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


  • Isabeau Fievez KU Leuven
  • Maribel Montero Perez Ghent University
  • Frederik Cornillie KU Leuven
  • Piet Desmet KU Leuven




Incidental vocabulary learning, videos, captions, frequency of occurrence, imagery


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.

Author Biographies

  • Isabeau Fievez, KU Leuven

    In her doctoral research, Isabeau Fievez investigates the effectiveness of videos for different aspects of vocabulary knowledge. She is doing her PhD as part of an INTERREG V project.

  • Maribel Montero Perez, Ghent University

    Maribel Montero Perez is Assistant Professor at Ghent University, Belgium. Her research interests include, amongst others, multimodal input for L2 learning, support tools for L2 learners in online learning environments, technologyenhanced listening, and vocabulary learning.

  • Frederik Cornillie, KU Leuven

    Frederik Cornillie (PhD) is research and valorization manager at ITEC. His main research interest concerns the effectiveness and use of learning support in technology-mediated environments, in particular in relation to individual differences.

  • Piet Desmet, KU Leuven

    Piet Desmet is a full professor of French, applied linguistics and CALL at KU Leuven, campus Kulak Kortrijk, and coordinator of ITEC, imec research group at KU Leuven.


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How to Cite

Fievez, I., Montero Perez, M., Cornillie, F., & Desmet, P. (2020). Vocabulary Learning Through Viewing Captioned or Subtitled Videos and the Role of Learner- and Word-Related Factors. CALICO Journal, 37(3), 233-253. https://doi.org/10.1558/cj.39370