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Lexical Borrowing as a Linguistic support in the acquisition of English's Vocabulary

Lexical borrowing como apoyo lingüístico en la adquisición del vocabulario del inglés

Lexical borrowing como suporte linguístico na aquisição do vocabulário do inglês


Lic. Betty Elizabeth Cofre Benavides



Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador sede Ibarra

Unidad Educativa Fiscal “Arturo Borja”



Reception: 07/28/2022 - Acceptance: 08/14/2022

1st Review: 08/10/2022 - 2nd Review: 08/12/2022


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Suggested reference: Cofre Benavides, B.E. (2022). Lexical Borrowing as a Linguistic Support in the Acquisition of the Vocabulary of the English as a Foreign Language. Lecturas: Educación Física y Deportes, 27(292), 96-109. https://doi.org/10.46642/efd.v27i292.3628



    The objective of the study is to establish Lexical Borrowing as linguistic support and its relationship in the acquisition and improvement of the vocabulary of the English language as a foreign language in a course of 30 high school students from a public night school. The present study is applied through a qualitative, descriptive investigation with which the improvement of the acquisition of vocabulary in the foreign language is pointed out. In addition, the present project uses several instruments for data collection, these are evidenced through an initial survey with 10 closed questions applied to students and class observation, which provides us with the current situation of the sample based on which this study is carried out. The development and implementation of three classes are included to demonstrate the application of lexical borrowing with students and its validity in the study. At the end of this project, the results obtained are evidenced and the effectiveness and acceptability of this pedagogical proposal for the acquisition and reinforcement of vocabulary is verified. It was found that the use of specific activities focused on the acquisition of vocabulary does contribute to improving the lexicon of the students. Likewise, it is concluded that the linguistic help of lexical borrowing offers teachers a new way to facilitate the acquisition of vocabulary inside and outside the class in an interesting and fun way.

    Keywords: Lexical Borrowing. Linguistics. Vocabulary.



    El objetivo del estudio es establecer al Lexical Borrowing como apoyo lingüístico y su relación en la adquisición y mejoramiento del vocabulario del idioma inglés como lengua extranjera en un curso de 30 estudiantes de bachillerato de un colegio fiscal nocturno. El presente estudio se aplica a través de una investigación cualitativa, descriptiva con la cual se puntualiza la mejora de la adquisición del vocabulario en la lengua extranjera. Además, el presente proyecto utiliza varios instrumentos para la recolección de datos, estos son evidenciados a través de una encuesta inicial con 10 preguntas cerradas aplicada a los estudiantes y la observación de clases, la cual nos proporciona la situación actual de la muestra en base a la cual se realiza este estudio. Se incluye el desarrollo y la implementación de tres clases para evidenciar la aplicación de Lexical Borrowing con los estudiantes y su validez en el estudio. Al finalizar el presente proyecto, los resultados obtenidos son evidenciados y se verifica la efectividad y aceptabilidad de esta propuesta pedagógica para la adquisición y refuerzo de vocabulario. Se encontró que el uso de actividades específicas enfocadas a la adquisición de vocabulario si contribuye a mejorar el léxico de los estudiantes. Así mismo se concluye que la ayuda lingüística de Lexical Borrowing brinda a los docentes una nueva forma de facilitar la adquisición del vocabulario dentro y fuera de la clase de una manera interesante y divertida.

    Palabras clave: Lexical Borrowing. Lingüística. Vocabulario.



    O objetivo do estudo é estabelecer o Lexical Borrowing como apoio linguístico e a sua relação na aquisição e melhoria do vocabulário da língua inglesa como língua estrangeira num curso de 30 alunos de uma escola pública noturna. O presente estudo é aplicado através de uma investigação qualitativa e descritiva, com a qual é destacada a melhoria da aquisição de vocabulário na língua estrangeira. Além disso, o presente projeto utiliza vários instrumentos para a recolha de dados, estes são evidenciados através de um inquérito inicial com 10 perguntas fechadas aplicadas aos estudantes e observação da turma, o que nos fornece a situação atual da amostra com base na qual este estudo é realizado. O desenvolvimento e implementação de três classes estão incluídos para demonstrar a aplicação do Lexical Borrowing com os estudantes e a sua validade no estudo. No final deste projeto, os resultados obtidos são evidenciados e a eficácia e aceitabilidade desta proposta pedagógica para a aquisição e reforço do vocabulário é verificada. Verificou-se que a utilização de atividades específicas centradas na aquisição de vocabulário contribui para melhorar o léxico dos estudantes. Do mesmo modo, conclui-se que a ajuda linguística do Lexical Borrowing oferece aos professores uma nova forma de facilitar a aquisição de vocabulário dentro e fora da aula de uma forma interessante e divertida.

