English Australia Journal : English Australia Journal 27.1
EA Journal Volume 27 No 1 6 exhaust processing resources that could otherwise be utilised to encode new word form during word-level input processing. Barcroft’s (2006) research focuses on using unknown words in writing at the very initial stage of learning a word. He calls for more research on output produced in the same amount of time but at different levels of input (p. 330) and also for further research on known compared with unknown words. His work is extremely valuable to teachers and learners as it provides evidence of the difficulties faced by learners in productive use of vocabulary in the initial stages of learning. What other negative effects for learning might there be of using vocabulary in writing? Problems arise when we look at production. Nation (2001) points out that even though a word may be considered known, it might not necessarily be chosen for use. Another problem is that one word may be confused with another word and cause interference for the learner (Nation, 2000). This interference may lead to a writer abandoning an attempt to use a particular word in writing because of a perceived risk of error. Risk avoidance may lessen stress and the potential rate of error, whereas time pressure may render words in the mental lexicon to be temporarily unretrievable (Laufer, 2003; see also Coxhead, 2007). So, we can see that there are negative effects for learning words through copying and writing sentences in order to learn unknown words, and that it might be a risky activity for language learners. Are there any positive benefits for language learners when we instruct our learners to use partially known or unknown words in writing after encountering them in context? And are there any more negative effects that might not have been identified before now? The study reported in this article aimed to find out what happens when we push students to produce words in their writing in an academic essay. Methodology Eleven volunteers took part in this study. Table 2 shows the profiles of these participants arranged alphabetically by their pseudonyms. Eight of the volunteers were Chinese, with one Indian, one Romanian, and one Samoan.
English Australia Journal 27.2