Mobile, L2 vocabulary learning, and fighting illiteracy: A case study of Iranian semi-illiterates beyond transition level


Shahid Chamran University of Ahvaz, Islamic Republic of Iran


As mobile learning simultaneously employs both handheld computers and mobile telephones and
other  devices  that  draw  on  the  same  set  of  functionalities,  it  throws  open  the  door  for  swift
connection between learners  and teachers. This  study examined and articulated the impact of  the
application of mobile devices for teaching English vocabulary items to 123 Iranian semi-illiterates
(70 female, and 53 male learners, aging 35-55) who passed the transition course, namely, the fifth
grade  in  Iran's  literacy  movement  organization  centers  of  five  counties  around  Isfahan.  It  was
intended  to  see  if  the  way  of  presenting  materials  and  guidelines  (formal  vs.  informal)  through
cell-phone would have any significant connection with their performance. To those ends, after five
weeks  learning  of  36  new  English  vocabulary  items  in  non-formal  mode  of  delivery,  they
participated  in  a  testing  phase  comprised  of  three  sub-tests.  The  results  showed  that  the  succinct
nature of today's short message service (SMS) texts allows for a more successful application of the
informal style of language in  the realm of teaching English to semi-illiterate citizens. It  was also
found that annotated materials led into the outperformance of the semi-illiterates.


Main Subjects

According  to  Traxler  (2007),  mobile
learning  (m-learning)  currently  exploits
both  handheld  computers  and  mobile
telephones  and  other  devices  that  draw  on
the  same  set  of  functionalities.  It  seems
necessary to recognize that personal mobile
and  wireless  devices  are  now  radically
transforming  societal  notions  of  discourse
and  knowledge  (Katz  &  Aakhus  2002).
Baron  (2000)  argues  that  "what  has  led  to
the success of communication technology is
its  convenience,  marginal  cost,  speed  of
transmission  and  flexibility"  (p.  146).  The
new  channels  of  communication  tend  to
have  more  casual  lexicon,  to  be  less
carefully  edited,  and  to  assume  a  greater
degree  of  familiarity  with  the  interlocutor."
Such  facilities  enrich  a  mutual  experience,
communication  with  absent  teachers  or
families,  and  personal  reflection  or
reminiscing (Kindberg, Spasojevic, Fleck &
Sellen, 2005).
The  value  and  even  the  relevance  of
training  illiterate  populations  to  use  new
information  and  communication
technologies  are  often  questioned  or
dismissed  as  unwarranted  optimism
(Carney  &  Firpo,  2002).  The
demystification of new mobile technologies
is  supporting  corporate  training  (Gayeski,
2002;  Lundin  &  Magnusson,  2003;
Pasanen,  2003);  thus,  employing  them  in
spreading  knowledge  to  make  the
opportunities  for  illiterates  and  semi-illiterates  to  access  learning  contents  can
result  in  more  effective  functioning  in
society  and  a  better  quality  of  life.  In  this
way,  even  individuals  who  have  never
learned  to  read  can  attain  an  acceptable
level of literacy with the one-on-one help of
a caring volunteer tutor (Bynum, 2011).
Informal style of language occurs in a wide
variety  of  situations  in  the  speech  of
illiterates. On the whole, the three pillars of
connectivity,  mobility  and  productivity,  as
driving  features  of  wireless  technology
(Althaus, 2011), pave the way for scaffolds
to  support  the  adult  learners  in  the  process
of  learning  foreign  language  vocabulary
items,  as  activities  provided  in  scaffolding
instruction are usually just beyond the level
of  what  the  learner  can  do  alone  (Olson  &
Pratt,  2000).    The  more  capable  other
provides  the  scaffolds  so  that  the  learner
can  accomplish  (with  assistance)  the  tasks
that he or she could otherwise not complete.
Nevertheless,  cell-phone,  with  pragmatic
(e.g.,  academic  environments)  and  social
functions (e.g., interaction), is still a novelty
that  has  not,  from  the  users'  perspective,
become  an  everyday  device  with  common
uses  and  functions  (Salovaara,  Helfenstein,
&  Oulasvirta,  2011).  Although  mobile
technology  is  employed  to  address  the
challenges in didactic material delivery and
supporting  education  where  traditional
pedagogy  would  fail,  how  to  develop
learning  materials  seems  to  be  the  issue  of
the least importance.
Each  language,  on  its  forward  movement
undergoes  a  process  of  change  or
metamorphosis.  Although  not  a  linear
process  -as  many  political,  religious,  social
and  economic  criteria  may  affect  the
process-  it  can  be  claimed  that  it  is  a
movement  toward  simplification.  For
example  when  one  comes  to  English
language  and  looks  at  Shakespeare's  texts
(1564-1616),  he  would  face  a  lofty
language  full  of  puns  and  metaphors,  in
which  reference  to  different  referents  are
intentionally  postponed  through  a  net  of
dense  images.  This  would  automatically
enhance the illocutionary quality and results
in  a  poetic  language  which  was  hard  to
digest even for ordinary people of his time.
But when he goes to Joseph Addison (1672-1719), he finds that Addison, as an essayist,
has  got  a  style  which  is  so  "polished  and
easy",  that  is  able  to  catch  ordinary  people
(Abjadian,  2002).  This  shows  a  change  in
the language style in less than a century. As
time  passes,  more  simplicity  in  written
language  is  to  come  and  the  late  18th  and
19th  centuries'  texts  are  known  for  the
insertion  of  much  more  subjectivity  –
personal  I  is  used  –  and  a  more  fluid  and
simple  style  that  is  very  spontaneous,  less
mechanical  and  to  some  extent  loose  is  to
appear.  Twentieth  century  language  style
also  becomes  simpler  and  the
communicative  and  discoursal  aspects  will
come in center.  
The  current  process  of  simplification
parallels  such  a  trend  of  simplicity  in
languages.  With  analysis  of  Iranian  SMS
texts from 2002 onward, it could be noticed
that  they  get  through  the  process  of

