Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details
More options …

International Review of Applied Linguistics in Language Teaching

Ed. by Jordens, Peter / Roberts, Leah

4 Issues per year

IMPACT FACTOR 2016: 0.545

CiteScore 2016: 0.49

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2016: 0.279
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2016: 0.269

See all formats and pricing
More options …
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
  • Other articles by this author:
  • De Gruyter OnlineGoogle Scholar
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


  • Baddeley, A. D. 1997. Human memory: Theory and practice (Revised ed.). East Sussex, UK: Psychology Press.Google Scholar

  • Barcroft, J. 2007. Effects of opportunities for word retrieval during second language vocabulary learning. Language Learning 57. 35–56.Google Scholar

  • Barcroft, J. 2012. Input-based incremental vocabulary instruction. Alexandria, VA: TESOL.Google Scholar

  • Bjork, R. A. 1994. Memory and metamemory considerations in the training of human beings. In J. Metcalfe & A. Shimamura (eds.), Metacognition: Knowing about knowing, 185–205. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar

  • Cepeda, N. J., E. Vul, D. Rohrer, J. T. Wixted & H. Pashler. 2008. Spacing effects in learning: A temporal ridgeline of optimal retention. Psychological Science 19. 1095–1102.Google Scholar

  • Chen, C.-H. & K. Huang. 2014. The effects of response modes and cues on language learning, cognitive load and self-efficacy beliefs in web-based learning. Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia 23. 117–134.Google Scholar

  • Clariana, R. B. & D. Lee. 2001. The effects of recognition and recall study tasks with feedback in a computer-based vocabulary lesson. Educational Technology Research and Development 49. 23–36.Google Scholar

  • Cohen, J. 1988. Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences, 2nd edn. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar

  • Elgort, I. 2011. Deliberate learning and vocabulary acquisition in a second language. Language Learning 61. 367–413.Google Scholar

  • Elgort, I. & A. E. Piasecki. 2014. The effect of a bilingual learning mode on the establishment of lexical semantic representations in the L2. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition 17. 572–588.Google Scholar

  • Ellis, N. C. 1995. The psychology of foreign language vocabulary acquisition: Implications for CALL. Computer Assisted Language Learning 8. 103–128.Google Scholar

  • Ellis, N. C. & A. Beaton. 1993. Factors affecting the learning of foreign language vocabulary: Imagery keyword mediators and phonological short-term memory. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology Section A 46. 533–558.Google Scholar

  • eSpindle Learning. 2015. Answers to common questions about our vocabulary and spelling program. LearnThatWord. https://www.learnthat.org/pages/view/faq.html (accessed 3 March 2015)

  • Griffin, G. F. & T. A. Harley. 1996. List learning of second language vocabulary. Applied Psycholinguistics 17. 443–460.Google Scholar

  • Harris, D. P. 1969. Testing English as a second language. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar

  • Jaeger, T. F. 2008. Categorical data analysis: Away from ANOVAs (transformation or not) and towards logit mixed models. Journal of Memory and Language 59. 434–446.Google Scholar

  • Jarvis, S. 2009. Lexical transfer. In A. Pavlenko (ed.), The bilingual mental lexicon: Interdisciplinary approaches, 99–124. Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.Google Scholar

  • Jiang, N. 2000. Lexical representation and development in a second language. Applied Linguistics 21. 47–77.Google Scholar

  • Kahana, M. J. & J. B. Caplan. 2002. Associative asymmetry in probed recall of serial lists. Memory & Cognition 30. 841–849.Google Scholar

  • Karpicke, J. D. & H. L. Roediger. 2007. Repeated retrieval during learning is the key to long-term retention. Journal of Memory and Language 57. 151–162.Google Scholar

  • Karpicke, J. D. & H. L. Roediger. 2008. The critical importance of retrieval for learning. Science 319. 966–968.Google Scholar

  • Kornell, N. 2009. Optimising learning using flashcards: Spacing is more effective than cramming. Applied Cognitive Psychology 23. 1297–1317.Google Scholar

  • Kroll, J. F. & E. Stewart. 1994. Category interference in translation and picture naming: Evidence for asymmetric connections between bilingual memory representations. Journal of Memory and Language 33. 149–174.Google Scholar

  • Laufer, B. & Z. Goldstein. 2004. Testing vocabulary knowledge: Size, strength, and computer adaptiveness. Language Learning 54. 399–436.Google Scholar

  • Laufer, B. & K. Shmueli. 1997. Memorizing new words: Does teaching have anything to do with it? RELC Journal 28. 89–108.Google Scholar

  • Logan, J. M. & D. A. Balota. 2008. Expanded vs. equal interval spaced retrieval practice: Exploring different schedules of spacing and retention interval in younger and older adults. Aging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition 15. 257–280.Google Scholar

