Document Type : Research Paper


1 PhD Candidate, Imam Khomeini International University, Qazvin, Iran

2 Associate Professor, Imam Khomeini International University, Qazvin, Iran.

3 Assistant Professor, Imam Khomeini International University, Qazvin, Iran.


Due to the importance of idioms, many researchers and teachers have long sought to find ways of making idiom teaching and learning more effective. This study compared three visual mnemonic devices (pictures, mental imagery, and movie clips) in terms of their effect on EFL learners’ recognition and recall of English idioms. Ninety intermediate level EFL learners who were preparing themselves for IELTS participated in this study. They were in three groups of thirty members each. Each group was taught idioms using one of the afore-mentioned visual mnemonic devices. Receptive and productive tests of idioms were administered to all groups after the treatment. The one-way ANOVA procedure was used to analyze the collected data. The results revealed statistically significant differences among these devices, with pictures method being the most effective on both recognition and recall of idioms. The findings of the study can have significant theoretical as well as pedagogical implications for language researchers, textbook designers, curriculum developers, teachers, and language learners. 


Abbasi, A., Rohani, G. R., & Nejad, R. Z. (2015). The Effect of Three Different Methods in Teaching English Idioms to Iranian Pre-University Students. International Journal of Educational Investigations, 2(1), 201-212.
Ainsworth, S. (2008). How do animations influence learning? In D. Robinson, & G. Schraw (Eds.), Current perspectives on cognition, learning and instruction: Recent innovations in educational technology that facilitate student learning (pp. 37–67). Charlotte, USA: Information Age Publishing.
Ammer, C. (1997). The American Heritage dictionary of idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Baker, S. (2011). The effect of visual images and imagery on immediate and delayed recall of idioms by English language learners. (Unpublished thesis). Hamline University, Saint Paul, Minnesota.
Barcroft, J., & Sunderman, G. (2008). Learning new words for objects and nonobjects: Theoretical and methodological implications. The Mental Lexicon, 3(3), 325-348.
Boers, F. (2001). Remembering figurative idioms by hypothesizing about their origin. Prospect, 16(3), 35-43.
Boers, F., Eyckmans, J., & Stengers, H. (2007). Presenting figurative idioms with a touch of etymology: More than mere mnemonics? Language Teaching Research, 11(1), 43-62.
Boers, F., Piquer Píriz, A. M., Stengers, H., & Eyckmans, J. (2009). Does pictorial elucidation foster recollection of idioms? Language Teaching Research, 13(4), 367-382.
Boers, F., & Webb, S. (2015). Gauging the semantic transparency of idioms: Do natives and learners see eye to eye? In: R. Heredia, & A. Cieslicka (Eds.), Bilingual figurative language processing (pp. 368–92). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Brenner, G. (2011). Webster’s new world American idioms handbook. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Caillies, S., & Declercq, C. (2011). Kill the song — steal the show: What does distinguish predicative metaphors from decomposable idioms? Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 40(3), 205-223.
Cain, K., Towse, A. S., & Knight, R. S. (2009). The development of idiom comprehension: An investigation of semantic and contextual processing skills. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 102(3), 280-298.
Cakir, I. (2011). How do learners perceive idioms in EFL classes. Ekev Academic Review, 15(47), 371-381.
Carney, R. N., & Levin, J. R. (2002). Pictorial illustrations still improve students' learning from text. Educational Psychology Review, 14(1), 5-26.
Carrol, G., & Conklin, K. (2017). Cross language priming extends to formulaic units: Evidence from eye-tracking suggests that this idea “has legs”. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 20(2), 299-317.
Chan, K. P. A. (2014). A corpus-based analysis of frequently used idioms and its implications on the content of idiom textbook materials (Order No. 3623010). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global: Literature & Language; ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global: Social Sciences. (1549976006).
Chen, Y. C., & Lai, H. L. (2013). Teaching English idioms as metaphors through cognitive-oriented methods: A case in an EFL writing class. English Language Teaching, 6(6), 13-20.
Cieślicka, A. (2006). Literal salience in on-line processing of idiomatic expressions by second language learners. Second Language Research, 22(2), 115-144.
