As a result ofglobalization and the expansion of superpowers, British Empire in the past andthe United States in the present, English has become the second most spokenlanguage in the world and has the largest non-native speakers1.According to Crystal (2000, p.
69), there are 1.5 billion of English speakers inthe world, 750 million of them use English as the first and second language andthe others use English as a foreign language (EFL). It is widely accepted that “Englishis the global language” (Crystal, 2000, p.1). Learning English is thecompulsory task for anyone who wish to participate in global activities,especially the young generation.
Whether you want to acquire more knowledge, studyaboard, have a well-paid job or simply just to communicate with people from allparts of the world, you need to learn English. In Vietnam, thanks toseveral reasons including the 1986 Doi Moi policy and the normalization of US-Vietnamrelations in 1995, English language flourished and grew with an unprecedentedspeed to become the most popular foreign language in Vietnam (Nguyen, 2012). InVietnam educational system, English is an optional subject at primary level;whereas at secondary level and tertiary level, it is a compulsory subject. However,vocabulary learning remains a tough problem among Vietnamese EFL learners. It is undeniablethat vocabulary plays a crucial role in learning and using English. Wilkins(1978, p.111) wrote that “…without grammar little can be conveyed, without vocabularynothing can be conveyed”.
Schmitt (2000, p.55) also stressed the importance ofvocabulary as “lexical knowledge is central to communicative competence and tothe acquisition of a second language”. There are cases when an utterance is producedungrammatically, people can still grasp its meaning if the key words are usedappropriately and accurately. Therefore, learning vocabulary will help to createan effective communication (Nguyen & Khuat, 2003).Despite theimportance of vocabulary learning, the English language curriculum in Vietnamtends to focus more on grammar since the majority of English tests and Englishtextbooks are mostly grammar-dominated, from the writer’s personal experiences.
Even if vocabulary is taught, it is only restricted to the contexts in thetextbooks. Students mayfeel that they fully acknowledge the word but in fact, when it is placed in differentcontext, the learner may not understand it correctly (Nguyen & Khuat, 2003). Consequently,many learners cannot communicate successfully with other people due to lack ofsufficient vocabulary.
When learning anew word, learners tend to concentrate more on its definition and itsgrammatical usage and neglect an important, yet complicate, aspect of vocabulary learning: collocation.Collocations help EFL learners to use English in the most natural andnative-like way and help to improve the learners’ fluency in both writing andspeaking skills. (Shin & Nation, 2008, p.
340). However, despite theimportance of collocation learning, Vietnamese EFL learners do not receive anyspecific instruction on learning collocation. Futhermore, Chan and Liou (2005)claimed that the collocation competence of EFL learners is limited because theteaching of collocation does not get enough attention. Collocationacquisition can significantly influence the writing skill of EFL learners.Collocation awareness can help students to write more fluently and improvetheir writing abilities (Eidian, Gorjian, &Aghvami, 2013).
Thewriting used in EFL learning is academic writing and academic writing can berelated with collocation (Cortes, 2004, as cited by Saad, 2009, p.4). Cortesalso consider a competent academic writer is the one who can express theiropinion precisely in brief sentences and “the use of collocation is considereda marker of proficient language use between writers including academicwriting”. Further, it is widely accepted that using collocations help increaseIETLS writing score. Yet, little has been studied on the use of collocation inacademic writing by EFL learners, especially on the use of a specific type ofcollocation. Benson, Benson and Ilson (1986) divided collocations into twotypes. One is grammatical collocation and the other is lexical collocation.
Betweenthose two, lexical collocation is said to be used more frequent thangrammatical collocation (Bahardoust & Moeini, 2012). Therefore,to raise the awareness of EFL learners and teachers about using lexicalcollocations in academic writing and assess the current situation of using them,this research is conducted on a small group of university students from DAV andFTU, whose English level need to be equivalent to (at least) 5.0 IELTS in orderto graduate2.Additionally, based on the results of this study, some solutions are proposedin order to improve the knowledge of collocation in general and lexicalcollocation in specific.