    Unitermos: Lexical Borrowing. Linguística. Vocabulário.


Lecturas: Educación Física y Deportes, Vol. 27, Núm. 292, Sep. (2022)




    The present research aims to evidencing if lexical borrowing can support the acquisition of a new language in an effective and supportive way, a qualitative methodology with the support of observation and surveys will contribute to find meaningful details about the functionality and applicability of lexical borrowing in students of public schools, in this case learners who study in the evening.


    Poor vocabulary development and lack of efficient strategies have been an obstacle that have not allowed students to improve their receptive and productive English as a Foreign Language skills. In this concern, Holmes (2013) states that it is essential to study the relationship between language and society because it can provide supportive reasons to understand why people speak differently in various social contexts and it will also help to identify the social functions of language and the ways it is used to convey social meaning. In addition, learning the way people use language in different social contexts provides a wealth of information about the way language works, as well as about the social relationships in a community, and the way people convey and construct aspects of their social identity through their language.


    That is why, the meaning of words, phrases and sentences can vary heavily from culture to culture and of course, from language to language. However, it is important to recall that some words come from a similar linguistic root or family and they are very close in meaning. Webb (2008) claims that the acquisition of receptive vocabulary can induct and produce assertive language development. On the other hand, the lack of vocabulary does not contribute to reinforce students´ knowledge and their productive skills cannot be evidenced, since their limitations affect oral and written production.


    Furthermore, it is worth mentioning that according to Educational First argues that, “based on tests taken from more than 2.2 million people around the world, the edition of the English Proficiency Index (EPI) highlights that between 19 Latin American countries, Ecuador is the country with the worst score in the region in terms of mastering the English language” (EF, 2020), on which we can attribute that public education in our country has not managed to develop this micro-skill because the methodology used in the Language acquisition continues to be traditionalist in all its aspects, making it impossible to easily acquire the language, plus a vocabulary.


    It is also said that vocabulary supports the ability to develop grammar in context and enrich deep cultural knowledge. In this regard, Faraj (2015) mentions that vocabulary allows students to improve their communicative competence, since they become fluent in their first language and in the new language. As a consequence, students without sufficient knowledge of vocabulary could not understand others or even express their own ideas and opinions.


    Moreover, Barreras (2010) highlights that the acquisition of vocabulary influences the development of skills such as writing, communication, listening and reading the language, the ease of acquiring it generates interest in the learners and a taste for the acquisition of it, therefore, it is important to establish prior evaluations as prospective support for future communicative actions (Barroso et al., 2015). Unfortunately, the use of outdated methodologies such as translation, the memorization of words by obligation and the outdating of many teachers have caused students not to develop an appropriate level of English or adequate fluency for communication.


    According to the aforementioned information, the purpose of this study is to establish Lexical Borrowing as a linguistic support to the acquisition of the vocabulary of the English language as a foreign language in high schools students.


    To demonstrate the purpose of this project, the following research questions are stated:

  1. How to facilitate the acquisition of English vocabulary as a foreign language through Lexical Borrowing in students of high school?

  2. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the high school students in relation to English vocabulary?

  3. What are the skills to develop through Lexical Borrowing as a linguistic support for vocabulary development?

Literature review 

What is vocabulary? 


    The learning of new words is crucial to improve the teaching learning process and the four main skills (Fernández Lorenzo et al., 2018; Pereda, & Calero, 2015). In this way, Harmon, & Wood (2018) claim that vocabulary is related to the acquisition of new words that helps to express oral and written abilities, the authors add that vocabulary helps to increase reading and comprehension skills. In addition, Günday, & Atmaca (2016) assert that vocabulary is an important component of a language system that permits to communicate effectively, it is also included that questions and answers, explanation, brainstorming, games, drama, role plays and the use of synonym and antonyms are great activities that support the improvement of vocabulary in English as a Foreign Language (EFL) students. Moreover, McCarthy (1990) stands out that vocabulary is known as the meaning of communication, since a good knowledge of grammar or excellent pronunciation skills are not enough to transmit ideas properly. On the other hand, Durkin (2006) highlights that not only having some conversations help to learn or loan words from a foreign language but also reading and music are potential supporters for increasing lexical borrowing in different cultures.


