According to Henry Sweet, the real intrinsic difficulty in learning English as a foreign language lies in having to master its vocabulary. (p. 66) Indeed, the value of vocabulary for foreign learners of English is out of all proportion to its size, because, once it is mastered, it would inevitably lead to flexibility and acceptable standards in the productive use of English.
Specifically, learning the English vocabulary is difficult for Arabs due to several reasons. First, there is no positive transfer between Arab and English vocabularies. There are only few English words borrowed from Arabic and that a small range of mainly English technical words such as radar, helicopter and television have found their away in Arabic vocabulary. In addition to this, wrote Swan and Smith, Arabic speakers have very few aids to reading and listening comprehension by virtue of their first language, and they should not be expected to acquire English at anything like the same pace as European learners. Here lies the significance of CALL.
According to Keith Cameron, one interesting clue in vocabulary acquisition is that initially learners store vocabulary on the basis of sound, and only later on the basis of meaning. (p. 9) This is just one of the dimensions in vocabulary acquisition that CALL could address. For instance, the long period of time required to learn new words can be remarkably shortened with CALL’s capability of providing multiple exposure in varied contexts. This is particularly important because it gives the learner the opportunity to use his or her normal vocabulary learning faculties such as guessing, inducing, experimenting, checking, refining hypothesis, among others. (Cameron, p. 9)
The above arguments in regard to the potential of CALL in improving vocabulary acquisition are the main subject of this research. This paper seeks to identify the positive effects as well as the disadvantages of the vocabulary learning strategies that feature CALL.