The Repository @ St. Cloud State

Open Access Knowledge and Scholarship

Date of Award


Culminating Project Type


Degree Name

English: Teaching English as a Second Language: M.A.




College of Liberal Arts

First Advisor

Choonkyong Kim

Second Advisor

Michael Schwartz

Third Advisor

Maria Mikolchak

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Keywords and Subject Headings

flashcards, wordlists, L1 definitions, L2 definitions, abstract words, concrete words


This study compares the efficacy of the use of wordlists and that of flashcards, the effectiveness of L1 definitions and L2 definitions, the retention of words with concrete words and abstract words, and the conditions under which concrete and abstract words are better retained-flashcards vs. wordlists and L1 definitions vs. L2 definitions. In the experiment, 24 Chinese ESL students studied 64 low-frequency English words. Of those words 32 words were studied by flashcards and the other 32 through wordlists. Also, 32 were concrete words, and the other 32 abstract words. Also, of the 32 concrete and abstract words, 16 were given L1 definitions and the other 16 L2 definitions. Paired t-tests indicate that there is no statistical difference between the use of flashcards and wordlists. However, a statistically significant difference was found in the superiority of L1 definitions over L2 definitions and in the longer retention of concrete words in comparison to abstract words. Furthermore, it turned out that the choice between flashcards and wordlists did not affect the long-term retention of concrete words and abstract words. However, the use of L1 definitions resulted in a longer retention of concrete words, but not of abstract words. The results carry a great deal of implications since the use of wordlists and L1 definitions has recently been shunned by many researchers, teachers, and students alike for the sake of the use of flashcards and giving definitions in L2 or the target language.