The Application of the Less is More Hypothesis in Foreign Language Learning


The goal of this study was to test a foreign language teaching method inspired by Newport (1990)’s Less is More hypothesis. Computerized French language lessons were presented to 112 adults over two one-hour sessions. Learning trials were presented either in full sentences to resemble the adult learning environment, or in small phrases that incrementally increased in length to full sentences, resembling the steadily expanding processing capabilities of children. Trials were also ordered randomly or blocked such that multiple examples of the same objects and verbs were presented consecutively, in order to promote attention to individual words within those sentences. Language proficiency tests of vocabulary and grammar were administered after the lessons. The incremental and blocked conditions outperformed the randomly ordered full sentence conditions on the grammar measure. This outcome suggests that a teaching method based on Newport’s Less is More hypothesis can be advantageous in learning a foreign language.

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