Memorizing new words: Does teaching have anything to do with it?

Batia Laufer, Karen Shmueli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The paper examines the relationship between memorization of new words (short-term and long-term) and teaching techniques involving different modes of vocabulary presentation and different language of vocabulary glossing. The four modes were: 1- words presented in isolation, 2 - in 'minimal context', i.e., in one meaningful sentence, 3 - in text-context, 4 - in 'elaborated' text context, i.e., in the original text supplemented by clarifying phrases and sentences. In each mode of presentation, half (ten) of the words were translated into learners' L 1 and half were explained in English. An additional group of learners served as a control. They were asked to learn the words for a quiz by themselves. All subjects were tested on the short-term and long-term retention of the target words. Retention scores were compared by mode of presentation, language of glossing and the interaction between the two. Words glossed in L 1 were always better retained than those glossed in L2. As for context effect, words presented in lists and in sentences were remembered better than words presented in text and elaborated text. The control group received the lowest scores. The results underscore the importance of attending to newly learnt vocabulary and relating it to the first language. It is suggested that mental elaboration which is claimed to affect retention may not necessarily take place when words are encountered in texts. On the other hand, bilingual lists may be conducive to such elaboration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-108
Number of pages20
JournalRELC Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language


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