simplification, that is the succinct feature of
today's SMS texts in comparison with their
old  counterparts  (with  the  average  of  14
words in 2002, and average of six words in
2012)  (Dahgan  SMS  System,  2012).  The
trend  indicates  that  citizens  tend  to  favor
succinct  messages  by  which  is  meant  a
more  complete  entailment  of  the  gist  (i.e.,
simplicity  orientation  being  in  the
ascendancy).  The  pattern  of  changes  is
depicted in Figure 1.

As  pedagogical  science  seeks  out  iconic
representations  to  lend  a  sense  of  the
concrete to new concepts, using multimedia
technology, mobile learning makes it easier
to  carry  non-verbal  elements  to  interweave
verbal  mode;  hence,  academic  discourse  is
increasingly  multi-modal,  incorporating
various  visual  as  well  as  verbal  texts,
including photographs, diagrams, outputs of
imaging devices, and even cartoons (Myers,
Although  especially  in  the  case  of
elementary  learners  applications  of  images
is  nonetheless  effective  and  can  proliferate
in  the  context  in  relaying  the  information
more  concisely,  sometimes  it  can  eliminate
a  significant  issue  (i.e.,  communication  of
the  message)  and  endanger  the  task  of
carrying  over  the  notions  to  learners  and
distract  their  attentions  in  the  way  that
images  concentrate  upon  other  issues
pictured,  the  gist  taking  the  second  place.
Preventing  such  heterogeneity,  an  image
must be designed in such a way that makes
it  possible  for  learners  to  connect  them
easily  to  the  text.  Rose  (2001)  introduces
such  salient  issues  as  technological,
compositional, and social which he believes
that  taking  them  into  consideration  in  the
production  and  distribution  of  images  is
On  the  other  hand,  though  different  styles
of  language  can  be  used  to  communicate
the  same  idea,  McCarthy  (1991)  points  out
that clear understanding of writing is reliant
on  not  only  what  the  author  puts  in  it,  but
also on what a reader brings to this process.
In  this  way,  while  thinking  about  the
purpose  of  pedagogy,  material  generators
should  consider  whether  the  language
required  in  didactic  guidelines  for
addressing  learners  during  the  course  of
teaching  a  new  language  should  be  of  a
formal or informal style.
Because  the  language  of  academic  subjects
requires  a  high  degree  of  reading  and
writing  ability  that  elementary  learners  of
English  do  not  have,  they  experience
immense difficulties reading their textbooks
and understanding the vocabulary unique to
particular  subjects.  In  this  context,
scaffolding  can  facilitate  the  organization
and  focus  of  students'  research  (McKenzie,
1999).  Therefore,  the  question  is  how  it  is
possible  to  make  it  easy  for  foreign
language  semi-illiterates  to  understand  the
content out-and-out.
It is believed that the desire to communicate
in  text  is  a  vital  step  toward  literacy,  and
researchers  have  observed  that  young
people  with  poor  literacy  who  would  not
normally  write  messages  are  often
enthusiastic texters (Plant, 2001). Likewise,
Klas and Zaharieva (2004) suggest that "the
approach  (an  open  approach  for  structuring
content  for  m-learning  environments)
realized  in  joint  Mobi-Learn  project  of
several  institutes  in  Austria  shows  high
acceptance  by  students  during  an  initial
pilot  application"  (p.  12).  Attewell,  Savill-Smith,  and  Douch  (2009)  after  conducting
the  MoleNET  (contribution  to  m-learning
via  mobile  devices)  project  reported  that
comparison  of  the  retention  data  for  nearly
5000 learners suggested an improvement in
retention rate of eight percent. Hashemi and
Azizinezhad  (2012)  reported  that  mobile
technology  via  integration  of  a  learner-centered method contributed a great deal in
the  success  of  Iranian  learners  in  the
process  of  learning  English  as  a  foreign
language.  As  a  consequence,  this  study
dealt  with  the  way  of  applying  the  formal
and  informal  style  guidelines  on  the
contents  for  teaching  English  vocabulary
items  to  convey  the  message  to  Iranian
adult  learners.  In  fact,  sentence-level
