“So I Think دبة is bear!” An Initial Data-Driven Explanation of How Arabic Students Use Captioned Video to Learn Vocabulary



incidental vocabulary learning, eye-tracking, second language acquisition


We explored how L2 learners of Arabic make use of video-based captions to learn vocabulary. Thirteen students watched a four-minute captioned video twice on a computer equipped with eye-tracking technology. The study included 19 novel words, 2 familiar words with novel meanings, and 2 words with familiar morphological roots (23 total). In this paper, we focus on one word, bear, and plotted the learners’ visual attention to that word as it appeared on screen. We triangulated the eye-tracking data with an L2 form recall task, a prior vocabulary knowledge scale task, a free-recall task, and a semi-structured interview with stimulated recall. Our conclusion is that Arabic programs should include more captioned-video content both inside and outside of class and at an appropriate proficiency level to help learners with L2 Arabic’s complex form-meaning mapping.

Author Biographies

Paula Winke, Michigan State University

Paula Winke is a Professor in the Department of Linguistics, Languages, and Cultures at Michigan State University, where she is also the Director of the Second Language Studies Ph.D. Program. Paula is the Co-Editor of the international journal Language Testing with Talia Issacs (University College London). Paula received the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) and the National Federation of Modern Language Teachers Associations (NFMLTA)/Modern Language Journal Paul Pimsleur Award for Research in World Language Education in 2021, the American Association for Applied Linguistics Research Article of the Year Award in 2020, the TESOL International Association Award for Distinguished Research in 2012, and the Computer Assisted Language Instruction Consortium’s Outstanding Article Award in 2009. At Michigan State, she teaches courses on language assessment and on individual differences in SLA. 

Lizz Huntley, Michigan State University

Elizabeth Huntley is a doctoral candidate in Second Language Studies at Michigan State University. Her research interests include K-16 foreign language curricular articulation, psycholinguistic approaches to second language acquisition, and open science practices. She has also served as editorial assistant for the journal Studies in Second Language Acquisition for four years. Beyond research, Huntley is the co-author of two recent textbooks for students of Arabic: ‘Arabiyyat al-Naas fii MaSr, and ‘Arabiyyat al-Naas Part II. She has taught Arabic as a second language in both high school and college programs since 2006, including the University of Michigan and Cornell University. Huntley holds am MA in Middle Eastern and North African Studies, as well as in Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language, from the University of Michigan.

Susan Gass, Michigan State University

Susan Gass is University Distinguished Professor Emerita in the Second Language Studies Program at Michigan State University. She has published widely in the field of Second Language Acquisition on a range of topics including input/interaction, language transfer, and research methodology. She has published three recent books on research methodology: Second Language Research: Methodology and Design (3rd edition, with Alison Mackey), Using Judgments in Second Language Acquisition Research (with Patti Spinner), and Stimulated Recall Methodology in Applied Linguistics and L2 Research (with Alison Mackey). She is the winner of numerous local, national, and international awards and has served as President of the American Association for Applied Linguistics and the International Association of Applied Linguistics. For nearly 35 years, she had numerous roles with Studies in Second Language Acquisition, most recently as Co-Editor and Editor from 2015-2022.


Alhawary, M. T. (2009). Arabic second language acquisition of morphosyntax. Yale University Press.

Bird, S. A., & Williams, J. N. (2002). The effect of bimodal input on implicit and explicit memory: An investigation into the benefits of within-language subtitling. Applied Psycholinguistics, 23, 509–533. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0142716402004022

Bisson, M. J., Van Heuven, W. J., Conklin, K., & Tunney, R. J. (2014). Processing of native and foreign language subtitles in films: An eye tracking study. Applied Psycholinguistics, 35(2), 399–418.

Brustad, K., Al-Batal, M., & Tūnisī, A. (2013). Al-kitaab fii taʻallum al-ʻArabiyya: A textbook for intermediate Arabic (3rd ed.). Georgetown University Press.

Brustad, K., Al-Batal, M., & Tūnisī, A. (2007). al-Kitāb fī taʻallum al-ʻArabīyah, al-Juzʼ al-thālith. Georgetown University Press.

Brustad, K., Al-Batal, M., & Tūnisī, A. (2010). Alif Baa: Introduction to Arabic letters and sounds. Georgetown University Press.

