CALICO Journal, Vol 37, No 3 (2020)

Vocabulary Learning Through Viewing Captioned or Subtitled Videos and the Role of Learner- and Word-Related Factors

Isabeau Fievez, Maribel Montero Perez, Frederik Cornillie, Piet Desmet
Issued Date: 30 Oct 2020


This study investigates incidental vocabulary learning through captioned or subtitled videos and examines whether and how different learner- (prior vocabulary knowledge) and word-related factors (i.e., frequency of occurrence, cognateness, and imagery) influence learning gains from watching videos. Low-intermediate Dutch-speaking learners of French (N=86) took part in a four week intervention program. They were assigned to a subtitles group, a captions group, or a control group (who only took the tests). Vocabulary learning was measured by means of form and meaning recognition, as well as meaning recall tests. Results revealed that participants learned approximately 15% of the vocabulary they could have learned. Both treatment groups outperformed the control group in the meaning recognition test, but only the captions group outperformed the control group in the meaning recall test. Learning gains were mediated by cognateness with significantly higher odds to recall and recognize a cognate on the posttest than a noncognate. Frequency of occurrence and prior vocabulary knowledge had a positive effect on L2 learners’ ability to recall and recognize the meaning of the target words. A positive relationship was also found between target words that were visually represented in the video and learners’ meaning recall scores for those words.

Download Media

PDF Subscribers Only

DOI: 10.1558/cj.39370


Bianchi, F., & Ciabattoni, T. (2008). Captions and subtitles in EFL learning: An investigative study in a comprehensive computer environment. In A. Baldry, M. Pavesi, & C. Taylor Torsello (Eds.), From Didactas to Ecolingua (pp. 69–80). Trieste: Edizioni Università di Trieste.

Birulés-Muntané, J., & Soto-Faraco, S. (2016). Watching subtitled films can help learning foreign languages. PLoS ONE, 11(6), 1–10.

Frumuselu, A. D., De Maeyer, S., Donche, V., & Gutiérrez-Colon Plana, M. (2015). Television series inside the EFL classroom: Bridging the gap between teaching and learning informal language through subtitles. Linguistics and Education, 32, 107–117.

Horst, M., Cobb, T., & Meara, P. (1998). Beyond a Clockwork Orange: Acquiring second language vocabulary through reading. Reading in a Foreign Language, 11(2), 207–223.

Mayer, R. E. (2001). Multimedia Learning (2nd ed.). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Montero Perez, M., Peters, E., & Desmet, P. (2018). Vocabulary learning through viewing video: the effect of two enhancement techniques. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 31(1–2), 1–26.

Montero Perez, M., & Rodgers, M. (2019). Video and language learning. Language Learning Journal, 47(4), 403–406.

Nation, P. (2001). Learning Vocabulary in Another Language (2nd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Nation, P., & Webb, S. (2011). Researching and analysing vocabulary. Boston: Heinle.

Noreillie, A. (2019). It’s all about words: Three empirical studies into the role of lexical knowledge and use in French listening and speaking tasks. (Unpublished dissertation) Catholic university of Leuven, Belgium.

Nunan, D. (2002). Listening in Language Learning. In J. C. Richards & W. A. Renandya (Eds.), Methodology in Language Teaching (pp. 238–241). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Pellicer-Sánchez, A. (2016). Incidental L2 vocabulary acquisition from and while reading. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 38(1), 97–130.

Peters, E. (2018). The effect of out-of-class exposure to English language media on learners’ vocabulary knowledge. ITL – International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 169(1), 142–168.

Peters, E. (2019). The effect of imagery and on‐screen text on foreign language vocabulary learning from audiovisual input. TESOL Quarterly, 0(0), 1–25.

Peters, E., Heynen, E., & Puimège, E. (2016). Learning vocabulary through audiovisual input: The differential effect of L1 subtitles and captions. System, 63, 134–148.

Peters, E., Velghe, T., & Van Rompaey, T. (2019). The VocabLab tests: The development of an English and French vocabulary test. ITL – International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 170(1), 53–78.

Peters, E., & Webb, S. (2018). Incidental vocabulary acquisition through viewing L2 television and factors that affect Learning. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 1–27.

Pujadas, G., & Muñoz, C. (2019). Extensive viewing of captioned and subtitled TV series: a study of L2 vocabulary learning by adolescents. The Language Learning Journal, 1–18.

Rodgers, M. (2013). English language learning through viewing television: An investigation of comprehension, incidental vocabulary acquisition, lexical coverage, attitudes, and captions. (Unpublished dissertation). Victoria University of Wellington.

Rodgers, M. (2018). The images in television programs and the potential for learning unknown words. ITL – International Journal of Applied Linguistics, 169(1), 191–211.

Vanderplank, R. (2010). Déjà vu? A decade of research on language laboratories, television and video in language learning. Language Teaching, 43(01), 1–37.

Vidal, K. (2011). A comparison of the effects of reading and listening on incidental vocabulary acquisition. Language Learning, 61(1), 219–258.

Vulchanova, M., Aurstad, L. M. G., Kvitnes, I. E. N., & Eshuis, H. (2015). As naturalistic as it gets: Subtitles in the English classroom in Norway. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 1–10.

Webb, S., & Nation, I. S. P. (2017). How vocabulary is learned. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Webb, S., & Rodgers, M. (2009). Vocabulary demands of television programs. Language Learning, 59(2), 335–366.

Zarei, A. A. (2009). The effect of bimodal, standard, and reversed subtitling on L2 vocabulary recognition and recall. Pazhuhesh-E Zabanha-Ye Khareji, 49(Special Issue), 65–85.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Equinox Publishing Ltd - 415 The Workstation 15 Paternoster Row, Sheffield, S1 2BX United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 (0)114 221-0285 - Email: [email protected]

Privacy Policy