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Psychology student Sarah Wale Soto is undertaking an experimental project looking at the benefits of error generation in learning a new language through the Carnegie Vacation Scholarship.

The Carnegie Vacation Scholarship is awarded to students from qualifying higher education institutions who wish to undertake a programme of independent research during the holiday period which will be of direct benefit to their studies.

Each project can last between two and 12 weeks, with students being paid the Scottish Living Wage.

Sarah, who is originally from Spain, is a Spanish language teacher in her spare time and has some interesting insights into why generating errors might be helpful when learning. Her project is being supervised by Cai Stephen Longman. 

Testing theory

Current research suggests that making errors when learning new words, along with corrective feedback, can help with retention as opposed to studying alone. Sarah has been working with volunteers to test this theory, asking participants to either memorise the meaning of a set of Spanish words and or to first take a guess on the meaning of the word before being shown the correct meaning. 

However, some of the word pairs were “false friends” (Spanish words that sound like English words but have a different meaning), whereas the rest were not. By using stimuli to which the participant already presents an association to (an English word and its meaning in English), the aim of the experiment was to find out if the benefits of generating errors is modulated by whether the learning material included false friends or not. 

Sarah said: “This scholarship has not only given me an opportunity to advance my skills in investigation, programming, and data analysis but has also deepened my understanding of independent research and the different stages of carrying out a project.” 

Last updated: 03/09/2020