Brustad, K., Al-Batal, M., & Tūnisī, A. (2011). al-Kitāb fī taʻallum al-ʻArabīyah: Al-Juzʼ al-awwal. Georgetown University Press

Chai, J., & Erlam, R. (2008). The effect and the influence of the use of video and captions on second language learning. New Zealand Studies in Applied Linguistics, 14, 25–44.

Danan, M. (2004). Captioning and subtitling: Undervalued language learning strategies. Meta, 49, 67–77.

del Mar Suárez, M., & Gesa, F. (2019). Learning vocabulary with the support of sustained exposure to captioned video: Do proficiency and aptitude make a difference? Language Learning Journal, 1736(May).


EyeLink 1000 [Apparatus and software]. (2017). Mississauga, Ontario, Canada: SR Research.

Gass, S. M. (1997). Input, interaction, and the second language learner. Erlbaum.

Gass, S., Winke, P., Isbell, D. R., & Ahn, J. I. (2019). How captions help people learn languages: A working-memory, eye-tracking study. Language Learning and Technology, 23(2), 84–104. Retrieved from https://www.lltjournal.org/item/3108

Giaber, J. M. (2017). Differences in word formation between Arabic and English: Implications for concision in terminology translation. Al-ʿArabiyya: Journal of the American Association of Teachers of Arabic, 50, 53–79.

Godfroid, A. (2020). Eye tracking in second language acquisition and bilingualism: A research synthesis and methodological guide. Routledge.

Godfroid, A., & Schmidtke, J. (2013). What do eye movements tell us about awareness? A triangulation of eye-movement data, verbal reports, and vocabulary learning scores. In J. M. Bergsleithner, S. Frota, & J. K. Yoshioka (Eds.), Noticing: L2 studies and essays in honor of Dick Schmidt (pp. 183–205). University of Hawai’i at Manoa, National Foreign Language Resource Center.

Godfroid, A., Ahn, J., Choi, I., Ballard, L., Cui, Y., Johnston, S., Lee, S., Sarkar, A., & Yoon, H.-J. (2018). Incidental vocabulary learning in a natural reading context: An eye-tracking study. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 21(3), 563–584. https://doi.org/http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S1366728917000219

Godfroid, A., Ahn, J., Choi, I., Ballard, L., Cui, Y., Johnston, S., Yoon, H.-J. (2017). Incidental vocabulary learning in a natural reading context: An eye-tracking study. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 21(3), 563–584. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1366728917000219

Hanan. (2020, April 10). Listening practice: Covid-19 benefits. Arabic Language Blog. https://blogs.transparent.com/arabic/the-only-beneficiary-of-coronavirus/

Koskinen, P. S., Wilson, R. M., Gambrell, L. B., & Neuman, S. B. (1993). Captioned video and vocabulary learning: An innovative practice in literacy instruction. The Reading Teacher, 47, 36–43.

Lee, M., & Révész, A. (2018). Promoting grammatical development through textually enhanced captions: An eye-tracking study. Modern Language Journal, 102(3), 557–577. https://doi.org/10.1111/modl.12503

Levy, M. (2019). World CALL: Are we connected? Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 39, 59–73. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0267190519000059

Malone, J. (2018). Incidental vocabulary learning in SLA: Effects of frequency, aural enhancement, and working memory. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 40(3), 651–675. https://doi.org/http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0272263117000341

Mayer, R. E. (2014). Cognitive theory of multimedia learning. In The Cambridge handbook of multimedia learning (pp. 43–71). Cambridge University Press.

Mayer, R. E., Lee, H., & Peebles, A. (2014). Multimedia learning in a second language: A cognitive load perspective. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 28(5), 653–660. https://doi.org/10.1002/acp.3050

Mirzaei, M. S., Meshgi, K., Akita, Y., & Kawahara, T. (2017). Partial and synchronized captioning: A new tool to assist learners in developing second language listening skill. ReCALL, 29(2), 178–199. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0958344017000039

Mohamed, A. A. (2018). Exposure frequency in L2 reading: An eye-movement perspective of incidental vocabulary learning. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 40(2), 269–293.