1.1. Aims and objectives ofthe studyThis paper iswritten with the aim of exploring in detail the current use of lexical collocations in academicwriting by EFL learners,specifically a smallproportion of undergraduate students in Hanoi.
Along with this aim,three following objectives need to be fulfilled: 1. Investigate theattitude and knowledge of a small group of Vietnamese EFL learners regardingcollocation.2. Analyze theratio, frequency and errors of lexical collocation in their academic writing.3.
Identify theproblems encountered by the subjects when using lexical collocations to produceacademic writing.1.2. Research questionsWith the abovementioned objectives, the study focuses on answering these research questions:1. What are theattitudes and knowledge of Vietnamese EFL learners towards collocations?2. How do thelearners use lexical collocations in their academic writing?3.
What are thedifficulties of using lexical collocations in their academic writing?1.3. Research methodsThe study mainly usesqualitative, descriptive and analytic methods. This research involves usingmultiple sources during data gathering process in order to increase thevalidity of the research through triangulation. The data collecting instrumentsinclude questionnaires, interviews, multiple-choice tests and analysis thewritten essays of the subjects. Reasons for choosing these instruments are clearlyexplained in the chapter 3 of this paper.
The subjects are chosen using convenientcluster sampling.At the first stage of theresearch, questionnaire and multiple-choice tests in paper forms are handed outto the subjects to have an overview of the situation. Questions about learners’language proficiency, learning strategies, attitude, difficulties regarding collocationlearning are included in the closed-ended questionnaire. The multiple-choicetests are designed to test the collocation knowledge of the subjects.
In-depthinterviews focused on learners’ opinion and difficulties are conducted among asmaller group of subjects. The construction of the questionnaire and thecollocation tests are fully described in Chapter 3. The second stage involvesanalyzing the short written essays and the final exams collected to discoverthe ratio and the frequency of lexical collocation in the writing of thesubjects and to identify the most common lexical collocation errors and themost common types of lexical collocation produced by the subjects.
The resultsof this stage, together with the results of the first stage, are compiled torespond to the research questions.1.4. Scope of the studyDue to theresearcher’s limited time and knowledge, this study solely mentions the lexicaltype of collocation and the current situation of its use in academic writing,one of the four English skills. Errors and difficulties analyzed in the researchalso refers to the lexical collocation ones. The subject of thestudy is a small group of undergraduate students, not the majority ofVietnamese ELF learners, from DAV and FTU, whose English are assumed to beabove intermediate level as they need to meet the English standard in order tograduate.
1.5. Significance of the studyFirstly, the study providesthe students a better understanding about the importance of collocationlearning, especially the lexical collocation. Students will have the chance torecognize their common lexical collocation errors, reflect themselves and drawvaluable lessons in academic writing.Secondly, the study isexpected to be a reference for EFL teachers, especially those teaching inVietnam, or anyone who is concerned with the topic.
They can acquire an overallimage of the problem, identify students’ errors and discover effectivestrategies in using lexical collocation. Hence, they can help the studentsovercome the problems of using lexical collocation in academic writing.Last but not least, due to thelimited researches studying on the lexical collocation aspects of writingskill, this study helps to fill the gap of research and knowledge in this area.1.6. Organization of the studyThe paper consists of four chapters.
Chapter 1 (Introduction) presents an overview of theresearch including the rationale, aims, objectives and research questions ofthe study. This chapter also mentions the research methods, scope, and thesignificance of the study. Chapter 2 (Literature review) provides a theoreticalframework for this research. Key concepts related to the topic being studiedand previous researches on can be found here. Chapter 3 (The research) presents specific details ofthe research design of the study, the data gathering and analyzing process aswell as research results and discussion.
Chapter 4 (Conclusions and Recommendations) summarizethe major findings of the study, suggests some solutions to the overcome theproblem, discuss the implications, points out the study’s limitations andrecommends suggestions for further research.