vocabulary achievement among most EFL learners. One of these factors is what Grenfell (2000, p.269), describes as the “alien linguistic environment”. In many countries where English is not spoken as the first language, the learning environment is not supportive. In such an environment there are few English native speakers available for EFL learners to interact with. There are limited opportunities for learners to use the target language outside the classroom. In fact, they are not in a surrounding that fosters FL learning, nor are they receiving the necessary support in or out of the classroom to acquire the target language. As a result, the majority of students who are learning English as a foreign language end up with a limited proficiency even after many years of study. Another factor may be the cultural distance between the two countries and the students’ lack of familiarity with the target language speakers’ culture and socio-cultural significance of words. Students know very little about the basic aspects of their own culture, and certainly most of them are too young to have had the experiences about cultures of other countries. Meanwhile, fundamental aspects of the culture are incorporated into the most of the class activities. In fact, language and culture are inseparably bound and complete comprehension in any type of intercultural communication depends on the participants’ knowledge of cultural distance and socio-cultural significance of words and expressions employed. So, teachers are required to give students information about the basic similarities and differences between their culture and that of the target language. Yet, another factor contributing to the students’ limited knowledge of vocabulary is the insufficient support from teachers and schools in terms of different kinds of sources and materials. Most language teachers adopt verbal modalities (e.g. synonymy, examples, and definitions) to vocabulary teaching which downplay the use of other modalities such as pictures, videos, etc. Using just one modality does not offer adequate information. Besides, it causes boredom and lack of interest and motivation on the part of learners. Since using different modalities and materials for presenting new vocabulary keeps the learning process dynamic and interesting, schools and institutes should employ different instructional aides and modalities to enhance the learning process.
In an effort to find out ways to enhance vocabulary learning, the present study suggests the integrating verbal and visual modalities for presenting new vocabulary. A few researchers investigated the effect of verbal /visual modalities on vocabulary learning (Kost, Foss &Lenzini, 1999).When we turn to existing research in the context of Iran, we find something akin to researchers’ silence regarding this particular issue, for what is noticeable is the lack of literature on the impact of verbal and visual techniques on vocabulary achievement. This study fills the gap by investigating the advantages of glossing individual lexical items through two different modalities, namely verbal and visual. It attempts to elaborate on the necessity of incorporating both of them in an integrative and supplementary manner. Considerable confidence is placed in the value of integrating both of them to enhance the learning of foreign language vocabulary. With computer technology, Web-based learning has become a common choice in education institutions (Bauer, 2002, p. 31). Furthermore, the variety of media such as text, graphics, audio, and video for delivering content has attracted many instructors and students to use the Internet for distance education (Ali, 2003). These multimedia components get and hold learners’ interest, which many researchers believe is important when teaching the video generation (Jonassen, 2000, p. 208). Visual text and graphics are some of the most popular tools in on-line learning.
In many cases, graphics can be used to represent important information and are often used for supporting text (Newby, Stepich, Lehman, & Russell, 1996, p. 103). Using these techniques, the most widely used asynchronous online learning tool is courses primarily posted in visual text and static graphics (Liles, 2004). English as Foreign Language (EFL) learners often adopt various strategies to memorize vocabulary words. For instance, vocabulary learning is often used with strategies such as word lists or paired associations in which new words are presented with their translations. These strategies often require learners to memorize pair associations directly (Sun & Dong, 2004). Meara (1996) found that many researchers in vocabulary learning studies have explored various methods of vocabulary presentation and their corresponding effectiveness in retention. Some earlier studies found the following:
There is a limit to the number of words that can be learned at one time (Crothers &Suppes, 1967, chap. 4).
Rote repetition appears less efficient than using spaced recall and structured review (Atkinson, 1972). Silent repetition and silent writing are less effective than repeating the words aloud (Meara, 1996).
Brown and Payne (Hatch & Brown, 1995, p. 383) have identified five steps to vocabulary acquisition: (a) having sources for encountering new words; (b) getting a clear image, either visual or auditory or both, of the forms of the new words; (c) learning the meaning of the words; (d) making a strong memory connection between the forms and the meanings of the words; and (e) using the words. Recently, a number of researchers have discussed the benefits of presenting information using multimedia components such as visual text, spoken text, graphics, and videos on language learning (Al-Seghayer, 2001; Chun &Plass, 1997; Duquette&Painchaud, 1996; Ehsani&Knodt, 1998). In their studies, information presented in text, spoken words, graphics, and video formats can be integrated to create an authentic, attractive, and multi-sensory language context for EFL learners (Sun & Dong, 2004). Kost, Foss, and Lenzini (1999) found that EFL learners performed better on both production and recognition vocabulary tests when they were allowed to use a combination of visual text and graphics.
1.1.1. Knowing a Word
Lexical learning represents a corner stone in foreign language education. Vocabulary is indispensable to both oral and written communication and often regarded as a major source of problems by foreign language learners. For EFL adult learners, effective vocabulary use is a real challenge when they are engaged in language production as they need to bring into focus their active vocabulary. Lexical recognition may also be a real threat when they are indulged in comprehension processes as it exposes their not only active but also passive vocabulary and puts it to the test (Bossers, 1992; Coady, 1993, 1997; and Grabe
&Stoller, 1997).Words are the tools we use to think, to express ideas and feelings, and to learn about the world. Because words are the very foundation of learning, improving students’ vocabulary knowledge has become an educational priority. Student word knowledge is strongly linked to academic accomplishment, because a rich vocabulary is essential to successful reading comprehension. Furthermore, the verbal sections of the high-stake standardized tests used in most states to gauge student performance are basically tests of vocabulary and reading comprehension (Johnson & Johnson, 2004). Laraba (2007:136) concludes that “foreign language vocabulary learning is determined by the similarities that may exist, at different levels, between the first language and the second or foreign language learnt. Nation (1990: 31) proposes the following list of the different kinds of knowledge that a person must master in order to know a word:
The meaning(s) of the word
The written form of the word
The spoken form of the word
The grammatical behavioral of the word
The collocations of the word