Tünde Éva POLONYI1,*, Márk GNANDT2, Kálmán ABARI1, Anikó NAGY3 & Judit SÁNTHA4
1 University of Debrecen, Institute of Psychology; MTA-DE Research Group on Foreign Language Teaching, Hungary
2 NI Hungary, Debrecen, Hungary
3 University of Debrecen, MSc Health Psychology, Hungary
4 Piarist School of Nagykanizsa, Hungary
The aim of this research was to investigate which aspects of language can be successfully mastered at the beginning of language learning. The study used digitized cartoon drawings of animals performing different actions in dyads. The animals and actions could be combined freely to create a large number of different scenes corresponding to independent clauses. Young and elderly participants learned novel names and two morphosyntactic rules embedded in the new language. Vocabulary learning was examined using a picture-word matching task, grammatical learning using either a sentence-picture matching task or a grammaticality judgment task, as well as an interview. Although young participants were more successful in each task, learning the grammar proved to be more difficult than lexical learning for all age groups. The results suggest that effective word learning mechanisms are available at older age, too, as long as the material is of right proportions and the conditions of learning are simplified. Findings suggest that, compared to explicit memory, implicit memory is more resistant to the negative aspects of aging. In sum, implicit learning processes seem to prevail mostly in relation to word learning, yet providing specific explanations is likely to be more beneficial in the beginning of the learning process. Based on the results of this study, the Animal Farm task can be of use in educational programs at all ages and different student groups.
KEYWORDS: foreign language teaching, lexical learning, grammatical learning, young and elderly adults
* Corresponding author: