The effect of color and imagery as mnemonic strategies on learning and retention of lexical items in German

Martha Nyikos, Purdue University


This study was designed to examine the effects four mnemonic associative learning strategies applied to the learning and recall of German noun clusters (i.e., the article, and the singular and plural forms of nouns in German) by students enrolled in beginning German classes at the university level. The investigation was conducted with 135 students who had no previous contact with German. Eight intact classes were randomly assigned to one of four treatment groups. In order to compare the impact of three types of mnemonic associational strategies and one of role memorization, five independent lists of nine noun clusters were presented to each of the four treatment groups with the English equivalent listed and one form of the German noun contextualized in an illustrative sentence. All four strategy groups received the same material with the following additions: (1) Under the color-code condition, nouns and articles were color-coded for grammatical gender. Neuter was associated with the color green masculine with blue and feminine with pink, as suggested by Allan and Valette, 1972. (2) The pictorial image condition received an additional drawing depicting each noun. (3) The combination (color and picture) condition received the line drawing which had been color-coded for grammatical gender by highlighter pen. (4) The rote memorization condition received no associative support device. Instructions were in written form with no teacher involvement. Exactly eight minutes was allotted for memorization during regular classes. Uniform recall measures, cued in English, were administered after a 25 minute interval of regular class. Results were calculated according to lenient and strict scoring criteria using total and component scores for the article, the singular noun and the plural form. Analysis of variance compared the effects of the four strategies on the achievement measures. Additionally, analysis of covariance controlled pre-experimental differences in foreign language learning aptitude. Results were significantly in favor of the color and picture combination treatment for the recall of German articles, whereas pictures were least effective. Additionally, gender interacted significantly with the learning of noun clusters and their component parts. Women significantly outscored men under the color-only treatment whereas the reverse was true for men in the combination color and picture condition using overall mean scores.




Wipf, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Language arts

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