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International Review of Applied Linguistics in Language Teaching

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Volume 54, Issue 3 (Sep 2016)


Effects of retrieval formats on second language vocabulary learning

Tatsuya Nakata
  • Corresponding author
  • Faculty of Foreign Language Studies, Kansai University, 3-3-35 Yamate-cho, Suita-shi, Osaka 564–8680, Japan
  • Email:
Published Online: 2016-09-27 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/iral-2015-0022


The present study set out to examine how we can optimize paired-associate learning of second language (L2) vocabulary. In paired-associate learning, retrieval, where learners are required to access information about an L2 word from memory, is found to increase vocabulary learning. Retrieval can be categorized according to dichotomies of (a) recognition versus recall and (b) receptive versus productive. In order to identify the optimal retrieval format, the present study compared the effects of the following four conditions: recognition, recall, hybrid (combination of recall and recognition), and productive recall only. In this study, 64 English-speaking college students studied 60 Swahili-English word pairs using computer-based flashcard software. Results suggested that for paired-associate learning of L2 vocabulary, (a) recall formats are more effective than recognition for the acquisition of productive knowledge of orthography and (b) recognition formats are more desirable than recall when knowledge of spelling is not required.

Keywords: vocabulary learning; retrieval; recognition; recall; receptive /productive learning


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About the article

Published Online: 2016-09-27

Published in Print: 2016-09-01

Citation Information: International Review of Applied Linguistics in Language Teaching, ISSN (Online) 1613-4141, ISSN (Print) 0019-042X, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/iral-2015-0022. Export Citation

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