Montero Perez, M. (2022). Second or foreign language learning through watching audio-visual input and the role of on-screen text. Language Teaching, 1–30. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0261444821000501

Montero Perez, M., Van Den Noortgate, W., & Desmet, P. (2013). Captioned video for L2 listening and vocabulary learning: A meta-analysis. System, 41(3), 720–739. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.system.2013.07.013

Montero Perez, M., Peters, E., & Desmet, P. (2014). Is less more? Effectiveness and perceived usefulness of keyword and full captioned video for L2 listening comprehension. ReCALL, 26(1), 21–43. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0958344013000256

Montero Perez, M., Peters, E., & Desmet, P. (2015). Enhancing vocabulary learning through captioned video: An eye-tracking study. The Modern Language Journal, 99(2), 308–328. https://doi.org/10.1111/modl.12215

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. https://doi.org/10.1080/09588221.2017.1375960

Montero Perez, M., Peters, E., Clarebout, G., & Desmet, P. (2014). Effects of captioning on video comprehension and incidental vocabulary learning. Language Learning and Technology, 18(1), 118–141. Retrieved from


Moufarrej, G., & Salameh, C. (2019). The effects of songs on vocabulary retention in foreign language acquisition: The case of Arabic. Al-ʿArabiyya: Journal of the American Association of Teachers of Arabic, 52, 101–123.

National Geographic. (2006). Last stand of the great bear. 20th Century Fox.

Playaling. Retrieved January 4, 2022, from https://playaling.com

Peters, E., & Webb, S. (2018). Incidental vocabulary acquisition through viewing L2 television and factors that affect learning. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 40(3), 551–577. https://doi.org/http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0272263117000407

Rayner, K. (1998). Eye movements in reading and information processing: 20 years of research. Psychological Bulletin, 124(3), 372–422. https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.124.3.372

Robinson, P., Mackey, A., Gass, S. M., & Schmidt, R. W. (2012). Attention and awareness in second language acquisition. In S. M. Gass & A. Mackey (Eds.), The Routledge handbook of second language acquisition (pp. 247–267). Routledge.

Rodgers, M. P. H., & Webb, S. (2017). The effects of captions on EFL learners’ comprehension of English-language television programs. CALICO Journal, 34(1), 20–38. https://doi.org/10.1558/cj.29522

Showalter, C. E., & Hayes-Harb, R. (2015). Native English speakers learning Arabic: The influence of novel orthographic information on second language phonological acquisition. Applied Psycholinguistics, 36(1), 23–42.


Stevens, P. B. (2006). Is Spanish really so easy? Is Arabic really so hard?: Perceived difficulty in learning Arabic as a second language. In K. M. Wahba, Z. A. Taha, & L. England (Eds.), Handbook for Arabic language teaching professionals in the 21st century (pp. 35–63). Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Sydorenko, T. (2010). Modality of input and vocabulary acquisition. Language Learning and Technology, 14(2), 50–73. Retrieved from https://www.lltjournal.org/item/2688

Tomlinson, B. (2012). Materials development. In A. Burns & J. C. Richards (Eds.), Pedagogy and practice in second language teaching (pp. 269–278). Cambridge University Press.

Vanderplank, R. (1988). The value of teletext sub-titles in language learning. English Language Teaching Journal, 42(4), 272–281.

Wesche, M. B., & Paribakht, T. S. (1996). Assessing second language vocabulary knowledge: Depth versus breadth. Canadian Modern Language Review, 53(1), 13–40.

Wiley, R. W., Wilson, C., & Rapp, B. (2016). The effects of alphabet and expertise on letter perception. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 42(8), 1186–1203. https://doi.org/10.1037/xhp0000213

Winke, P., Gass, S., & Sydorenko, T. (2010). The effects of captioning videos used for foreign language listening activities. Language Learning & Technology, 14(1), 66–87. https://www.lltjournal.org/item/2711

Winke, P., Gass, S., & Sydorenko, T. (2013). Factors influencing the use of captions by foreign language learners: An eye-tracking study. The Modern Language Journal, 97(1), 254–275. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-4781.2013.01432.x

Winke, P., & Gass, S. (2016, November). Using free recall and idea units for evaluating second language comprehension: Methodological choices and issues. AL Forum: The Newsletter of the TESOL International Association Applied Linguistics Interest Section. Retrieved from


Additional Files



How to Cite

Winke, P., Huntley, L. ., & Gass, S. (2022). “So I Think دبة is bear!” An Initial Data-Driven Explanation of How Arabic Students Use Captioned Video to Learn Vocabulary. Arab Journal of Applied Linguistics, 7(2), 1–34. Retrieved from https://arjals.com/ajal/article/view/362