linguistic  forms  and  vocabulary  items  of
guidelines  on  the  contents  or  smaller  scale
recourses for discourse, as Johnstone (2008)
defines,  were  investigated  to  see  if
accommodating  the  language  style  of  the
guidelines  to  learners'  prior  speech  style
(formal  vs.  informal)  as  discourse  strategy
can  change  them  more  sociable.  Therefore,
glossing  the  materials,  using  informal
instruction,  is  the  issue  which  is  to  be
pursued. Likewise, due to the importance of
reader's knowledge for clear comprehension
of  the  text,  it  seems  indispensable  to  link
old  information  or  familiar  situations  with
new  knowledge  through  verbal  and
nonverbal communication. As the scaffolds
facilitate a student's ability to build on prior
knowledge and internalize new information
(Van  Der  Stuyf,  2002),  it  is  suitable  to
design activities which offer just enough of
a  scaffold  for  semi-illiterates  to  overcome
the  gap in knowledge and skills (Ngeow &
Yoon, 2001).

Questionnaire.  The  questionnaire  was
designed  in  a  way  that  permits  semi-illiterates  not  only  to  acquire  insight  into
what  the  new  information  technologies  can
offer, but also give them the opportunity to
inform  the  researcher  about  their  point  of
view.  To  be  understandable  for  the
participants  making  their  marks,  the
questionnaire  was  the  Persian  Likert  type.
The  majority  of  the  questions  included  in
the  questionnaire  sought  the  background
information  on  learners'  experience  with
using  mobile-phone,  that  is,  ease  of  use,
ease  of  learning  that  makes  a  product
effective,  as  well  as  their  opinions  on  the
frequency  and  the  timing  of  the  learning
content,  namely,  new  English  vocabulary
items,  and  asked  perception  questions  on
their  interests  on  m-learning;  led  to  the
devise  of  a  course  syllabus  for  conducting
the study in a semester.
English  Alphabet  and  Vocabulary  Test
(pencil-and-paper  test).  This  test  was
conducted  to  document  that  adult  semi-illiterates  were  familiar  with  English  key
words  (e.g.,  read,  write,  listen,  word,  etc.)
and they were able to go from one stage to a
higher  stage  of  L2  learning.  The  test
consisted of 26 English alphabet letters, and
12  English  key  words  being  dictated  to  the
participants to write them down. Those who
showed at least the knowledge of 20 letters
and English word items were selected as the
target  group.  Its  validity  was  confirmed  by
three  university  instructors  specialized  in
teaching  English  as  a  foreign  language
(TEFL).  The  test  reliability  was  calculated
as 0.79.
Vocabulary  Items.  Words  to  be  taught
were  selected  from  English  Time  Two
(level  two  Rivers,  Graham,  Toyama  &
Procter, 2008). It must be borne in mind that
using  different  modalities  in  the  process  of
teaching  new  vocabulary  items  establishes
both  native  and  foreign  language  concepts
consequently,  for  each  word  item,  the
following four types of representation were
I.  First type: At the top, an informal style
guideline  was  provided  and  at  the
bottom was the new English vocabulary
item with its Persian equivalent without
any  image,  that  is,  pre-modified  input
as  Pica,  Young,  and  Doughty  (1987)
II.  Second  type:  In  the  middle,  a  visual
image  was  presented,  at  the  top  an
informal  style  guideline  was  provided,
and  at  the  bottom  was  the  English  and
Persian  equivalent  of  the  existing
image, that is, pre-modified input.
III.  Third  type:  At  the  top,  formal  style
guideline  was  provided  and  at  the
bottom was the new English vocabulary
item  with  its  Persian  equivalent  and
without any image.
IV.  Fourth  type:  The  middle  contained  a
visual  image,  at  the  top  formal  style
guideline  was  provided,  and  at  the
bottom  were  the  English  and  Persian
equivalents  of  the  existing  image,
namely,  baseline  input  (ibid).  Elliptical
structures  often  create  a  sense  of
informality  (Jalilifar,  2010);  thus,  this
type  of  structure  was  employed  in
preprint informal directions on learning
The apparent characteristics of each type of
learning materials are depicted in Table 2.