The importance of vocabulary 


    Learning linguistic elements are essential to improve a language. Nevertheless, it is well-known that the lack of vocabulary influences in development of the oral and written communicative competence. In this sense, Xhaferi (2009) includes that teacher have to develop strategies to insert plenty of new words to their students because the need of communication and comprehension depends of the kind of formal and informal words that the students have learned. Moreover, Takac (2008) claims that learning vocabulary is important to improve various skills and there is a difference between learning vocabulary in a mother tongue that acquiring new vocabulary in a second language. Paniagua et al. (2012) are convinced that communicating with elemental and basic words ends in limiting communication and knowledge. On the contrary, the author believes that a good range of vocabulary enhances not only communication and comprehension but also social skills. Additionally, Folse, & Briggs (2004) coincide that vocabulary is a crucial element of learning a new language and it needs to be implemented with appropriate activities and strategies can improve the enhancement of the students' knowledge.


    It is also important to recall that teachers are worried about teaching vocabulary but just a few of them look for new and innovative strategies to insert vocabulary and scaffold learning in EFL students (Nation, 2021). Vocabulary should be contemplated as a tool of building proficiency in reading, writing, listening and speaking skills because students who have a narrowed vocabulary are not able to understand new concepts or convey their thoughts, experiences and ideas effectively. (Hennebry et al., 2017)

 Lexical borrowing 

What is lexical borrowing? 


    Lexical borrowing is also known as loanwords that is related to the use of words from a specific language to apply them in another language, in this regard, social and attitudinal factors and in the educative field grammatical factors are involved in lexical borrowing, since words similarities can be adapted or used in both languages (Haspelmath, 2009). In addition, Grant (2015) states lexical borrowing involves language transmission or transfer especially when some words can be modified and adjusted to another language. It is also remarked that languages improve and boost their vocabulary by adopting affixes, collocation, grammar, roots, from other languages.


    Similarly, Carling et al. (2019) assert that each and every language borrow words or vocabulary from other languages, not in the same quantity but it depends on the need of adaptability and use, as a consequence loaning vocabulary from one language to another is considered as a support to develop communicative skills. By the same token, Shin (2010) agrees that lexical loan transfer of some words occur with different frequency, it means that some words are more common to be transferred, for instance, the author highlights that the length of words influences in the use in both languages. At this point, it is important to include that lexical borrowing can take place between not only two languages but also three or more such as English, French, German and Spanish. Some examples are mentioned as follows: restaurant, buffet, aggressive, group, and independent. Additionally, Zenner et al. (2017) explain that linguists have adopted Lexical and structural borrowing as a strategy in the process of acquiring a second language, which gives us an interesting idea of the use of Lexical Borrowing, the authors also highlight the influence of social media in the acquisition of new words, especially swearwords among teenagers.


    On the other hand, Dobbs et al. (2022) claim that lexical borrowing is used commonly with writers when they develop their written tasks and occurs more in the field of academic writing. Furthermore, Agustín-Llach (2016) argues that cultural background and Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) has a positive impact in the development of vocabulary and lexical borrowing because it helps to increase the learning of new words by taking them from different areas or subjects.


    There are some examples that Spanish has taken from English and there is no need of translation because we already understand it, shampoo, rinse, cash, catch, sachet, full, man, men, baby among others.


Lexical borrowing between English and Spanish languages 


    In regards to loan words and transfer between both languages English and Spanish, Muñoz-Basols, & Salazar (2016) argue that technology, communication means such as television, radio, internet, and social media, into this category YouTube, Facebook and Twitter have heavy impact on the language that is being learned, since children, teenagers and adults are influenced by foreign words and they are more able to understand texts and written and oral communication. As the majority of Latin American countries consider that English is very accepted by the government policy and families that accept English as an increasing option to improve people's lifestyle. In another contribution, Varra (2013) asserts that lexical borrowing or the acquisition of new words to use in other language depends on the adaptation and the need of the speaker to transmit his or her thoughts. In this case, the speakers in New York use some words from English to communicate in Spanish. In a typical Spanish conversation, they use high school and never says colegio or escuela. Similarly, the students are influenced by the environment and learn from experience, they assimilate familiar words that are spelled in the same way or very similar in English and Spanish, for instance, doctor has the same letters and professor just change one letter, as a consequence the students relate the words in context and apply those words in both languages.


    In parallel, Galloway et al. (2020) consider that English and Spanish linguistic connections support the enhancement of reading skills since some vocabulary words are similar in both languages, then, students can adopt similar words or new vocabulary to use in context without using a dictionary in most cases. As a conclusion, it is stated that cognates are viewed as a bridge for enhancing lexical and linguistic skills.


