A Study of Dictionary Use Strategies of Grade-12 students: The Case of a Government Preparatory School in Wollo

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Addis Ababa University


The study explores preparatory students’ dictionary use strategies for written reception and production activities and types of dictionary they usually use. For the purpose of the study grade-12 students from a government preparatory school in Bati, Wollo, have been selected as research subjects. Three different questionnaires and two interviews were used to collect data for the study. The results show that the students have generally positive attitude towards dictionary use in their studies; however, it is found helpful far more frequently for receptive purposes. The findings here suggest that many students may not use the dictionary to look up every unknown word from their readings. Nevertheless, the students may not sometimes use dictionaries well to improve their comprehension and vocabulary development through reading. On the other hand, the relevant data concerning ‘look-up strategy’ use indicate that students do not employ important search strategies required while consulting standard learners’ dictionaries for meaning. With regard to the productive use, the results show that very often students do not utilize dictionary use to improve their vocabulary use in some tasks. They sometimes check meanings of vocabulary needed to use for production; however, much of the other dictionary information is rarely made good use of for the same purpose. The study indicates that when grade-12 students consult, they use (L2 –L1 type) translating dictionaries more often. The English learners’ dictionary is only second choice to many students while some students use such dictionary very rarely. The English language teachers seem to be aware of the inadequacy of the students’ dictionary strategies for the level and the importance of helping students in using and choosing dictionaries effectively. However, since it is not specified in the syllabus, and due to lack of relevant resources and experience for preparing and presenting activities, the teachers are unable to provide any guidance. The study suggests that more attention should be given to improving students’ control of dictionary related strategies in ELT. It is evident that preparatory level students need to be able to get information in order to learn new vocabulary or to cope with unfamiliar words while they are working on the language skills, or using the foreign language to study their school subjects. Students may employ dictionary use in various ways to facilitate their learning; they may also differ in their level of awareness and application of appropriate strategies. Furthermore, there is much evidence from the present study that many grade-12 students may be unable to get sufficient benefit from dictionary use and they may also face difficulties in using appropriate strategies. Providing instruction in dictionary use strategies can help many learners. This is particularly important for students in language related programme of instructions and thus the teaching of dictionary use strategies for reception and production purposes is needed in the EFL syllabus. Preparatory students should be helped to use English learners’ dictionaries more confiden