Incidental Vocabulary Learning by Advanced Foreign Language Students: The Influence of Marginal Glosses, Dictionary Use, and Reoccurrence of Unknown Words




Dutch advanced students of French read a French short story in one of three text reading conditions: Marginal Glosses (provision of L1 translations of unknown words), Dictionary (opportunity to use a bilingual dictionary), or Control. After reading, students were tested for their recall of 16 words that had appeared either once or three times in the text. Support was found for the hypothesis that frequency of occurrence will foster incidental vocabulary learning more when advanced second language (L2) readers are given the meanings of unknown words through marginal glosses or when they look up meanings in a dictionary than when no external information concerning unknown words' meanings is available. In the former case, reappearance of a word will reinforce the form-meaning connection in the reader's mental lexicon. In the latter case, readers will often ignore unknown words or incorrectly infer their meanings, which will limit the frequency effect. This article ends with recommendations for teachers and researchers.