Gender and Behaviour

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Dictionary use, beliefs and students’ preference: The case of ECS students at the University of Venda, South Africa

LMP Mulaudzi


Most language practitioners are of the opinion that dictionaries are a valuable and an indispensable tool for learning a non-native/second language. Dictionaries are the custodians of a language and they provide students with valuable information. At the University of Venda, first year students are exposed to dictionary skills through a compulsory core module, ECS. As second language learners, the teaching of dictionary skills also seeks to encourage and conscientize students to a more extensive use of the dictionary. However, currently there is a paucity of research regarding dictionary use by first year students at a rural South African university and not much is known about their attitudes and preferences of dictionary uses since most of these students are from rural areas where, despite the fact that English is regarded as a second language in South Africa, it is actually a foreign language. The main objective of this study is to establish Univen first year students’ attitudes towards dictionaries, the frequency of dictionary use and the lexical information sourced from a dictionary as well as the types of dictionaries they prefer. The study also seeks to establish if the teaching of dictionary skills in the first semester does influence or promote their subsequent use of a dictionary. The study used semi-structured questionnaires and focus group interviews as data collecting instruments. Data were analysed statistically as well as thematically and recommendations will be shared with ECS lecturers.

Keywords: Phonological, Etymological, Semantic, Monolingual Dictionary, Paper Dictionary, Electronic Dictionary

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