Publication Date

Summer 2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Cary Feria


cognitive load, foreign language, Multimedia learning, vocabulary learning

Subject Areas

Cognitive psychology; Language; Educational technology


This study applies cognitive theory of multimedia learning and cognitive load theory to foreign language learning and examines in what conditions English-speakers benefit most from multimedia instruction. Sixty-four English-speaking college students learned either German words or Chinese characters. The reason for comparing these two languages is to assess the differences between low-knowledge and high-knowledge learners. We assume English-speakers have a better linguistic knowledge for learning German words than Chinese characters, because of the closer relationship between English and German languages than between English and Chinese languages. There were four cue conditions in which participants received either no cue, a verbal cue, a visual cue, or both cues on the screen accompanied with the target foreign word. Consistent with previous studies, the findings show that participants recalled more foreign vocabulary when they were given both verbal and visual cues other than only having one type of cue. When compared with students who learn German words, students who learn Chinese characters benefit more from this multimedia environment. No significant relationship was found between the words recalled in different cue conditions and verbal and spatial ability test scores in this study. This study supports that multimedia boosts foreign vocabulary learning performance and our findings provide an additional implication that multimedia exerts a different degree of effectiveness on different kinds of language learners, depending on their prior linguistic knowledge.