Illiterates  and  semi-illiterates  are  citizens
who  express  themselves  through  informal
style of language when addressing different
audiences. In reality, they attempt to further
the  learning  by  imitating  an  informal  oral
style;  so  the  features  which  characterize
their oral discourse were tried to be used in
preparing  informal  guidelines  on  the
contents  to  compare  their  effects  on
learning new English vocabulary items with
formal  style  guidelines.  Although  familiar
words  and  grammars  were  used  in
fabricating the informal style guidelines, on
the whole it is noteworthy to point out that
for  composing  both  formal  and  informal
rubrics,  the  format  was  adjusted  to  the
English proficiency levels of adult learners.
In terms of case, all the informal guidelines
were  prepared  with  lower  case,  as  Crystal
(2001) puts forward that in informal style of
language  there  is  "a  strong  tendency  to  use
lower-case everywhere" (p. 87).
Software Package- This software designed
in a way that first the contents were selected
for  delivery,  and  then  a  new  album  was
created  for  the  selected  contents  and  the
album  was  named.  In  the  end,  the  pictures
were  optimized  and  uploaded  to  the  data
bank  for  subsequent  applications.  Also,  the
software  has  the  functionality  for
transferring and sharing contents and makes
it  possible  for  other  researchers  to  edit,
create,  view  and  discuss  the  contents  and
share  albums.  Through  the  medium  of  the
software,  a  researcher  has  full  control  over
who  has  access  to  the  pictures.
Furthermore,  the  possibility  to  invite
learners  with  different  levels  of  language
proficiency from every time is an aspect of
openness  as  it  allows  researchers  to
accommodate  application  of  the  cell-phone
in the realm of pedagogy.   
Test- A test should not be the sole criterion
on  which  the  effectiveness  of  anything  is
measured, but it is also an important one to
assess  accomplishment  of  the  objectives  of
study on the part of the  learners (Tabarrok,
2011).  Also,  the  more  elementary  the  level
of  the  testees,  the  greater  the  number  of
lexical  items  that  are  associated  with  the
spoken  modality  (Jafarpur,  2002).  On  this
account, in this study testees were provided
with  spoken  directions.  Using  spoken
modality,  36  questions  comprised  of  12
multiple-choice  questions  (sub-test  2)  and
24  recall  questions  in  written  and  pictorial
formats  (subtest  1,  and  subtest  3)  were
prepared  (Select  the  English  equivalent  for
the  written  Persian  word,  and  select  the
English  equivalent  for  the  displayed
picture).  Within  each  subtest,  all  the
questions  contributed  equally  to  the  final
score  and the raw score  was the number of
questions participants answered correctly.  
The  final  scores  on  the  subtests  averaged
and  rounded  to  the  interval  on  the  0–36
score  scale.  Pearson  correlation  coefficient
was computed to obtain the reliability of the
sub-tests ratings for the two raters, namely,
the  researchers.  The  intra-rater  reliability
indices  were  0.74,  0.82  and  0.84
respectively.  Also,  software  designed  in  a
way  that  four  types  of  materials  were
included  in  each  section.  Test  reliability
was  calculated  as  0.79.  The  validity  was
also  confirmed  by  three  competent  TEFL
experts (See Appendix A).
A sample consisting of different subtests for
the word item (ice-cream: ینتسب) is displayed
in Figure 3. Subtest one comprised a written
Persian  word  and  a  question  in  the  spoken
modality  format.  Semi-illiterates  would
write  the  English  equivalent  of  the  Persian
word  item  and  would  send  it  to  the  server
through  the  short  message  service  (SMS),
where  all  the  answers  were  saved.  Subtest
two  consisted  of  the  same  written  Persian
word and a question in the spoken modality
format with multiple-choice answers. Semi-illiterates  would  select  the  correct  answer
and  would  send  it  to  the  server  via  SMS.
Employing  a  picture  instead  of  the  written
form  of  the  vocabulary  was  the
distinguished feature of subtest 3.

