Grammar or vocabulary - students' friends or foes

Dragana Bozic Lenard, Ivanka Ferčec, Yvonne Liermann-Zeljak

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Grammar has always been regarded as the necessity in establishing successful formal communication. However, students generally perceive grammar instruction as a necessary evil at best. They usually believe their messages will be understood even if a sentence is incorrect. On the other hand, vocabulary learning is the fundamental step in any language learning. Acquiring new vocabulary is of paramount importance in English for Specific Purposes as it is directed towards specific needs of students’ particular specialties. The aim of this research was two-fold. We were interested in students’ preferences for learning grammar and vocabulary and their performance in exams. For the purpose of the research, 230 students studying at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Computer Science and Information Technology Osijek, Croatia were surveyed. The results showed that the students believe acquiring new technical vocabulary is more important and useful than studying grammar. In the second part of the research, both the first and the second revision exams done by the surveyed students were examined regarding the percentage of correct vocabulary and grammar exercises. The analysis indicated that the students were more successful in doing grammar exercises. To put it differently, the results showed that although the students are theoretically more engaged with and more motivated to learn new technical vocabulary because they find it more useful for their future profession, their performance in revision exams has actually shown the opposite results, i.e. they scored more points for grammar related exercises than for vocabulary related ones.

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