Vol. 7. No. 1 A-1 June 2003
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Differential Effects of Reading and Memorization of Paired Associates on Vocabulary Acquisition in Adult Learners of English as a Second Language

Frank Hermann

Indiana University of Pennsylvania


This study investigates differential effects of reading and paired-associate learning on vocabulary acquisition in adult ESL learners. The sample (N = 34) comprised two intact groups of university students. Subjects in one group were asked to read the novel Animal Farm while subjects in the comparison group memorized a list of words preselected from the novel. Subjects were then administered two post-tests: one to assess initial lexical acquisition, and another three weeks later to assess lexical retention. Only subjects in the paired-associates group were apprised of the vocabulary test. Although multiple comparisons failed to produce sufficient support for the first hypothesis (that the reading condition would initially acquire more vocabulary than the word list condition), substantial confirmation emerged for the second hypothesis--that the reading condition would exhibit superior retention rates. These findings suggest that for the purpose of encouraging long-term lexical retention, reading literature is preferable to paired-associate learning.

Keywords: ESL, EFL, vocabulary, lexical acquisition, SLA, extensive reading


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