • Embrace Authentic Materials: Immerse students in authentic texts, like news articles, songs, or movies. Analyze how lexical chunks are used in real-world contexts.
  • Highlight Collocations: Draw attention to frequently occurring word combinations. For example, instead of teaching “sad” in isolation, highlight the collocation “feel sad.”
  • Chunk Translation: Use translation activities strategically. Translate chunks from the target language (English) to the students’ native language, and vice versa. This reinforces the meaning and structure of the chunk.
  • Recycle and Reinforce: Don’t introduce and forget chunks. Revisit them throughout your curriculum, integrating them into new contexts and activities. This strengthens the connections within the lexical network.
  • Creative Chunk Exploration: Move beyond traditional drills. Encourage students to use learned chunks creatively in tasks like writing poems, dialogues, or short stories.

The Benefits of a Lexical Approach

By focusing on meaningful lexis, the lexical approach fosters several benefits for TESOL learners:

  • Improved Fluency: Students acquire natural-sounding language, enabling smoother communication.
  • Enhanced Grammar Grasp: Implicit grammar acquisition leads to a more intuitive understanding of grammatical structures.
  • Stronger Vocabulary Foundation: Chunks provide a solid foundation for building a rich vocabulary base.
  • Increased Confidence: The ability to communicate effectively using real-world language boosts students’ confidence.

The Takeaway

The lexical approach offers a valuable tool for TESOL educators. By incorporating these strategies and shifting the focus to meaningful chunks of language, you can empower your students to become successful communicators in English. Remember, language acquisition is a process of building connections. The lexical approach provides a roadmap for fostering these connections and unlocking the true power of language learning.