The use of vocabulary learning strategies (VLS) by foreign language (FL) learners has been described as steps taken by learners to enrich their word growth which would eventually enable them to function effectively in English. Research has shown fruitful outcomes of VLS, supporting the significant role it has in effective vocabulary learning, but whether VLS prevents English as a Foreign Language (EFL) learners’ attrition of vocabulary knowledge has been under-researched. To help close this research gap, the current study attempted to shed more light on the role of VLS in memorisation of vocabulary, both word attrition and retention, of 41 Arabic learners of English before and after completion of a B.A. course. Questionnaires and semi-structured interviews were used to indicate patterns of VLS use. Vocabulary achievement tests were used to examine the attrition of receptive and productive knowledge of learned words. The results showed that the use of rote learning (repeating an English item with its Arabic translation) led to more attrition in receptive word knowledge, while note taking strategies (writing an English item with its synonym and definition) emerged as a positive predictor of learners’ retention in receptive and productive word knowledge. The findings have significant implications for adoption and teaching effective VLS that prevent or minimize vocabulary attrition by L2 learners.
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