This empirical study explores the facilitation of lexical acquisition and retention through an incidental experiment examining the effect of Involvement Load on Italian vocabulary growth among beginner learners. The experiment, with a pre-test/post-test design investigates the facilitative effects of elaborate processing on L2 lexical acquisition and retention. Participants in sections of the same first-year Italian course were divided into one of five groups consisting of a Control Group and four Treatment groups. Treatment groups were divided based on level of Involvement (Laufer & Hulstijn, 2001) such that some groups processed target words elaborately (Craik, 2002; Lockhart, 2002) through vocabulary exercises while others completed low involvement activities limited to comprehension of the lyrics. The fifth group constituted the Control. In terms of lexical gains, it was hypothesized that (i) if medium was held constant (Music or Poem), the High Involvement groups would outperform Low involvement groups. The Vocabulary Knowledge Scale (VKS) (Wesche & Paribakht, 1993) was administered at pre-test and at four and eight weeks following pre-test respectively. Mean scores at post-test and delayed post-test in addition to ANOVA indicated that participants in the High Involvement groups outperformed participants in Low Involvement groups (p=0.017). The facilitative role of involvement load is discussed in light of pedagogical implications for the language learning classroom.

Bio Note

Dr. Vanessa Natale Rukholm is Assistant Professor of French and Italian at the Unviersity of Tampa in Tampa, Florida. She completed her PhD at the University of Toronto with a dissertation entitled Facilitating Lexical Acquisition in Beginner Learners of Italian Through Popular Song. Her research areas include lexical acquisition, L1, L2, and L3 interference, cognate recognition and facilitation, second language teaching and learning, and intercultural competence.