    On the other hand, the adoption and mixture of Spanish into English or vice versa is known as Spanglish, a new term that has modified some linguistic patterns into Latin people who live in the United Sates (Ardila, 2005). In this regard, it is important to recall that Spanglish as an informal variation of bilingualism not only occurs in United States but also in other countries where English is gaining strength and expansion. Mexico, Cuba, Ecuador among other countries is clear example of lexical borrowing development.



    The present study takes place at a public high school located in the south of Quito that belongs to Pichincha province in Ecuador. The participants belong to first year baccalaureate and their ages are between 16 to 18 years old, since they study in the evening, those students receive three hours of English a week and their English level is A1 according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. This research shows qualitative and quantitative approaches with a descriptive-analytic methodology, and some instruments such as observation and survey supported the data collection. In addition, the use of Likert scale with the use of adverbs of frequency supported the collection and analysis of valid information.


    Moreover, the analysis of the collected data allowed obtaining relevant outcomes that display the effectiveness of lexical borrowing in the improvement of vocabulary in English as Foreign Language students.




    Firstly, to understand the importance and the influence of lexical borrowing in an EFL class, a survey was applied to 30 students, about vocabulary knowledge and relevant activities. In addition, after the application of three classes with different strategies about vocabulary improvement through lexical borrowing, it was confirmed that the learners who participated in this study, improved their lexical and applied more effectively new words in speaking and written skills.


Table 1. Students' perception about lexical borrowing






1. Do you know what lexical borrowing is?         





2. Is vocabulary important in English classes?





3. Do you use different activities for learning vocabulary?





4. Do you consider yourself that you know plenty of English words?





5. Do you think that English has similar words to Spanish?





6. Do you apply vocabulary in writing activities? 





7. Can you dialogue with your classmates effectively?





8. Have you used games for learning vocabulary?





9. Does your teacher motivate you to learn new words? 





10. Can you make a chart with similar words in English and Spanish?





Note: It shows the students’ perception about lexical borrowing and vocabulary in class. Source: Made by the author


    As it is observed in the table above, none of the students who represent 100% know the term lexical borrowing. In relation to the second question, 20 students that are represented by 66.67% think that vocabulary is important for English classes and just 10 of them with a percentage of 33,33 consider that vocabulary is not important. In regards to the third question about using different activities for learning vocabulary, 10 students who are part of 33.33% responded affirmatively, while 20 students who are represented by 66.67% mentioned that they don´t used a variety of activities to learn vocabulary. In regards to question number four that is related to considering themselves to know plenty of vocabulary, the responses were very close in percentage because 53.33% of the students agreed and 46.67% of the learners said that they don’t know much vocabulary. According to question number five that asks students if English has similar words to Spanish, 12 students represented by 40% responded affirmatively, while 18 learners who are the 605 said that English does not have similar words in Spanish. The sixth question is related to the application of vocabulary in writing activities, and 10 students that are 33.33% answered that they do apply vocabulary in writing, while most of them who are 20 students and represent 66.67 % responded negatively. In relation to question number 7 that refers to the effective dialogue, 8 students that represent 26.67% said that they can dialogue with their partners effectively and 22 students who represent 73.33% responded that it is hard to establish effective dialogue with their peers. According to question number 8 that asks about the use of games for learning vocabulary, 6 students that are represented by 20% said that they have used games to learn vocabulary, while 24 students who are part of 60% answered that they have not used games in classes for improving vocabulary. Regarding question number 9 that asks the learners about teachers’ motivation to learn new words, 22 students who represent 73.33% responded that teachers indeed motivate them to acquire and apply new words, while 8 students who represent the 26.67% responded that their teacher does not motivate them to learn new vocabulary. The last question that asked students to the ability to make a chart comparing similar words in English and Spanish, 12 students who are represent by 40% said that they are able to make that chart and unfortunately 18 who are the majority with 60% responded that they cannot make a chart that contains similar words in English and Spanish. In this concern, Hennebry et al. (2017) highlight the important role that teachers and the correct implementation of vocabulary have in relation to support the language skills development.


    At this point, it is important to summarize that the survey applied to 30 students displays that the missing vocabulary activities and the students´ lack of knowledge and practice have impeded a relevant acquisition of new words that support their EFL learning. Furthermore, it is important to activate vocabulary in context and look for a variety of strategies such as grouping the students and using realia to obtain better outcomes.