Congos, D. H. (2011). College level study skills inventory. Orlando, FL: University of Central Florida.
Conklin, K., & Schmitt, N. (2012). The processing of formulaic language. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 32, 45-61.
Craik, F. I., & Lockhart, R. S. (1972). Levels of processing: A framework for memory research. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 11(6), 671-684.
Cooper, T. c. (1999). Processing of idioms by L2 learners of English. TESOL Quarterly, 33(2), 233-262.
Croft, W., & Cruse, D. A. (2004). Cognitive linguistics. Cambridge; Cambridge University Press.
Dobrovol’skij, D., & Piirainen, E. (2005). Cognitive theory of metaphor and idiom analysis. Jezikoslovlje, 6(1), 7-35.
Eitel, A., & Scheiter, K. (2015). Picture or text first? Explaining sequence effects when learning with pictures and text. Educational Psychology Review, 27(1), 153-180.
Farley, A. P., Ramonda, K., & Liu, X. (2012). The concreteness effect and the bilingual lexicon: The impact of visual stimuli attachment on meaning recall of abstract L2 words. Language Teaching Research, 16(4), 449-466.
Farley, A., Pahom, O., & Ramonda, K. (2014). Is a picture worth a thousand words? Using images to create a concreteness effect for abstract words: Evidence from beginning L2 learners of Spanish. Hispania, 97(4), 434-50.
Flavell, L. & Flavell, R. (1992). Dictionary of Idioms and their Origins. London: Kyle Cathie Limited.
Foglia, L., & Wilson, R. A. (2013). Embodied cognition. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science, 4, 319–325.
Gairns, R., & Redman, S. (2011). Idioms and phrasal verbs: intermediate. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Ghaderi, V., & Afshinfar, J. (2014). A comparative study of the effects of animated versus static funny pictures on Iranian undergraduate EFL students’ intake and retention of idioms. Procedia, 98, 522-531.
Gorjian, B., Pazhakh, A. R., & Naghizadeh, M. (2012). Comparative study of conjunctive adverbials (CAs) in native researchers' (NRs) and nonnative researchers’ (NNRs) experimental articles. Advances in Asian Social Science, 1(2), 224-247.
Grant, L. & Bauer, L. (2004). Criteria for re-defining idioms: Are we barking up the wrong tree? Applied Linguistics, 25(1), 38-61.
Hagiwara, A. (2015). Effect of visual support on the processing of multiclausal sentences. Language Teaching Research, 19(4), 455-72.
Hinkel, E. (2017). Teaching idiomatic expressions and phrases: Insights and techniques. Iranian Journal of Language Teaching Research, 5(3), 45-59.
Holden, W. R. (1999). Learning to learn: 15 vocabulary acquisition activities. Modern English Teacher, 8(1), 42, 47.
King, J. (2002). Using DVD feature films in the EFL classroom. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 15(5), 509–523.
Kövecses, Z. (2002). Metaphor: A practical introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Kuder, S. J. (2017). Vocabulary instruction for secondary students with reading disabilities: An updated research review. Learning Disability Quarterly, 40(3), 155-164.
Lim, E. A. C., Ang, S. H., Lee, Y. H., & Leong, S. M. (2009). Processing idioms in advertising discourse: Effects of familiarity, literality, and compositionality on consumer ad response. Journal of Pragmatics, 41(9), 1778-1793.
Liontas, J. I. (2015). Developing idiomatic competence in the ESOL classroom: A pragmatic account. TESOL Journal, 6(4), 621-658.
Liontas, J. I. (2017). Why Teach Idioms? A Challenge to the Profession. Iranian Journal of Language Teaching Research, 5(3), 5-25.
Martinez, R., & Schmitt, N. (2012). A phrasal-expressions list. Applied Linguistics, 33(3), 299- 320.
Mayer, R. E., & Moreno, R. (2003). Nine ways to reduce cognitive load in multimedia learning. Educational Psychologist, 38(1), 43-52.
McCarthy, M., O’Keeffe, A., & Walsh, S. (2010). Vocabulary matrix: Understanding, learning, teaching. Hampshire: Heinle, CENGAGE Learning.
Nippold, M. A., & Duthie, J. K. (2003). Mental imagery and idiom comprehension: A comparison of school-age children and adults. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 46, 788–799.
Pearson, J., Naselaris, T., Holmes, E. A., & Kosslyn, S. M. (2015). Mental imagery: functional mechanisms and clinical applications. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 19(10), 590-602.
Pegrum, M. (2008). Film, culture and identity: critical intercultural literacies for the language classroom. Language and Intercultural Communication, 8(2), 136–154.
Pegrum, M., Hartley, L. & Wechtler, V. (2005). Contemporary cinema in language learning: from linguistic input to intercultural insight. Language Learning Journal, 32, 55–62.
