Efficacy of three vocabulary-learning activities in Spanish FL/L2: selection of definitions, selection of examples and the writing of sentences


  • Alicia San-Mateo Valdehíta National Distance Education University (UNED)
  • M.ª Antonieta Andión Herrero National Distance Education University (UNED)




Spanish as a Second Language/Foreign Language, vocabulary learning, learning activities, Involvement Load Hypothesis, Technique Feature Analysis


This article presents the overall results of a research project on vocabulary learning in Spanish, carried out with 1,317 participants, from 27 mother tongues, in the context of it being foreign language and second language. The aim is to determine (1) which of these three vocabulary-learning activities is more effective: definition-choosing, gap-filling or sentence-writing; (2) the predictive ability of two scales with regard to effective vocabulary-learning activities: Involvement Load Hypothesis (Hulstijn and Laufer, 2001) and Technique Feature Analysis (Nation and Webb, 2011); and (3) what kind of knowledge, receptive or productive, learners acquired with each activity. The results showed that subjects who performed sentence-writing, the productive activity, which required more cognitive effort according to the two scales, remembered more words and were able to complete receptive and productive activities significantly better than the other groups. In contrast, those who performed definition-choosing, which entailed only receptive knowledge of the words and ranked less on both scales, remembered fewer words, and had worse results with regard to productive activity.


Download data is not yet available.


Agustín, M. P. (2009): «The effect of reading only, reading and comprehension, and sentence writing in lexical learning in a foreign language: Some preliminary results». RESLA, 22, 9-33.

Alavinia, P., Rahimi, H. (2019): «Task types effects and task involvement load on vocabulary learning of EFL learners». International Journal of Instruction, 12(1), 1501-1516.

Alcaraz, G., Almela, A. (2013): «The Involvement Load Hypothesis: Its effect on vocabulary learning in Primary Education». RESLA, 26, 11-24.

Andión, M.ª A., San-Mateo, A. (2018): «Tres actividades de adquisición léxica. Resultados en aprendices brasileños de español como lengua extranjera». Calidoscópio, 16(3), 437-449.

Browne, C. (2003): Vocabulary Acquisition through Reading, Writing and Tasks: A Comparison. Tesis doctoral. Japan: Temple University Japan.

Chaharlang, N., Farvardin, M. T. (2018): «Predictive power of Involvement Load Hypothesis and Technique Feature Analysis across L2 vocabulary learning tasks». International Journal of Foreign Language Teaching and Research, 6(24), 127-141.

Consejo de Europa (2002): Marco común europeo de referencia para las lenguas: aprendizaje, enseñanza y evaluación (MCER). Madrid: Secretaría General Técnica del MECD-Subdirección General de Información y Publicaciones, y Grupo ANAYA, S. A.

Coomber, J. E., Ramstad, D. A., Sheets, D. A. R. (1986): «Elaboration in vocabulary learning: A comparison of three rehearsal methods». Research in the Teaching of English, 20(3), 281-293.

Folse, K. S. (2006): «The effect of type of written exercise on L2 vocabulary retention». TESOL Quarterly, 40(2), 273-293.

Gavett, B. E., Horwitz, J. E. (2012): «Immediate list recall as a measure of short-term episodic memory: Insights from the serial position effect and item response theory». Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology, 27(2), 125-135.

Gohar, M. J., Rahmanian, M., Soleimani, H. (2018): «Technique Feature Analysis or Involvement Load Hypothesis: Estimating their predictive power in vocabulary learning». Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 47(4), 859-869.

Hu, H. M., Nassaji, H. (2016): «Effective vocabulary learning tasks: Involvement Load Hypothesis versus Technique Feature Analysis». System, 56, 28-39.

Hulstijn, J. H., Laufer, B. (2001): «Some empirical evidence for the Involvement Load Hypothesis in vocabulary acquisition». Language Learning, 51(3), 539-558.

IBM Corp. (2016): IBM SPSS Statistics para Windows, Versión 24.0. Nueva York: IBM Corp.