Table 2. Identifying words that are similar in both languages (English and Spanish)



Words found

Total Words







Great inventions that have changed the world














Leonardo Da Vinci







Note: Summary about three reading passages used to identify borrowed words. Source: Made by the author


    As it is observed in the above chart, three reading passages were used to support the relation of words in English and Spanish languages. Then, a population of 30 students was divided into 6 groups of 5 learners each, and then, they were given the passages. After that, they were told to avoid using dictionaries in order to encourage their brains to identify likeness between words in English and Spanish languages.


    In the first passage, the students had to identify and underline 12 words, and they found 100% of the words successfully. Next class, another passage with the topic vaccination was assigned to find the words, 100% of the words were founding this class. Finally, a text with some information about Leonardo Da Vinci was given to the students and they identified 10 similar words that represent 100%. It is concluded that reading strategy to identify cognates, in fact, worked perfectly to support lexical borrowing in students of first baccalaureate year.


    It is also necessary to illustrate these outcomes by making a list of the most common words that the students found in the passages without the help of a dictionary. In this sense, the words that the students identified and learned are the following:


    Leonardo Da Vinci passage: artist, unique, techniques, famous, inventor, anatomist, architect, musician, consider, talented, diagrams, generations, ideas, helicopter, machine, sketch.


    Vaccination text: important, invention, impacted, human, cause, disappeared, defenses, future, prevented, infected, created, eliminated, terrible, antibiotics, anesthesia.


    Great inventions that have changed the world: imagined, inventions changed, cars, television, having no medicine, culture, lifestyle, universe, possible, videochat, infinite information, opinions, technology, during, continue.


    To sum up this section, the students were told that most of the words that can be taken from Spanish to English due to their similarity are nouns and adjectives.


    There are some other words that students identify and use them without translation because they are already in their lexical. For instance, words such as sandwich, snack, jacket, referee, coach, player, television, contract government, inspector, unique, energy, illustrate, various, problematic percentage, are popular among students and they can easily use in writing tasks and in conversation.


    It is evident that appropriate activities with lexical borrowing contributes to support vocabulary development in students of EFL, because they can relate the words similarity to develop and improve their learning. However, some students could be confused, and the lack of teachers’ training, feedback strategies and monitoring can interfere with the normal development of the activity.


    According to the previous tables, specifically table number one, the outcomes are satisfactory and the classes’ intervention showed positive acceptance and students’ active participation. In relation to the students’ survey, the results helped to analyze what needs to be considered and corrected since the objective is to encourage students to develop their language acquisition through various strategies and supportive activities.


    There is some research about lexical borrowing from various languages, among them between English and Germany, Kichua and Spanish, English and French but unfortunately, and also between Spanish and English. At this point, it is necessary to recall that English has borrowed an important quantity of vocabulary from languages that come from the same family like romance languages and others such as English, which have some in common and help students to guess the meaning or relate words in various languages. In this regard, Galloway et al. (2020) assert that frequent reading is a pedagogical tool that supports the vocabulary learning and enables students to develop their linguistic competences because they can relate similar words that are used in their mother tongue and understand them in context.


In response to the research questions 

  1. It is evident that creativity and motivation are elements that should be considered by teachers when they are about planning or designing their classes. As it was observed, simple text worked in groups encouraged learners to fulfil their tasks.

  2. Some students are more eligible to detect similar words and others need some support to identify and get used to the application of new words. In this concern, looking for new strategies and involving activities are some of the teachers’ roles that should be considered to help their students in the improvement of the language learning acquisition.

  3. It is crucial to mention that through lexical borrowing, the students not only develop vocabulary and linguistic elements but they also improve the four main skills, reasoning and critical thinking, since they are able to understand written and oral text, and improve communicative competence, as well as they are able to analyze and apply new words in context.



    Lexical borrowing indeed supports the new vocabulary acquisition, and the transfer or loan of words are effective to work with students who have troubles with understanding vocabulary in context or in isolation.


    The activities for teaching vocabulary can influence positively or negatively in the students’ language development, since students need to be involved and work with different tasks that encourage them to fulfill their work in a successful way.


    Students still present some weaknesses in the acquisition of vocabulary because they are not encouraged enough to realize about the similarity of words and the use of some independence to discover words that are familiar in both languages.


    The teaching- learning process requires that both educators and learners feel comfortable with the new language skills acquisition and the application of lexical borrowing in class demonstrate that learning can be fun and scaffold the enhancement of vocabulary in EFL students.




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Lecturas: Educación Física y Deportes, Vol. 27, Núm. 292, Sep. (2022)