The use of pocket electronic dictionaries as compared with printed dictionaries by Japanese learners of English
Chiho Kobayashi, The Ohio State University, United States
The Ohio State University . Awarded
As L2 learners increasingly depend on electronic reference materials, it has become crucial to investigate how such materials are used and what impact they have on L2 learning. Pocket electronic dictionaries (EDs) have particularly become popular among Asian learners of English in the past decade. This study compared the use of EDs with PDs among Japanese university students. It also examined the relationships between students' ED use and their use of lexical processing strategies (LPS; consult, infer, or ignore), their vocabulary learning, and their reading.
In order to construct a complete picture, this study investigated these issues both quantitatively and qualitatively, through multiple investigative techniques. This study consisted of two phases. In Phase 1, quantitative data were collected from 279 students, using a written questionnaire on LPS use, the Vocabulary Levels Test assessing vocabulary size, and the Reading Comprehension section of the TOEFL assessing reading proficiency. In Phase 2, both qualitative and quantitative data were collected from the 22 students selected from those who participated in Phase 1, through a follow-up interview about the questionnaire, retrospective think-aloud protocols elicited during a reading session, and two types of vocabulary tests administered a week after the reading session to assess word retention.
The findings showed that EDs have become popular tools for Japanese learners of English; the majority of students (72% of 279 students) owned an ED, and those who owned it tended to use it exclusively, although they also owned a PD. The results indicated the complex nature of the effects of EDs. EDs appear to increase the frequency of dictionary consultation by students, particularly by low-proficiency students. In this sense, the effects of EDs on L2 use may be positive. Also, EDs may positively influence long-term L2 learning because frequent dictionary consultation is likely to cumulate in greater vocabulary learning in the long run. However, EDs may not benefit all students equally. The increase in the frequency of dictionary consultation may be accompanied by varying degrees of decrease in the frequency of inferring. Therefore, frequent dictionary consultation may result in less interaction with the textual context, particularly for some students who are not proficient enough in English or skilled enough in LPS use to take advantage of EDs. For these students, EDs may not necessarily positively influence reading comprehension or word retention. Among the pedagogical implications of these findings is the need for training in the use of EDs in order to help students make the best use of EDs.
Kobayashi, C. The use of pocket electronic dictionaries as compared with printed dictionaries by Japanese learners of English. Ph.D. thesis, The Ohio State University.
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