Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour
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Thesis defense Johanna de Vos (Donders series 379)

24 April 2019

Promotor: prof. dr. H. Schriefers, co-promotor: dr. K. Lemhöfer

Naturalistic Word Learning in a Second Language

This thesis concerns word learning in a second language (L2), which is the task that adults face when they want to acquire the vocabulary of a non-native language. Specifically, I looked at naturalistic L2 word learning (outside of a tutored context such as a language class). I approached this topic from multiple perspectives, starting with a meta-analysis of 32 existing studies. Next, I conducted two experiments, in which the participants were unaware of the fact that the experiments were about language learning. This way, I approximated naturalistic learning as much as is possible in an experimental, laboratory context.

The final two studies in this PhD thesis concern a topic that currently is hotly discussed in the Dutch media: the increasing use of English in Dutch higher education. First, I investigated the effect that English-medium versus Dutch-medium education has on students’ language development. I then looked at the relationship between the study language and students’ study success. As I found that Dutch students who are instructed in English obtain lower grades than Dutch students who are instructed in Dutch, this last study has important implications for the debate on the use of English at Dutch universities.