Incidental Vocabulary Learning through Watching Movies

Keywords: incidental vocabulary learning, movies, vocabulary acquisition


It is thought that in order to comprehend general conversation at the native-speaker level, it is necessary to know thousands of word families. Vocabulary learning is therefore a vital component to attaining proficiency in a language. The revolution in digital and information technology has dramatically transformed the landscape of resources available to language students. Learners increasingly have access to audio-visual, meaning-focused input, such as DVDs and streamed video material. Studies indicate that such materials can be used as linguistic input to facilitate incidental vocabulary learning, in the same way extensive reading (ER) uses graded readers have traditionally been used for the same purpose. The current study sought to measure the effect of watching a single movie in English, with English captions, on the ability of Japanese students to recall a selection of words taken from the movie script. The results revealed a significant increase in students’ ability to recall the words directly after watching the movie. From a list of 42 target words, the mean number of words recalled increased by 1.7 (4.05%) words after viewing. The result suggests that meaning-focused audio-visual input such as movies are a valuable supplementary resource for language learners, which can help provide a welcome boost their rate of vocabulary acquisition.

Author Biographies

Robert John Ashcroft, Tokai University, Japan

Bob Ashcroft currently teaches English and Intercultural Communication for the Department of International Communication at Tokai University in Japan. His work focuses specifically on computer-assisted language learning, vocabulary acquisition, and project-based learning curriculum design. Bob has taught English in Poland, Germany, and Cambodia. You can find out more at:

Joseph Garner, International Christian University, Japan

Joe Garner teaches on the English for Liberal Arts Program at International Christian University in Japan. His research interests include the effectiveness of peer feedback in L2 writing classes, the use of authentic materials in foreign language instruction, and approaches to vocabulary instruction.

Oliver Hadingham, Rikkyo University, Japan

Oliver Hadingham is a lecturer at Rikkyo University, in Tokyo, Japan. His research interests include CALL and modern British history. His work has appeared in Applied LinguisticsJournal of Second Language WritingEuropean History QuarterlyTwentieth Century British History, and History: The Journal of the Historical Association.