What benefits L2 word learning most: Tablets or real objects?

M.A.J. Vlaar, J. Verhagen, O. Oudgenoeg-Paz, S.H.G. van der Ven, P.P.M. Leseman

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractOther research output


Aim. The embodied-cognition approach, stating that language is grounded in real-life sensorimotor interactions (Hockema & Smith, 2009), predicts that children’s interactions with real-life objects benefit vocabulary learning. It is not clear whether manipulating virtual objects provides the same L2 learning benefits. The present study aims to find out whether there is a difference in children’s L2 vocabulary learning gains when manipulating either physical objects or 3D virtual objects on a tablet screen. Method. Thirty-eight Dutch kindergartners (Mage=62.6 months) participated in the experiment. Children were taught six words in English (L2) through a story in Dutch. During the training the children manipulated either real-life objects or 3D virtual objects on a tablet (n=25 in tablet condition; random assignment). Various tests were administered directly and re-administered one week later to measure learning gains. The tasks included: (i) translation tasks (English to Dutch and Dutch to English; maximum score=6); (ii) a comprehension task (maximum score=24); (iii) a sorting task (maximum score=30). Results. Preliminary results indicate no significant differences between using a tablet and physical objects during the L2 vocabulary training (see Figure 1). In the comprehension and sorting tasks, children scored above chance level (indicated by the black line), irrespective of condition. In the translation tasks, children in both conditions accurately produced one or two translations. Discussion. There seems to be no clear advantage of using real-life objects over virtual objects on a tablet in L2 word learning. This suggests that, at this age, tablets provide children with sufficient interactional opportunities for L2 word learning. Note that it may be crucial that the children had already acquired the concepts in their L1. However, data is still being collected, and the full dataset of 60 children (30 per condition; to be included in the presentation) will allow for firmer conclusions.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2017
EventEuropean Conference on Developmental Psychology - Utrecht, Netherlands
Duration: 29 Aug 20171 Sept 2017
Conference number: 2017


ConferenceEuropean Conference on Developmental Psychology
Abbreviated titleECDP


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