The effects of language and emotionality of stimuli on vocabulary learning
de Bruin, Angela
Duñabeitia, Jon Andoni
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Frances C, de Bruin A, Duñabeitia JA (2020) The effects of language and emotionality of stimuli on vocabulary learning. PLoS ONE 15(10): e0240252. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal. pone.0240252
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.