  • Mondria, J. A. 2003. The effects of inferring, verifying, and memorizing on the retention of L2 word meanings: An experimental comparison of the “Meaning-Inferred Method” and the “Meaning-Given Method.” Studies in Second Language Acquisition 25. 473–499.Google Scholar

  • Mondria, J. A. & B. Wiersma. 2004. Receptive, productive and receptive+productive L2 vocabulary learning: What difference does it make? In P. Bogaards & B. Laufer, (eds.), Vocabulary in a second language: Selection, acquisition, and testing, 79–100. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Benjamins.Google Scholar

  • Morris, C. D., Bransford, J. D. & J. J. Franks. 1977. Levels of processing versus transfer appropriate processing. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior 16. 519–533.Google Scholar

  • Nakata, T. 2011. Computer-assisted second language vocabulary learning in a paired-associate paradigm: A critical investigation of flashcard software. Computer Assisted Language Learning 24. 17–38.

  • Nakata, T. 2013. Optimising second language vocabulary learning from flashcards (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). New Zealand: Victoria University of Wellington.

  • Nakata, T. in press. Does repeated practice make perfect? The effects of within-session repeated retrieval on second language vocabulary learning. Studies in Second Language Acquisition.

  • Nakata, T. & S. A. Webb. 2016. Vocabulary learning exercises: Evaluating a selection of exercises commonly featured in language learning materials. In B. Tomlinson, (ed.), SLA research and materials development for language learning, 123–138. Oxon, UK: Routledge.

  • Nation, I. S. P. 2013. Learning vocabulary in another language, 2nd edn. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

  • Nation, I. S. P. & S. A. Webb. 2011. Researching and analyzing vocabulary. Boston, MA: Heinle Cengage Learning.Google Scholar

  • Nelson, T. O. & J. Dunlosky. 1994. Norms of paired-associate recall during multitrial learning of Swahili-English translation equivalents. Memory 2. 325–335.Google Scholar

  • Park, J. 2005. Learning in a new computerized testing system. Journal of Educational Psychology 97. 436–443.Google Scholar

  • Prihoda, T. J., R. N. Pinckard, C. A. McMahan & A. C. Jones. 2006. Correcting for guessing increases validity in multiple-choice examinations in an oral and maxillofacial pathology course. Journal of Dental Education 70. 378–386.Google Scholar

  • Pyc, M. A. & K. A. Rawson. 2009. Testing the retrieval effort hypothesis: Does greater difficulty correctly recalling information lead to higher levels of memory? Journal of Memory and Language 60. 437–447.Google Scholar

  • Read, J. 2004. Plumbing the depths: How should the construct of vocabulary knowledge be defined? In P. Bogaards & B. Laufer (eds.), Vocabulary in a second language: Selection, acquisition, and testing, 209–227. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Benjamins.Google Scholar

  • Schmitt, N. 1997. Vocabulary learning strategies. In N. Schmitt & M. McCarthy (eds.), Vocabulary: Description, acquisition and pedagogy, 199–227. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar

  • Schneider, V. I., A. F. Healy & L. E. Bourne. 2002. What is learned under difficult conditions is hard to forget: Contextual interference effects in foreign vocabulary acquisition, retention, and transfer. Journal of Memory and Language 46. 419–440.Google Scholar

  • Smith, M. A. & J. D. Karpicke. 2014. Retrieval practice with short-answer, multiple-choice, and hybrid tests. Memory 22. 784–802.Google Scholar

  • Steinel, M. P., J. H. Hulstijn & W. Steinel. 2007. Second language idiom learning in a paired-associate paradigm: Effects of direction of learning, direction of testing, idiom imageability, and idiom transparency. Studies in Second Language Acquisition 29. 449–484.Google Scholar

  • Van Bussel, F. J. J. 1994. Design rules for computer-aided learning of vocabulary items in a second language. Computers in Human Behavior 10. 63–76.Google Scholar

  • Webb, S. A. 2007. Learning word pairs and glossed sentences: The effects of a single context on vocabulary knowledge. Language Teaching Research 11. 63–81.Google Scholar

  • Webb, S. A. 2008. Receptive and productive vocabulary sizes of L2 learners. Studies in Second Language Acquisition 30. 79–95.Google Scholar

  • Webb, S. A. 2009a. The effects of pre-learning vocabulary on reading comprehension and writing. Canadian Modern Language Review 65. 441–470.Google Scholar

  • Webb, S. A. 2009b. The effects of receptive and productive learning of word pairs on vocabulary knowledge. RELC Journal 40. 360–376.Google Scholar

  • Wissman, K. T., K. A. Rawson & M. A. Pyc. 2012. How and when do students use flashcards? Memory 20. 568–579.Google Scholar

  • Yun, S., P. C.Miller, Y. Baek, JJung. & M. Ko. 2008. Improving recall and transfer skills through vocabulary building in web-based second language learning: An examination by item and feedback type. Educational Technology & Society 11. 158–172.Google Scholar

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

©2016 by De Gruyter Mouton. Copyright Clearance Center

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in