The Use and Abuse of Machine Translation in Vocabulary Acquisition among L2 Arabic-Speaking Learners
Keywords: English as a Second Language, Machine Translation, Omani private university, online dictionaries, online translators, pedagogy, Second Language Arabic-speaking learners, technology, vocabulary acquisition
Using Machine Translation (MT) for vocabulary acquisition is an inevitable phenomenon among Arabic-speaking L2 learners. But has MT fully succeeded in replacing traditional dictionaries and providing an ideal tool for vocabulary acquisition among L2 learners? This study aimed to research the value and implications of using machine translation in vocabulary acquisition. The study is significant as it investigates a neglected area in teaching a second language focusing on the role of MT in vocabulary acquisition. The empirical study adopted a combined quantitative and qualitative methodology that tested students’ skills in answering vocabulary questions in context by using online translators. Forty-seven participants took part in the assessment voluntarily, and they were all fourth-year students about to graduate from an Omani private university. The findings confirmed the results of earlier research about the challenges ESL learners face in vocabulary acquisition, including difficulties in processing sequential lexical patterns and using vocabulary communicatively. The results further revealed that online translators do not provide an optimal solution to overcome obstacles in using vocabulary unless accompanied by higher metacognitive skills such as critical thinking and using words in context. The study concluded with some implications and recommendations for further relevant research.