The Impact of Subtitles and Language Proficiency on L2 Incidental Vocabulary Acquisition by Saudi University Students
The bulk of experimental studies involving audiovisual materials with subtitles to investigate vocabulary learning has primarily focused on intermediate English proficiency level students, neglecting other proficiency levels namely advanced and beginner students. Additionally, when looking into the literature there seems to be lack of evidence for Arabic students benefiting from subtitled audiovisual materials since they have different orthographic system that reads from right to left which could affect subtitle processing. Therefore, this study examined the impact of language proficiency (advanced vs. beginner) and subtitles on incidental vocabulary learning by recruiting 358 Saudi students majoring in English from first year and fourth year. Participants in each year were randomly assigned to a subtitled group, an unsubtitled group, or a control group (test-only), with all groups performing two different tasks (word recognition and word meaning recall). All participants in the subtitled and unsubtitled conditions watched one different episode (approximately 52 minutes long per episode) of the selected TV show each day for a period of four days. The results of the main experiment suggest that: a) subtitles facilitate incidental vocabulary learning in terms of word recognition; b) subtitles do not seem to facilitate meaning recall over a short period of exposure; c); when comparing the results obtained by year 1 and year 4 students, it appears that students’ level of language proficiency determines the extent to which incidental vocabulary can be acquired; and d) the use of videos as a learning tool for incidental vocabulary acquisition showed positive results in terms of word recognition compared with the results for the control group that was not exposed to videos.