Introductory  Session.  Recognizing  the
difficulty  that  many  semi-illiterates  are
likely  to  experience,  a  very  simple
introductory  course  was  presented  first  in
Persian  explaining  the  purpose  and  the
stages  included  in  the  study.  Because  adult
learners did not have a clear picture of what
they  were  supposed  to  learn,  concrete
examples  of  how  they  should  use  the
learning  content  were  provided  and    the
expectations of the activity to be performed
were  clearly  defined  and  modeled  for  them
(Bransford, Brown & Cocking, 2000). Also,
teaching  word  items  commonly  used  in
guidelines on practicing materials to novice
learners  of  English  is  an  inescapable  issue.
This  was  done  through  song,  drawing,  and
writing during the first semester of teaching
learners English alphabet.  
To  see  if  the  communication  of  simple
information  in  the  guidelines  was  possible
or  not,  their  reading,  comprehending  and
writing ability were assessed via conducting
a pencil-and-paper test, and they were rated
with  a  percentage  of  success  in  three  areas
(materials,  English  alphabet  and
vocabulary).  On  the  basis  of  the  results  36
English  vocabulary  items  were  selected  to
teach  in  five  weeks.  Since  the  one-way,
unsolicited  message  from  teachers  to  the
learners  or  push  model,  as  Mellow  (2005)
defines,  was  selected  for  deploying  SMS,
semi-illiterates'  preferences  concerning  the
time  and  the  frequency  of  SMS  texts  were
taken  into  consideration  in  designing  the
curriculum (See Appendix B).  
Learning  Phase.  Sharing  and  annotating
content  happened  automatically  during  the
course;  that  is,  transferring  from  data  bank
to  other  phones  enables  immediate  sharing
of  pictures  to  practically  anywhere  the
recipients  happen  to  be  with  their  phones
without  any  disorder  in  their
telecommunication.  In  addition  to  manual
control  of  assigning  the  materials,  the
systems  could  manipulate  the  information

that was to be distributed over the course to
In  order  to  counterbalance  the  effect  of  the
order  of  presentation,  a  4×4  Latin  Square
(LS)  design  was  employed.  According  to
Montgomery  (1991),  one  of  the  frequent
uses of  LS is to counterbalance the various
sequences  in  which  the  level  of  an
independent  variable  might  take  place.  In
LS,  each  of  the  four  digits,  that  is  1,  2,  3,
and  4,  would  appear  just  once  in  each  row
and  column.  Figure  4  shows  a  4×4  Latin

In  this  research  project,  the  first  six  words
were  thumbnailed  to  first  participant  in
type1, six words in type 2, then six words in
type  3,  and  finally  six  words  in  type  4.  At
the  same  time,  the  second  participant
received  the  first  six  words  in  type  2,  six
words  in  type  3,  then  six  words  in  type  4
and the six last vocabulary items in type 1.
Testing  Phase.  The  test  was  administered
to  assess  learners'  word  recognition  and
production.  After  one  month  training,  the
semi-illiterate  learners  were  put  to  the  test.
They  were  asked  to  fulfill  the  test,  a
mixture  of  three  subtests,  recognition  (12
questions),  written,  and  picture  format  test
(24 questions).
The first question of the study addressed the
relationship  between  manner  of  presenting
guideline  styles  on  instructional  materials
(formal vs. informal style guideline) and the
performance  of  Iranian  semi-illiterates  as
L2  learners  of  English  while  learning
English  vocabularies.  The  results  clearly
indicated  differences  between  the  semi-illiterates'  performances;  that  is,  they
outperformed  in  the  case  of  materials  with
the  informal  guidelines  (r=  0.76,  p<  0.005)
glossed on them (Table 3).