Keating, G. D. (2008): «Task effectiveness and word learning in a second language: The Involvement Load Hypothesis on trial». Language Teaching Research, 12(3), 365-386.

Khoshsima, H., Eskandari, Z. (2017): «Task effectiveness predictors: Technique Feature Analysis vs. Involvement Load Hypothesis». Iranian Journal of English for Academic Purposes, 6(2), 50-69.

Kim, Y. (2008): «The role of task-induced involvement and learner proficiency in SL vocabulary acquisition». Language Learning, 58(2), 285-325.

Kondo, H. (2007): «The effects of semantic elaboration on SL vocabulary learning». Research Journal of Jin-Ai University, 6, 71-78.

Laufer, B. (2003): «Vocabulary acquisition in a second language: Do learners really acquire most vocabulary by reading? Some empirical evidence». The Canadian Modern Language Review, 59(4), 567-587.

Laufer, B. (2017): «From word parts to full texts: Searching for effective methods of vocabulary learning». Language Teaching Research, 21(1), 5-11.

Matanzo, G. (1991): Vocabulario y enseñanza: Estudio de la relación existente entre los métodos empleados y la incorporación del léxico nuevo a la competencia lingüística de estudiantes universitarios puertorriqueños. Tesis doctoral. San Juan: Universidad de Puerto Rico.

Nation, P. (2001): Learning vocabulary in another language. Cambridge: CUP.

Nation, P., Webb, S. (2011): Researching and analyzing vocabulary. Boston: Heinle.

Pichette, F., Serres, L. de, Lafontaine, M. (2012): «Sentence reading and writing for second language vocabulary acquisition». Applied Linguistics, 33(1), 66-82.

Reyes, M.ª J. (1995): Enriquecimiento de la competencia léxica: análisis estadístico. Tesis doctoral. Las Palmas: Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.

San-Mateo, A. (2005): Aprendizaje de léxico en español como segunda lengua. Investigación sobre tres métodos. Trabajo Final de Máster. Madrid: UNED.

San-Mateo, A. (2012): Aprendizaje de léxico en español como segunda lengua/lengua extranjera: investigación sobre la efectividad de tres tipos de actividades para aprender vocabulario. Tesis doctoral. Madrid: UNED.

San-Mateo, A., Chacón, C. (2019): «Learning word class in a second language through vocabulary learning activities: definition-choosing, gap-filling, and sentence-writing». Journal of Spanish Language Teaching, 6(1), 49-63.

San-Mateo, A., Criado, C. (en prensa): «Receptive and productive vocabulary acquisition: effectiveness of three types of tasks. Results from French students of Spanish». Onomazéin.

Tahmasbi, M., Farvardin, M. T. (2017): «Probing the effects of task types on EFL learners’ receptive and productive vocabulary knowledge: The case of Involvement Load Hypothesis». SAGE Open, 7(3), 1-10.

Webb, S. (2005): «Receptive and productive vocabulary learning: The effects of reading and writing on word knowledge». Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 27(1), 33-52.

Webb, S., Nation, P. (2017): How vocabulary is learned. Oxford: OUP.

Zou, D. (2017): «Vocabulary acquisition through cloze exercises, sentence-writing and composition writing: Extending the evaluation component of the Involvement Load Hypothesis». Language Teaching Research, 21(1), 54-75.

Zou, D., Wang, F. L., Kwan, R., Xie, H. (2018): «Investigating the effectiveness of vocabulary learning tasks from the perspective of the Technique Feature Analysis: The effects of pictorial annotations». En: Simon K. S. Cheung, Jeanne Lam, Kam Cheong Li, Oliver Au, Will W. K. Ma, Wai Shing Ho (eds.), Technology in Education. Innovative Solutions and Practices. ICTE 2018. Communications in Computer and Information Science. New York: Springer, 3-15.



How to Cite

San-Mateo Valdehíta, A., & Andión Herrero, M. A. (2019). Efficacy of three vocabulary-learning activities in Spanish FL/L2: selection of definitions, selection of examples and the writing of sentences. Verba Hispanica, 27(1), 209–229. https://doi.org/10.4312/vh.27.1.209-229