The Effect of Context on the Iranian EFL Learners’ Idiom Retention

GholamReza Rohani, Saeed Ketabi, Mansoor Tavakoli


Idioms, forms of figurative language, are used pervasively in both spoken and written discourse. However, mainly due to their figurative nature, they are often considered difficult to learn. The present study tried to first of all briefly investigate the language learners’ attitudes toward learning L2 idioms. It then compared the effect of written vs. video-graphic contexts on the language learners’ long-term and short-term retention of idioms. To know about the language learners’ attitudes to learning English idioms and their relevant experiences, a questionnaire was administered to a group of Iranian EFL learners. The results of the questionnaire proved their highly positive view toward learning idioms and their need for helpful and facilitating learning strategies. At the second stage of the study, two similar groups of intermediate EFL learners were exposed to unfamiliar idioms through a story in written and video-graphic contexts. The subjects were also given the definitions on a separate sheet to check. The subjects’ long-term and short-term retention were then tested and compared. The results of the study showed no significant difference between the performances of the two groups regarding their short term retention, while with respect to long-term retention; the animation group i.e. the one exposed to the video-graphic context significantly outperformed the text group. The results of the study also support the dual coding theory which emphasizes the role of mental imagery in retention.

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