Incidental Vocabulary Acquisition through Watching Subtitled Movies: The Mediating Role of Working Memory Capacity

Research Article


  • Hossein Kargar Behbahani Shiraz University
  • Naser Rashidi Shiraz University


Incidental vocabulary acquisition, productive vocabulary knowledge, receptive vocabulary knowledge, subtitling, working memory


Interlingual subtitled audiovisual content is a potent educational tool that can enhance second-language learners' vocabulary learning. This classroom-based quasi-experimental study mainly focused on how watching subtitled video programs and working memory (WM) can facilitate receptive and productive knowledge of vocabulary. To shed the light on these, 60 EFL students from two intact classes were recruited and divided into two experimental and control groups with an equal number of subjects in each. Through administering a reading-span test, 14 subjects in the experimental group and 16 individuals in the control group were identified with high WM and the rest with low WM. A pretest posttest control group design was used. The experimental subjects watched a subtitled cartoon about Robin Hood, while the subjects in the control group did not watch any subtitled program. Firstly, a one-way between-groups MANOVA was run to determine treatment's impact on receptive and productive knowledge of vocabulary. The outcomes disclosed that experimental subjects outstripped the control group on both receptive and productive vocabulary measures. A further one-way repeated-measures ANOVA revealed that experimental subjects gained significantly more receptive items than productive ones with a large effect size. Additionally, to determine the contribution of WM to incidental acquisition of lexicon, a one-way within-groups MANOVA was conducted. The statistical analysis results indicated that high WM learners can incidentally gain more words than low WM ones. However, regarding the receptive test of vocabulary, the results were not significant, but regarding the productive test of vocabulary, the difference between WM high vs. low spanners was significant with a moderate effect size. The theoretical and pedagogical implications of the study are discussed.