Trinh Quoc Lap


Research has shown that context cue instruction can improve EFL learners’ ability to infer word meanings from context, improve their comprehension and enable them to read independently (Nash & Snowling, 2006; Yuen, 2009; Çetinavci, 2013; Dwaik et al., 2013; and Samiyan et al., 2014). However, this strategy has not been explicitly taught in the context of secondary schools in Vietnam, and language learners are assumed to learn the strategy on their own. Therefore, this study was conducted to find out the extent to which context cue instruction enhances learners’ ability to infer word meanings from context and to investigate learners’ perceptions towards this strategy. In this study, 26 English major eleventh graders in an upper-secondary school in Can Tho City, Vietnam, were instructed to guess meanings of unfamiliar words using the contextual guessing strategy in three three-hour sessions. Achievement tests and learners’ reflection done in class were employed as sources of quantitative and qualitative data. Data from the pre-tests and post-tests indicated a significant improvement in learners’ ability to guess meanings of unfamiliar words using the contextual guessing strategy. Results of twenty-six reflections also showed positive perceptions towards using this strategy. It could be implied that secondary school teachers should train and encourage learners to guess meanings of unknown words based on the contextual cues, and integrate context cue instruction into reading lesson plans to help strengthen learners’ ability to infer word meaning from context.


Article visualizations:

Hit counter



inferring meaning, context cues, Vietnamese high school


Alqahtani, M. (2015). The importance of vocabulary in language learning and how to be taught. International Journal of Teaching and Education, 3(3), 21-34.

Alsaawi, A. (2013). To what extent guessing the meaning, from the context, is helpful in teaching vocabulary. Arecls, 10, 130-146.

Ames, W. S. (1986). The development of a classification scheme of contextual aids. Reading Research Quarterly, 2, 57-82.

Baldo, A. (2010). Lexical inferencing in L2. Language and Literature Journal, 5(1), 60-69.

Çetinavci, B. M. (2013). Contextual factors in guessing word meaning from context in a foreign language. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 116(2014), 2670-2674.

Clarke, D. F. & Nation, I. S. P. (1980). Guessing the meanings of words from context: Strategy and techniques. System, 8(3), 211-220.

Dwaik, R. A. & Shehadeh, A. M. (2013). Guessing patterns of Palestinian college students. The Reading Matrix,13(1), 14-26.

Gerace, F. (2001). How to find the meaning of words as you read. Available at

Harley, B. & Hart, D. (2000). Vocabulary learning in the content-oriented second language classroom: Student perceptions and proficiency. Language Awareness, 9(2), 78-96.

Haynes, M. (1993). Patterns and perils of guessing in second language reading. In Huckin, T., Haynes, M. & Coady, J. (Eds.), Second language reading and vocabulary acquisition (pp. 46-64). Norwood: Ablex.

Kulaç, D. (2011). The effect of explicit instruction in contextual inferencing strategies on students’ attitudes towards reading. Unpublished Master’s Thesis, Bilkent University.

Levine, M. (2001). Using context to determine word meaning. Available at

Liu, N. & Nation, I. S. P. (1985). Factors affecting guessing vocabulary in context. RELC Journal 16, 33-42.

Mallory, K. M. (2002). How to guess words in context. Copyright (C) Kaye Mastin Mallory/

Nagy, W. E., Anderson, R. C., & Herman, P. A. (1985). Learning words from context. Reading Research Quarterly, 20, 233-253.

Nagy, W. E. (1998). Teaching vocabulary to improve reading comprehension. Available at

Nash, H. M. & Snowling, M. J. (2006). Teaching new words to children with poor existing vocabulary knowledge: A controlled evaluation of the definition and context methods. International Journal of Language and Communication Disorders, 41(3), 335-354.

Nuttall, C. (1982). Teaching Reading Skills in a Foreign Language. London: Heinemann Educational.

Oxford, R. L., & Scarcella, R. C. (1994). Second language vocabulary learning among adults: State of the art in vocabulary instruction. System, 22(2), 231-243.

Omanson, R. C., Warren, W. H. & Trabasso, T. (1978). Goals, inferential comprehension, and recall of stories by children. Discourse Processes, 1, 337-354.

Palmberg, R. (1987). On lexical inferencing and the young FL learner. System, 15(1), 69-76.

Paribakht, T. S. & Wesche, M. (1999). Reading and ‘incidental’ L2 vocabulary acquisition. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 21, 195-229.

Robb, L. (2003). Teaching Reading in Social Studies, Science and Math. New York: Scholastic Professional Books.

Samiyan, L. V. & Khorasani, S. R. (2014). The comparison between contextual guessing strategies vs. memorizing a list of isolated words in vocabulary learning regarding long term memory. International Journal of Science Culture and Sport, 2(1), 12-18.

Schmitt, N. (2004). Teaching and learning vocabulary. In Richards, J. C. (Ed.). Vocabulary in Language Teaching (pp. 142-162). USA: Cambridge University Press.

Soria, J. (2001). Studies of Ilokano learners’ lexical inferencing procedures through think-aloud. Second Language Studies, 19(2), 77-110.

Sternberg, R. J. & Powell, J. S. (1983). Comprehending verbal comprehension. American Psychologist, Vol. 38(8), 878-893.

Sternberg, R. J. (1987). Most vocabulary is learned from context. In McKeown, M. G. & Curtis, M. E. (Eds.). The Nature of Vocabulary Acquisition (pp. 89-105). Hillsdale, N. J.: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Yuen, J. (2009). Context clue detectives: Empowering students with a self-learning device through the teaching of context clues. Unpublished Master’s Thesis, University of California.

West, S. (2004). The role of context in learning and recognizing words. Curriculum and Instruction Masters Research Projects.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright © 2015 - 2022. European Journal of English Language Teaching (ISSN 2501-7136) is a registered trademark of Open Access Publishing GroupAll rights reserved.

This journal is a serial publication uniquely identified by an International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) serial number certificate issued by Romanian National Library (Biblioteca Nationala a Romaniei). All the research works are uniquely identified by a CrossRef DOI digital object identifier supplied by indexing and repository platforms.

All the research works published on this journal are meeting the Open Access Publishing requirements and can be freely accessed, shared, modified, distributed and used in educational, commercial and non-commercial purposes under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).