Academic journal article International Journal of English Linguistics

Effects of Using Mnemonic Associations on Vocabulary Recall of Iranian EFL Learners over Time

Academic journal article International Journal of English Linguistics

Effects of Using Mnemonic Associations on Vocabulary Recall of Iranian EFL Learners over Time

Article excerpt


Effects of using mnemonic associations on vocabulary recall of Iranian EFL learners were investigated in two separate experiments with adolescents and adults. In each experiment, the students were divided into two groups of experimental (mnemonic) and control (rote). Using a number of predesigned (the researcher-designed) associations as models, the students of the mnemonic groups were trained to generate mnemonic associations of their own for the new vocabulary words they had chosen to learn. Then, their use of the initial (previously student-designed) and the new self-designed associations was assessed by giving four recall tasks. The students of the rote groups, on the other hand, were instructed to learn the words through memorization and repetition. The data analyzed revealed that using mnemonic associations led to significantly better performance of the adult students when comparison was made with an external control group (rote group) and better performance of both adult and adolescent groups when comparison was made with an internal control group (when students used no association in mnemonic group). Furthermore, the higher performance of mnemonic groups who frequently reported using initial associations revealed that these had a significant role at vocabulary recall of students. Finally, mnemonic method significantly affected the vocabulary recall of adult students for both receptive and productive learning.

Keywords: mnemonic associations, initial association, internal control, recall tasks, dual coding theory

1. Introduction

Along with the idea of focusing on the good language learner, investigations have begun to isolate certain cognitive strategies to facilitate foreign language learning. Learning new vocabulary is a principal issue in learning of a foreign language. Such issue has led to a wide range of research and pedagogical interest. Despite this interest there has been considerable debate about the most effective way to develop students' FL vocabulary. One such issue concerns the effectiveness of a range of possible cognitive strategies (e.g. mnemonic associations) involved in vocabulary learning and empirical validation over time of the strategies actually mentioned. This study takes certain cognitive strategies - mnemonic associations mainly keyword strategy - to examine their effectiveness in a way that learners go through the process of self-selection to create a stronger link between their previous knowledge and newly-learned item. In this study we also examined the factor of age on vocabulary recall of participants. The reason for selecting different age groups results from our concerns that the use of adult subjects would produce biased results. Evidence shows that young children employ strategies that are simple and in a task-specific manner, while older children and adults make use of generalized strategies that are complex and sophisticated. For example, (Brown, Bransford, Ferrara, & Campione, 1983; cited in Ellis, 1994) found that "rehearsal" for children consisted of rote repetition, while for adults it involved "active, systematic and elaborative procedures".

1.1 Mnemonic Associations and Techniques

Mnemonics as proposed originally by Simonides around 500 B.C.E. reemerged in the modern era as part of the general movement away from behaviorism and, more specifically, as a reaction against the verbal emphasis that continued to dominate the Ebbinghaus tradition, even in its mediational forms. According to Merriam Webster's dictionary (2004), the term mnemonic derives from the ancient Greek mnemonikos, from mnemon that means "mindful", This term is related to the term mnemosyne, the Greek goddess of memory and mother of the Muses by Zeus. Mnemonics are techniques or devices such as a rhyme or an image that serve to enhance the storage and the recall of information contained in memory (Solso, 1995; cited in Pillai, 2007). Children who are primarily visual or verbal learners are able to create a picture, word, rhyme, or sentence that is attached to an idea they already have. …

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