The role of translation in vocabulary acquisition: A replication study

Michael John Alroe
Chulalongkorn University
Hayo Reinders
Hayo Reinders
Keywords: Contextual learning, decontextualized learning, translation pairs;, vocabulary knowledge


This study aimed to test the findings of earlier research indicating that EFL students could better learn new vocabulary via translation from L1 rather than by encountering it in the context of L2 sentences. Over one thousand Thai freshmen students were allocated to one of three groups to learn 30 unfamiliar English words. One group studied translation pairs, a second studied the words in the context of English sentences with graphic illustrations and the third had English sentences, illustrations and Thai translation. After a brief delay participants were given a posttest involving gapped sentences and translations. Results showed the students who learned via translation did not do better than the two groups who learned contextually. The findings do not support the contention that switching to L1 in EFL classes to introduce new vocabulary is justified.