Though there was a significant relationship
between  semi-illiterates'  performances  and
guidelines  in  formal  styles  (r=  0.53,  p<
0.005),  they  did  better  on  the  parts  of
materials which were glossed with informal
styles  guidelines. As shown in Table 4, the
shorter  informal  directions  on  learning
contents  carried  the  impression  that  they
were easier to read and perceive for Iranian
semi-illiterates.  In  other  words,  in  more
than  (59.9%  +  66.3%  =126/2%/2=  63.1%)
of the task, learners did not perform well as
instructed  formally.  Such  results  report  a
relationship  between  application  of
informal  and  formal  discourse  features  in
directions  and  the  performance  of  adult
learners in the spelling test.
The second question sought the relationship
between  the  use  of  pictorial  modality  in
didactic  materials  and  language  learning.
As  Table  5  shows,  annotating  the  contents
with  images  contributes  to  making  them
more  communicative.  Iranian  adult  semi-illiterates  provided  correct  responses  to  the
questions directed to the materials delivered
with pictorial annotations; however, correct
answers oriented more towards the contents
that  images  functioned  a  complementary
role  instead  of  duplicating  the  text;  that  is,
ensuing  the  refining  and  complementary
function  of  the  image,  difficulties  of  the
texts  were  eliminated  and  learning  was

However,  deploying  picture  in  providing
instructional  materials  to  the  learners
culminated  into  better  results  when  they
were  accompanied  with  guidelines  of
formal styles (r= 0.67, p<0.005) rather than
guidelines  of  informal  styles  (r=  0.55,
p<0.005).  In  comparison  with  the  effect  of
picture  on  didactic  materials,  guideline
styles  revealed  a  more  important  role  in
learning  outcome.  Regarding  the  results
(Table  6)  on  deploying  images-  pictorial
annotation-in  learning  contents,  it  could  be
inferred  that  to  the  extent  that  language
elements  (in  this  study,  vocabulary  items)
are  not  comprehensible  to  the  L2  learners,
they  could  be  understood  in  virtue  of  the
attached  pictures  especially  in  the  case  of
materials  glossed  with  formal  style

Although  semi-illiterates  demonstrated
better  performance  in  pictorial  format  test
(cued  recall)  than  the  recall  one,  their
performance  on  multiple-choice  test  was
better than on either of the other two types.
The result can be depicted as follows:
Recognition score > pictorial format score
> rectification score (Table 7)

