The Importance of Word Learning Strategy during Vocabulary Acquisition and the Influence of Multiliteracy

Guest Speaker:
Ms Eleanor Luckcock (University of Reading Malaysia)
Dr Rachel Pye
Subject Area:
Date & Time:
Wed, 7. March 2018, 13:00 h - 14:00 h
N3.24, University of Reading Malaysia - EduCity@Iskandar​


Previous language experience can affect the development and use of language. This variation is important to consider in language learning situations, a key component of which is vocabulary acquisition. This project investigated whether experience with more languages leads to better word learning, in both adults and children.

In study 1, adult participants were taught novel words in four training-testing blocks in which familiar or novel objects were presented in tandem with auditory or bimodal (auditory-visual) labels. Learning of the word-object associations was tested using a multiple-choice image selection task.

Results confirmed that participants learned the labels of familiar objects better than labels for novel objects. Participants also benefitted from bimodal presentation, although the extent of this effect was influenced by the number and type of languages participants spoke and were literate in. Word learning performance was not influenced by the number of languages spoken, but there was an effect of number of languages literate. The number of Latin-alphabetic languages in which participants were literate was the best predictor of word learning performance overall.

Study 2 investigated whether the number of languages known influences children’s world learning performance, through their choice of word learning strategy. Children aged between 5 and 7 took part in 2 experiments, intended to explore their use of word learning strategy, as well as their word learning ability. Results found that the use of a word learning strategy positively predicted children’s word learning score, although no effects of language experience were found.

Both studies emphasise the importance of learning method during vocabulary acquisition. In adults, language experience appears to interact with the effect of learning method - an influence that may be particularly related to experience with different literacies.


Eleanor is in the third year of her PhD in Psychology at University of Reading Malaysia. She has a BSc in Neuroscience and an MSc in Neuropsychology. Her research interests are now in the psychology of language development, and in particular the influence of multilingual language experience on word learning. This current project used behavioural experiments to investigate the effect of language experience on word learning in both adults and children, and she will soon be applying electrophysiological methodologies in order to understand the cognitive processes underlying word learning in multilinguals.

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