What lexical information do L2 learners select in a call dictionary and how does it affect word retention?

Batia Laufer, Monica Hill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The study investigates a relationship between what is looked up about new words when different kinds of information are available and how well these words are remembered. The dictionary information has been incorporated into a CALL programme which was comprised of a text, highlighted low-frequency words, and access to different lexical information about these words (explanation in English, translation into L1, sound, root, and "extra" information). The subjects were English as a Foreign Language (EFL) university learners in Hong Kong and Israel. The target words examined for incidental learning were 12 low frequency words. Pre-tests showed that they were unfamiliar to most subjects. The subjects were asked to read the text on the screen and understand it so that they could take a comprehension test after reading it. Unknown words could be looked up in the CALL dictionary built into the programme. During the task, log files registered every selection of dictionary information. After task completion, subjects were unexpectedly tested on meaning recall of the target words. Recall data were analysed (ANOVAs, repeated measures, and correlations) to establish possible connections between retention and lookup behaviour (type of information selected, and number of lookups for each word). Results suggest that different people have different lookup preferences and that the use of multiple dictionary information seems to reinforce retention. The teaching implication is, therefore, to provide a variety of lookup options catering to different lookup preferences in paper or CALL dictionaries when assigning tasks that involve reading comprehension and understanding of unfamiliar words.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)58-76
Number of pages19
JournalLanguage Learning and Technology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Computer Science Applications


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