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Journal Article

Desirable Difficulties in Vocabulary Learning

Robert A. BJorK and Judith F. Kroll
The American Journal of Psychology
Vol. 128, No. 2 (Summer 2015), pp. 241-252
DOI: 10.5406/amerjpsyc.128.2.0241
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Page Count: 12
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Desirable Difficulties in Vocabulary Learning
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In this article we discuss the role of desirable difficulties in vocabulary learning from two perspectives, one having to do with identifying conditions of learning that impose initial challenges to the learner but then benefit later retention and transfer, and the other having to do with the role of certain difficulties that are intrinsic to language processes, are engaged during word learning, and reflect how language is understood and produced. from each perspective we discuss evidence that supports the notion that difficulties in learning and imposed costs to language processing may produce benefits because they are likely to increase conceptual understanding. We then consider the consequences of these processes for actual second- language learning and suggest that some of the domain- general cognitive advantages that have been reported for proficient bilinguals may reflect difficulties imposed by the learning process, and by the requirement to negotiate cross- language competition, that are broadly desirable. as alice Healy and her collaborators were perhaps the first to demonstrate, research on desirable difficulties in vocabulary and language learning holds the promise of bringing together research traditions on memory and language that have much to offer each other.

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