Discussion and conclusion
Since  most  of  the  m-learning  studies  are
provided as the supplementary activities (to
what  was  taught  to  learners)  and  materials
are  usually  delivered  to  learners  out  of
educational  settings,  it  is  necessary  to
design the materials in a way that they will
be in congruence with what a learner can do
independently, namely, mastery level (Ellis,
2008).  In  this  way,  learners  are  able  to
develop or construct new understandings by
elaborating  on  their  prior  knowledge
through  the  support  provided  by  more
capable  others  (e.g.,  teachers)  via  the
medium  of  facilities  that  wireless
technologies make accessible to them (e.g.,
short  message  services  (SMS),  multimedia
messaging  services  (MMS),  internet
connection facilities, etc.).
In  the  present  study,  it  was  shown  that
displaying  text  with  informal  style  of
language  and  complementary  image  is  a
case  of  coupling  reading  and  viewing,
which  supports  the  process  of  vocabulary
learning  in  the  case  of  semi-illiterates.
Hence,  it  could  be  claimed  that  the  degree
of difficulty primarily depends on the extent
to which the didactic materials style pattern
was  similar  to  or  different  from  learners'
daily  communication  style.  Where  the  two
were  identical,  learning  could  take  place
easily through concurrence of the styles, but
where  they  were  different,  learning
difficulty  arose  and  errors  resulting  from
style  differences  occurred.  Such  non-concurrence of styles refunds the process of
foreign language learning.
The  result  that  adult  learners  outperformed
in  the  case  of  new  vocabularies  on  which
informal style guidelines provided could be
indicative  of  the  homogeneity  of  this  type
of  style  with  the  type  that  this  group  of
citizens  applies  in  day-to-day
communication.  In  fact,  the  more
connections  to  the  informal  style  make  it
easier  for  adult  semi-illiterates  to  reinforce
and  orient  greater  meaning  and
understanding  to  what  they  have  learnt.  In
other  words,  in  this  study,  informal  style
established  a  type  of  scaffold  to  facilitate
the learner's development, as Van Der Stuyf
(2002) defines. With such background, that
is,  using  informal  speech  style  in
fabricating  guidelines  for  semi-illiterates
and illiterates, material generator are able to
manipulate  the  content  and  make  it  easy  to
understand.  This  finding  is  in  line  with  the
results reported by Lehtonen, Koskinen and
Kurvinen  (2003)  that  content  in  SMS
messages  between  friends  is  rarely
independent from previous communication.
However,  this  finding  sounds  a  bit
counterproductive  if  compared  with  what
Leow  (1997a)  reported.  He  found  that  text
length  but  not  text  enhancement  resulted  in
higher  comprehension  scores  while  neither
type  of  input  modification  assisted
acquisition.  Such  differences  may  be
attributed to the low-ability of semi-illiterates
in this study.
At first glance, presenting the material in an
entirely  visual  and  audio  way  seems  the
rational  way  in  teaching  semi-illiterates,
The key, of course, was modifying contents
so  they  will  be  of  benefit  to  learners  with
almost zero reading and  writing  abilities or
formal schooling who enter from the milieu
of  informal  speech.  However,  despite  the
fact that images are found to play a positive
and  facilitative  role  in  teaching  new
materials  to  novice  learners,  it  is  the
complementary  and  not  duplicated  role  of
the images which helps the learners to grasp
the  gist  of  learning  contents.  Such  result
thus  obtained  seems  to  bear  testimony  to
the claims that visual texts cannot be treated
as the equivalent of verbal utterances. Most
of  us  are  better  at  analyzing  verbal  texts
than  visual,  but  that  is  no  reason  to  expect
them  to  conform  to  the  terms  and  concepts
we  have  developed  for  different  purposes
(Myers,  2003).  Using  such  cues  in
incorporating  images  into  the  content
prompts  the  learners  to  pursue  the  task  of

learning English as a foreign language. As a
consequence, it could be claimed that, semi-illiterates'  outperformance  in  the  case  of
spelling test related to the vocabulary items
cued  with  images  could  be  attributed
presumably  to  the  mnemonic  power  of  the
image  that  makes  them  more  graspable
(Sunga,  2011).  Also,  this  result  invokes
dual  coding  theory  (DCT)  suggested  by
Paivio  (1986),  which  upholds  the  idea  that
different  modalities  combined  together
present  an  optimal  condition  for
accommodating  more  channels  of  learning
simultaneously,  thus  increasing  the
likelihood of learning materials.
According  to  Ko  (1996),  speech-like
features are typically claimed to result from
the  temporal  constraints  of  the  medium.
Even  though  informal  style  directions
simplify the task, make it more manageable,
and  let  the  teachers  express  a  friendly
orientation  towards  the  learners  they
address  (Pop,  2012),  it  is  noteworthy  to
point  out  that  the  informal  style  of
instruction  is  temporary,  too.  At  the  early
stages  of  language  learning,  learners'
interaction with more informal and familiar
styles  or  environment  significantly  impacts
their  ways  of  thinking  and  interpreting
situations; however, as the learner's abilities
increase,  the  informal  style  guidelines
provided  in  the  content  are  progressively
withdrawn. As a result, the learners are able
to  master  the  concepts  apart  from
application  of  informal  style  of  guidelines.  
On  the  whole,  informal  pictorial  cued
materials  proved  the  best  suggesting  the
picture semi-illiterates engaged in relating it
to  text  might  have  contributed  to  their
This  study  presents  another  general  pattern
emerging  from  the  obtained  data.  The
higher  scores  of  the  recognition  test  in
almost all cases is also indicative of the fact
that recall tests are more challenging as the
learners need far more processing ability to
tackle them compared with recognition tests
representing  receptive  type  of  knowledge
(Richards & Schmidt, 2002; Cousin, 2010).  
This  study  focused  on  L2  vocabulary
improvement  by  EFL  semi-literate  adult
learners at elementary level via m-learning.
Similar  investigations  may  target  the
enhancement of other aspects of non-native
language as well as different skills and sub-skills  employing  other  modes  of
technology-based  learning.  A  study  of  this
kind  could  help  L2  material  designers  to
incorporate  technology-enhanced  content
such  as  software  album  in  devising  more
attractive  and  challenging  instructional
language materials.

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