The effects of language and emotionality of stimuli on vocabulary learning.
ABSTRACT: Learning new content and vocabulary in a foreign language can be particularly difficult. Yet, there are educational programs that require people to study in a language they are not native speakers of. For this reason, it is important to understand how these learning processes work and possibly differ from native language learning, as well as to develop strategies to ease this process. The current study takes advantage of emotionality-operationally defined as positive valence and high arousal-to improve memory. In two experiments, the present paper addresses whether participants have more difficulty learning the names of objects they have never seen before in their foreign language and whether embedding them in a positive semantic context can help make learning easier. With this in mind, we had participants (with a minimum of a B2 level of English) in two experiments (43 participants in Experiment 1 and 54 in Experiment 2) read descriptions of made-up objects-either positive or neutral and either in their native or a foreign language. The effects of language varied with the difficulty of the task and measure used. In both cases, learning the words in a positive context improved learning. Importantly, the effect of emotionality was not modulated by language, suggesting that the effects of emotionality are independent of language and could potentially be a useful tool for improving foreign language vocabulary learning.
Project description:Vocabulary learning occurs throughout the lifespan, often implicitly. For foreign language learners, this is particularly challenging as they must acquire a large number of new words with little exposure. In the present study, we explore the effects of contextual diversity-namely, the number of texts a word appears in-on native and foreign language word learning. Participants read several texts that had novel pseudowords replacing high-frequency words. The total number of encounters with the novel words was held constant, but they appeared in 1, 2, 4, or 8 texts. In addition, some participants read the texts in Spanish (their native language) and others in English (their foreign language). We found that increasing contextual diversity improved recall and recognition of the word, as well as the ability to match the word with its meaning while keeping comprehension unimpaired. Using a foreign language only affected performance in the matching task, where participants had to quickly identify the meaning of the word. Results are discussed in the greater context of the word learning and foreign language literature as well as their importance as a teaching tool.
Project description:Watching English-spoken films with subtitles is becoming increasingly popular throughout the world. One reason for this trend is the assumption that perceptual learning of the sounds of a foreign language, English, will improve perception skills in non-English speakers. Yet, solid proof for this is scarce. In order to test the potential learning effects derived from watching subtitled media, a group of intermediate Spanish students of English as a foreign language watched a 1h-long episode of a TV drama in its original English version, with English, Spanish or no subtitles overlaid. Before and after the viewing, participants took a listening and vocabulary test to evaluate their speech perception and vocabulary acquisition in English, plus a final plot comprehension test. The results of the listening skills tests revealed that after watching the English subtitled version, participants improved these skills significantly more than after watching the Spanish subtitled or no-subtitles versions. The vocabulary test showed no reliable differences between subtitled conditions. Finally, as one could expect, plot comprehension was best under native, Spanish subtitles. These learning effects with just 1 hour exposure might have major implications with longer exposure times.
Project description:Foreign languages are often learned in emotionally neutral academic environments which differ greatly from the familiar context where native languages are acquired. This difference in learning contexts has been argued to lead to reduced emotional resonance when confronted with a foreign language. In the current study, we investigated whether the reactivity of the sympathetic nervous system in response to emotionally-charged stimuli is reduced in a foreign language. To this end, pupil sizes were recorded while reading aloud emotional sentences in the native or foreign language. Additionally, subjective ratings of emotional impact were provided after reading each sentence, allowing us to further investigate foreign language effects on explicit emotional understanding. Pupillary responses showed a larger effect of emotion in the native than in the foreign language. However, such a difference was not present for explicit ratings of emotionality. These results reveal that the sympathetic nervous system reacts differently depending on the language context, which in turns suggests a deeper emotional processing when reading in a native compared to a foreign language.
Project description:The rise of bilingual education triggers an important question: which language is preferred for a particular school activity? Our field experiment (n = 120) shows that students (aged 13-15) who process feedback in non-native English have greater self-serving bias than students who process feedback in their native Dutch. By contrast, literature on the foreign-language emotionality effect suggests a weaker self-serving bias in the non-native language, so our result adds nuance to that literature. The result is important to schools as it suggests that teachers may be able to reduce students' defensiveness and demotivation by communicating negative feedback in the native language, and teachers may be able to increase students' confidence and motivation by communicating positive feedback in the foreign language.
Project description:Emotions have crucial influence on vocabulary learning and text comprehension. However, whether morphosyntactic learning is influenced by emotional conditions has remained largely unclear. In this study, we investigated how induced positive and negative emotions affect the learning of morphosyntactic rules in a foreign language. It was found that negative emotion increased the accuracy and efficiency of syntactic learning, but had no significant effect on the learning of morphological marking rules. Positive emotion was not found to be significantly associated with learning outcomes. The findings shed light on the effects of affective states on the structural aspects of foreign language learning.
Project description:Language learning aptitude during adulthood varies markedly across individuals. An individual's native-language ability has been associated with success in learning a new language as an adult. However, little is known about how native-language processing affects learning success and what neural markers of native-language processing, if any, are related to success in learning. We therefore related variation in electrophysiology during native-language processing to success in learning a novel artificial language. Event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded while native English speakers judged the acceptability of English sentences prior to learning an artificial language. There was a trend towards a double dissociation between native-language ERPs and their relationships to novel syntax and vocabulary learning. Individuals who exhibited a greater N400 effect when processing English semantics showed better future learning of the artificial language overall. The N400 effect was related to syntax learning via its specific relationship to vocabulary learning. In contrast, the P600 effect size when processing English syntax predicted future syntax learning but not vocabulary learning. These findings show that distinct neural signatures of native-language processing relate to dissociable abilities for learning novel semantic and syntactic information.
