Vocabulary learning strategies abroad and at home

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University of Delaware
This study analyzes the impact of context on students' selection and use of vocabulary strategies in a group of 40 participants taking intermediate level Spanish courses. By comparing a group of 20 Spanish learners studying At Home (USA) with another group of 20 Spanish learners Studying Abroad (Spain) the study intends to explore students' choice and use of strategies for both the processes of finding as well as remembering new words. In addition to the factor of context of study, the study also explores whether the difference in levels of proficiency influences students' choice and use of language learning strategies (LLS). By further dividing both of the emergent groups (abroad vs. at home students) by their level of proficiency (intermediate-low -IL - and intermediate-high - IH), the relationship between language proficiency and vocabulary strategy selection/use is analyzed. While students with higher proficiency were shown to resort to more complex strategies than their lower proficiency level counterparts, the different contexts - by themselves - did not prove to have a determining effect on students' choice and use of vocabulary strategies. There were significant differences, however, in the way high proficiency students abroad addressed vocabulary strategies. Only the abroad students having a high proficiency level showed a tendency to use social strategies to both learn and remember new words. The rest of the groups, on the contrary, did not show evidence of social strategy use. Ultimately, the study attempts to identify possible associations between the choice and use of different types of strategies and their consequences for vocabulary learning. Results showed that the use of different types of strategies did not have a significant impact on students' final scores. More specifically, the use of social strategies to process and remember new words did not lead to higher levels of vocabulary acquisition. Results from the investigation have produced some pedagogical implications, which are also incorporated into the study. Finally, the investigation includes some recommendations for future research.