Effects of Repeated Word Retrieval on the Use of Keyword Mediators

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The present study investigated how the use of keyword mediators changes over the course of repeated retrieval practice and how these changes relate to the retention of foreign vocabulary by means of the think aloud method. Keyword mediators are used in vocabulary learning to associate novel word forms to their meaning (e.g., barua=letter), by selecting a keyword that resembles the word form (e.g., bar) and linking it to the word meaning by means of a mental image (e.g., she writes a letter in a bar). 30 students encoded novel words using experimenter-provided keywords and then repeatedly retrieved the word meanings while thinking aloud. The think aloud protocols demonstrate a decrease in mediator for 21.6% of the experimental words. These shifts from mediated to direct retrieval are explained to be a function of repeated practice rather than time. The findings show that the average moment of shift appeared after 8.27 retrievals. Further, no correlation was found between the mediator use and the test performance one week after practice on learner level. On word level however, the mediator use during practice could predict both the receptive and productive recall on the test. The establishment of a direct link between the target form and meaning seems to enhance the retention of words that were initially learned with keyword mediators.
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