Project description:Despite a growing number of studies, the neurophysiology of adult vocabulary acquisition is still poorly understood. One reason is that paradigms that can easily be combined with neuroscientfic methods are rare. Here, we tested the efficiency of two paradigms for vocabulary (re-) acquisition, and compared the learning of novel words for actions and objects. Cortical networks involved in adult native-language word processing are widespread, with differences postulated between words for objects and actions. Words and what they stand for are supposed to be grounded in perceptual and sensorimotor brain circuits depending on their meaning. If there are specific brain representations for different word categories, we hypothesized behavioural differences in the learning of action-related and object-related words. Paradigm A, with the learning of novel words for body-related actions spread out over a number of days, revealed fast learning of these new action words, and stable retention up to 4 weeks after training. The single-session Paradigm B employed objects and actions. Performance during acquisition did not differ between action-related and object-related words (time*word category: p?=?0.01), but the translation rate was clearly better for object-related (79%) than for action-related words (53%, p?=?0.002). Both paradigms yielded robust associative learning of novel action-related words, as previously demonstrated for object-related words. Translation success differed for action- and object-related words, which may indicate different neural mechanisms. The paradigms tested here are well suited to investigate such differences with neuroscientific means. Given the stable retention and minimal requirements for conscious effort, these learning paradigms are promising for vocabulary re-learning in brain-lesioned people. In combination with neuroimaging, neuro-stimulation or pharmacological intervention, they may well advance the understanding of language learning to optimize therapeutic strategies.
Project description:Numerous studies have shown that the native language influences foreign word recognition and that this influence is modulated by the proficiency in the non-native language. Here we explored how the degree of reliance on cross-language similarity (as measured by the cognate facilitation effect) together with other domain-general cognitive factors contribute to reading comprehension achievement in a non-native language at different stages of the learning process. We tested two groups of native speakers of Spanish learning English at elementary and intermediate levels in an academic context. A regression model approach showed that domain-general cognitive skills are good predictors of second language reading achievement independently of the level of proficiency. Critically, we found that individual differences in the degree of reliance on the native language predicted foreign language reading achievement, showing a markedly different pattern between proficiency groups. At lower levels of proficiency the cognate facilitation effect was positively related with reading achievement, while this relation became negative at intermediate levels of foreign language learning. We conclude that the link between native- and foreign-language lexical representations helps participants at initial stages of the learning process, whereas it is no longer the case at intermediate levels of proficiency, when reliance on cross-language similarity is inversely related to successful non-native reading achievement. Thus, at intermediate levels of proficiency strong and direct mappings from the non-native lexical forms to semantic concepts are needed to achieve good non-native reading comprehension, in line with the premises of current models of bilingual lexico-semantic organization.
Project description:This study examined the simultaneous acquisition of vocabulary and grammar by adult learners and the role of exposure condition and declarative memory. Most experimental studies investigating the acquisition of artificial or natural languages focus on either vocabulary or grammar, but not both. However, a systematic investigation of the simultaneous learning of multiple linguistic features is important given that it mirrors language learning outside the lab. Native English speakers were exposed to an artificial language under either incidental or intentional exposure conditions. Participants had to learn both novel pseudowords and word order patterns while also processing stimulus sentences for meaning. The results showed that adult learners are able to rapidly acquire basic syntactic information of a novel language while processing the input for meaning (plausibility judgments) and attempting to learn novel vocabulary at the same time. The results further indicated that exposure condition (incidental versus intentional) made no difference in terms of either vocabulary or grammar learning gains. Findings also revealed that learners developed explicit, not implicit, knowledge of lexis and syntax. Finally, the results indicated that individuals' declarative memory capacity was not related to vocabulary learning but only to grammar learning. Our study underscores the importance of studying the simultaneous acquisition of different language features and from different perspectives of comprehension versus production, incidental versus intentional learning conditions, implicit/explicit knowledge, and individual differences in cognitive abilities.
Project description:This study aimed to investigate the effects of subtitles in the context of authentic material on second language comprehension and potentially, second language acquisition for Norwegian learners of English. Participants in the study were 49 17-year-old students and 65 16-year-old students, who were all native speakers of Norwegian learning English as an L2 in high school. Both age groups were divided into three Conditions, where one group watched an episode of the American animated cartoon Family Guy with Norwegian subtitles, one group with English subtitles, and one group watched the episode with no subtitles. On a comprehension questionnaire conducted immediately after watching the episode positive short-term effects of both native language (L1) and target language (L2) subtitles were found for both age groups. However, no differences in terms of the language of the subtitles were found in the older and more advanced group. Four weeks later the participants responded to a word definition task and a word recall task to investigate potential long-term effects of the subtitles. The only long-term effect was found in the word definition task and was modulated by age. We found, however, that native language subtitles impact negatively on performance on the comprehension task. The results from this study suggest that the mere presence of subtitles as an additional source of information enhances learners' comprehension of the plot and content in animated audio-visual material in their L2. The absence of differences in terms of the language of the subtitles in the more advanced group suggests that both intralanguage and interlanguage subtitles can aid target language comprehension in very advanced learners, most probably due to better consolidated vocabulary knowledge in that group. The two groups differed also on predictors of performance on the two lexical tasks. While in the less proficient younger group, vocabulary status best predicted performance on both tasks (vocabulary predicts vocabulary), for the very advanced older group, grammar was a stronger predictor, highlighting the importance of generic language competence and skills in L2 tasks for highly proficient L2 users. We also found an effect of written L2 skills on performance on both lexical tasks indicative of the role of orthography in vocabulary consolidation.