Vocabulary and derivative morphology in “¡Genial! A2: Curso de español”

Raquel Rodríguez-Fernández


The role that vocabulary plays in any communicative act has led to its conception as one of the fundamental cornerstones in second and foreign language learning. However, although research has recently focused on the development of new methodological approaches that favour lexis acquisition, these strategies and innovations have rarely been applied to teaching materials. Word lists, word-image associations, and rote memorization have remained frequent techniques in vocabulary presentation and teaching in Spanish, while other more efficient mechanisms such as derivative morphology have generally been overlooked. This review thus aims to examine one of the few teaching materials that implements this linguistic resource to foster a less memory-based vocabulary learning and provides some suggestions to improve the productivity of this technique.

Keywords:  Spanish as a Foreign Language, vocabulary learning, derivative
morphology, teaching materials

The pivotal role that the lexicon plays in any communicative process has contributed to its being acknowledged and conceived of as a fundamental element in learning a second or foreign language. For this reason, theoretical research from the last few years has focused on the development of new methodologies to facilitate vocabulary acquisition in the target language. However, on a practical level, teaching materials that incorporate these innovations and strategies in lexicon treatment are still lacking. In this situation, the publication of a student book such as ¡Genial! A2 – Curso de español posits an original contribution to the field of SFL (Spanish as a Foreign Language). In this book, the layout and treatment of the vocabulary provided for this learning level manage to distance themselves from the traditional listing of words, in order to present the student with a more dynamic learning strategy, not limited to memorisation alone.  

Divided into eight different units, this student book includes within each of these a section solely devoted to the introduction of new lexical content, although its treatment is not limited to them: an accompanying workbook also offers the student the possibility to reinforce and establish the learning of new lexical units. In accordance with the guidelines and specific notions contained in the CEFRL (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) and the PCIC (Plan Curricular del Instituto Cervantes), the lexical content within each didactic unit stretches over a wide range of semantic fields. Hence, throughout ¡Genial! A2 we find vocabulary related to leisure, hobbies, life experiences, travelling, the working place, home and the domestic life, food, technology, and health. To the fact that all these aspects consider both single- and multiple-word lexical units, a second remarkable feature is included: the inclusion of activities aimed at promoting both direct and indirect lexical learning (Nation, 2013), by means of its treatment in both receptive and productive communicative skills.

In addition to facilitating a contextualised introduction to all vocabulary, a “lexical bank” is provided at the end of every unit, where the most important words and phrases related to each topic are included.  This section, which consists of six activities on average, often resorts to the use of images to present lexical items visually, and to the role of technology, such as smartphones, as a learning and reference tool. On top of this, we find activities, both written and oral, requiring that the student looks back to previously introduced items. Nonetheless, the most original element in this book is the inclusion, at the end of every unit, of an activity devoted to personal learning strategies and lexicon development. In this section, the student is asked to choose which forms and phrases among the new items are the most important for themselves, and to explain what strategies they use to learn and remember them. However, oral comprehension activities are not included in this lexical bank, though they are present at different points within each didactic unit.

Moreover, the student’s work on new or unfamiliar words is not limited to the unit in which they first appear. To facilitate the implementation of new lexical items into long-term memory ―namely, their retention and incorporation in the student’s mental lexicon― repetition and spaced-out reiteration of vocabulary are key strategies (Rufat and Jiménez Calderón, 2017). Accordingly, throughout each unit, and with a view to ensuring intentional and implicit learning alike, every effort has been made to include frequent repetition of lexical units in both oral and written contexts. Therefore, all forms included in each didactic unit appear later in other sections of the book, which undoubtedly favours the student’s consolidation of their previous knowledge of them. Continue reading