Pillai, N. R. (2017). Using mnemonics to improve vocabulary, boost memory and enhance creativity in the ESL classroom. The English Teacher, 38(22), 62 -83.
Qiang, N., Hai, T., & Wolff, M. (2007). China EFL: Teaching with movies. English Today, 23(2), 39-46.
Sadoski, M. (2005). A dual coding view of vocabulary learning. Reading & Writing Quarterly, 21(3), 221-238.
Sadoski, Mark, Paivio, A. (2013). Imagery and text: a dual coding theory of reading and writing, Second edition. UK: Routledge.
Saffarian, R., Gorjian, B., & Bavizadeh, K. (2013). The effect of using pictures on EFL learners’ retention of body idiomatic expressions. Journal of Comparative Literature and Culture, 2(4), 150-154.
Schmitt, N. (2008). Instructed second language vocabulary learning. Language Teaching Research, 12(3), 329-363.
Schnotz, W. (2002). Commentary: Towards an integrated view of learning from text and visual displays. Educational Psychology Review, 14(1), 101-120.
Schnotz, W., & Bannert, M. (2003). Construction and interference in learning from multiple representation. Learning and Instruction, 13(2), 141-156.
Schüler, A., Arndt, J., & Scheiter, K. (2015). Processing multimedia material: Does integration of text and pictures result in a single or two interconnected mental representations?. Learning and Instruction, 35, 62-72.
Shen, H. H. (2010). Imagery and verbal coding approaches in Chinese vocabulary instruction. Language Teaching Research, 14(4), 485-99.
Siefring, J. (Ed.). (2005). The Oxford dictionary of idioms. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Silvia, P. J. (2008). Interest—The curious emotion. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 17(1), 57-60.
Simpson, R., & Mendis, D. (2003). A corpus based study of idioms in academic speech. TESOL Quarterly, 37(3), 419-441.
Siyanova-Chanturia, A., Conklin, K., & Schmitt, N. (2011). Adding more fuel to the fire: An eye-tracking study of idiom processing by native and nonnative speakers. Second Language Research, 27(2), 251–272.
Stempleski, S. (2000). Video in the Classroom: Making the Most of Movies. ESL Magazine, 3(2), 10-12.
Sweller, J. (1999). Instructional Design in Technical Areas. Melbourne, Australia: ACER Press.
Szczepaniak, R., & Lew, R. (2011). The role of imagery in dictionaries of idioms. Applied Linguistics, 32(3), 323-347.
Tabatabaei, O., & Gahroei, F. R. (2011). The Contribution of Movie Clips to Idiom Learning Improvement of Iranian EFL Learners. Theory & Practice in Language Studies, 1(8), 990-1000.
Thompson. I. (1987). Memory in language learning. In A. Wenden 8J. Rubin (Eds), Learner strategies in language learning (pp. 15-30). New Jersey: Prentic-Hall.
Timofeeva-Timofeev, L., & Vargas-Sierra, C. (2015). On terminological figurativeness: From theory to practice. Terminology. International Journal of Theoretical and Applied Issues in Specialized Communication, 21(1), 102-125.
Tran, H. (2013). Figurative idiomatic competence: An analysis of EFL learners in Vietnam. Language Education in Asia, 4(1), 23-38.
Vasiljevic, Z. (2013). Dual coding theory and the teaching of idiomatic language. Bunkyo University, Bulletin of the Faculty of Language and Literature, 27(1), 1-34.
Vasiljevic, Z. (2015a). Teaching and learning idioms in L2: From theory to practice. Mextesol Journal, 39(4), 1-24.
Vasiljevic, Z. (2015b). Imagery and Idiom Teaching (Effects of learner-generated illustrations and etymology). International Journal of Arts & Sciences, 8(1), 25-42.
Welcome, S. E., Paivio, A., McRae, K., & Joanisse, M. F. (2011). An electrophysiological study of task demands on concreteness effects: evidence for dual coding theory. Experimental Brain Research, 212(3), 347-358.
Worthen, J. B., & Hunt, R. R. (2011). Mnemonology: Mnemonics for the 21st century. Hove East Sussex: Psychology Press.
Wray, A. (2002). Formulaic Language and the Lexicon. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Wray, A. (2000). Formulaic sequences in second language teaching: Principle and practice. Applied Linguistics, 21(4), 463-489.
Wray, A., & Perkins, M. R. (2000). The functions of formulaic language: An integrated model. Language & Communication, 20(1), 1-28.
Zarei, A. A., & Rahimi, N. (2012). Idioms: Etymology, contextual pragmatic clues and lexical knowledge in focus. Germany: Lambert Academic Publishing.
Zarei, A.A., & Salimi, A. (2012). The comparative effects of song, picture and the keyword method on L2 vocabulary recognition and production. Applied Research in English, 1(1), 43-56.
Zarei, A. A., & Shahidi Pour, V. (2013). Language learning strategies as predictors of L2 idioms comprehension. International Journal of Language Learning and applied Linguistics Word (IJLALW), 4(2), 313-330.