Inside Out - How can the internal structure of the mental lexicon support autonomous foreign vocabulary learning?

vrijdag 21 juni 2024, 12:30
R.I. Goertz MSc.
prof. dr. H. Bekkering, prof. dr. R.H.M. de Groot (Open Universiteit)
dr. F.T.M. Léoné

If you want to learn a foreign language, you usually start with learning new words. A good start would be to study them autonomously (choose yourself which words you want to learn). This is motivating, but can also be confusing. A good structure to guide your choices might be the key. In this thesis, we explored whether a brain-inspired structure could be used to enhance autonomous learning of new foreign vocabulary. We know that the word knowledge in our brain, the mental lexicon, is organized based on similarity, meaning that similar words are stored closer together than dissimilar words. We used this internal structure for our experiments and turned it inside out: we presented the to-be-learned words on a word map, sorted based on orthographic (‘written’) similarity. Our idea was that such a similarity-structure would guide autonomous learning and lead to higher learning outcomes. Our data does not clearly show that this is the case. Such a word map might only be useful depending on the map language, working memory capacities, and specific ways of presenting the similarity-structure. This thesis serves as an initial start impulse and shows how to study this further, with behavioral and possibly EEG measurements.