Creative Writing and Vocabulary Acquisition: A Study of Emirati College Students

Introduction

Does creative writing improve vocabulary acquisition? A 2009 case study exploring creative writing and Emirati student motivation had one survey question that asked students whether or not creative writing in English improved their English language vocabulary. The response was 93% in the affirmative (Dougherty, 2010). This supported earlier studies conducted in Bangladesh where English as a foreign language (EFL) students overwhelmingly identified creative writing as having a beneficial impact on their English vocabulary acquisition (Dougherty, 2007; Dougherty & Dougherty, 2008). These studies explored the motivational impact of creative writing in English for the EFL student and only dealt with vocabulary acquisition tangentially. Therefore, it was of interest to the researcher to conduct another study to specifically examine the impact that creative writing had on Emirati EFL students’ vocabulary acquisition. It addressed this main research question: Do Emirati college students perceive that creative writing in English improved their English language vocabulary acquisition?
Researchers have generally accepted that vocabulary acquisition is a key to developing
communicative competence in a second language (Carter, 1998; Browne, 2003). Achieving
communicative competence is critical for the Emirati EFL student in that the pursuit of tertiary education in the United Arab Emirates requires, in most cases, that the student study in English medium institutions. It is estimated by Wakely (2010) that a vocabulary sufficient for study in an English medium university program is between 5,000 and 10,000 words, or lexical units, and so the task of improving the scope and depth of vocabulary acquisition is of major importance in the Emirati educational context. This paper examines one possible avenue to encourage and enable students in the United Arab Emirates to improve their English language vocabularies: using English in the task of self-expression via creative writing.

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