According to Meara (1995), there exist conflicting views among language professionals concerning the relative superiority of two approaches to learning second language vocabulary: learning words in context versus learning words out of context. Convictions are strong among many language professionals that contextualized vocabulary learning is more effective than learning words in lists. For example, Oxford and Scarcella (1994) observed that while de-contextualized learning (word lists) may help students memorize vocabulary for tests, students are likely to rapidly forget words memorized from lists. However, in recent literature dealing with vocabulary acquisition, there can be seen increasing advocacy for explicitly teaching words out of context at an early stage of language acquisition, with more context-based vocabulary learning taking place at later stages of language development (Meara, 1995).The contextualized group just paid attention to the word for the purpose of comprehension and when the goal was achieved and they could infer the word meaning out of context whether partially or completely correct, they ignored the word itself and also its phonological and morphological features. In other words, vocabularies were attended for the sole purpose of reading comprehension and not for its own sake.
As Nation (2002) argued there is a matter of fragility in meaning-focused learning. In his study the amount of vocabulary learning in de-contextualized group is most of the time lower than the contextualized group, if it is assumed that both approaches have the same effect of vocabulary learning and retention, still the contextualized one leads to better results if the factor of time is taken into consideration.The measures employed in this study reflect the goals commonly held by reading teachers: increasing accuracy, improving fluency, and increasing recognition of isolated words. While each of these measures has a certain amount of face validity.
Unfortunately, the best level of reading accuracy required for comprehension of connected discourse is not known. It is easy to imagine situations wherein a reader can construct an appropriate meaning from a passage, even though some words have been misread.