Skip to main content Accessibility help

Is less more? Effectiveness and perceived usefulness of keyword and full captioned video for L2 listening comprehension*

  • Maribel Montero Perez (a1), Elke Peters (a2) and Piet Desmet (a3)


The aim of this study was twofold: we investigated (a) the effect of two types of captioned video (i.e., on-screen text in the same language as the video) on listening comprehension; (b) L2 learners’ perception of the usefulness of captions while watching L2 video. The participants, 226 university-level students from a Flemish university, watched three short French clips in one of three conditions: the control group watched the clips without captions (N = 70), the second group had fully captioned clips (N = 81), the third group had keyword captioned clips (N = 75). After each clip, all participants took a listening comprehension test, which consisted of global and detailed questions. To answer the detailed questions, participants had access to an audio passage of the corresponding clip. At the end of the experiment, participants completed a questionnaire and open-ended survey questions about their perception of captions. Our findings revealed that the full captioning group outperformed both the no captioning and the keyword captioning group on the global comprehension questions. However, no difference was found between the keyword captioning and the no captioning group. Results of the detailed comprehension questions (with audio) revealed no differences between the three conditions. A content-analysis approach to the questionnaire indicated that learners’ perceived need for full captions is strong. Participants consider captions useful for speech decoding and meaning-making processes. Surprisingly, keyword captions were considered highly distracting. These findings suggest that full rather than keyword captioning should be considered when proposing video-based listening comprehension activities to L2 learners.



Hide All

We are grateful to Carmen Eggermont (KU Leuven Kulak), Nathalie Nouwen, Vincianne Hermant, Séline Van Helleputte, and An Slootmaekers (KU Leuven ILT) for their help with the data collection.



Hide All
Anderson, J. R. (1995) Cognitive psychology and its implications. New York: Freeman.
Baltova, I. (1999) Multisensory language teaching in a multidimensional curriculum: The use of authentic bimodal video in core French. The Canadian Modern Language Review, 56(1): 3148.
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(4): 509533.
Buck, G. (2001) Assessing Listening. Cambridge: University Press.
Cárdenas-Claros, M.Gruba, P. (2013) Decoding the “CoDe”: A framework for conceptualizing and designing help options in computer-based second language listening. ReCALL, 25(2): 250271.
Chung, J. (1999) The effects of using video texts supported with advance organizers and captions on Chinese college students’ listening comprehension: An empirical study. Foreign Language Annals, 32(3): 295308.
Cohen, J. (1988) Statistical power analysis for the bahavioural sciences. Erlbaum: Hillsdale, NJ.
Conseil de l'Europe (2011) Un cadre européen commun de référence pour les langues: apprendre, enseigner, évaluer.
Danan, M. (2004) Captioning and subtitling: Undervalued language learning strategies. META, 49(1): 6777.
Garza, T. J. (1991) Evaluating the use of captioned video materials in advanced foreign language learning. Foreign Language Annals, 24(3): 239258.
Goh, C. C. (2000) A cognitive perspective on language learners’ listening comprehension problems. System, 28(1): 5575.
Graham, S. (2006) Listening comprehension: the learners’ perspective. System, 34(2): 165182.
Grgurović, M.Hegelheimer, V. (2007) Help options and multimedia listening: students’ use of subtitles and the transcript. Language Learning & Technology, 11(1): 4566.
Guichon, N.McLornan, S. (2008) The effects of multimodality on L2 learners: Implications for CALL resource design. System, 36(1): 8593.
Guillory, H. G. (1998) The effects of keyword captions to authentic French video on learner comprehension. CALICO Journal, 15(1-3): 89108.
Hsieh, H.-F.Shannon, S. E. (2005) Three approaches to qualitative content analysis. Qualitative health research, 15(9): 12771288.
Hulstijn, J. H. (2007) Psycholinguistic perspectives on second language acquisition. In: Cummins, J. and Davidson, C. (eds.), The international handbook on English language teaching. Norwell: Springer, 701713.
King, J. (2002) Using DVD feature films in the EFL classroom. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 15(5): 509523.
Lonsdale, D.Le Bras, Y. (2009) A frequency dictionary of French core vocabulary for learners. London/New York: Routledge.
Markham, P. (1989) The effects of captioned television videotapes on the listening comprehension of beginning, intermediate and advanced ESL students. Educational Technology, 29: 3841.
Markham, P. (2001) The influence of culture-specific background knowledge and captions on second language comprehension. Journal of Educational Technology Systems, 29(4): 331343.
Markham, P., Peter, L.McCarthy, T. (2001) The effects of native language vs. target language captions on foreign language students’ DVD video comprehension. Foreign Language Annals, 34(5): 439445.
Markham, P.Peter, L. (2003) The influence of English language and Spanish language captions on foreign language listening/reading comprehension. Journal of Educational Technology Systems, 31(3): 331341.
Montero Perez, M., Peters, E., Clarebout, G.Desmet, P. (forthcoming) Effects of captioning on video comprehension and incidental vocabulary learning. Language Learning & Technology.
Nation, I. S. P. (2006) How large a vocabulary is needed for reading and listening? The Canadian Modern Language Review, 63(1): 5982.
Neuman, S. B.Koskinen, P. (1992) Captioned television as comprehensible input: Effects of incidental word learning from context for language minority students. Reading research quarterly, 27(1): 95106.
Oxford, R. (1993) Research update on teaching L2 listening. System, 21(2): 205211.
Park, M. (2004) The effects of partial captions on Korean EFL learners’ listening comprehension. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Texas at Austin.
Paulussen, H., Macken, L., Vandeweghe, W.Desmet, P. (2013) Dutch Parallel Corpus: A balanced parallel corpus for Dutch-English and Dutch-French. In: Spyns, P. and Odijk, J. (eds.), Essential Speech and Language Technology for Dutch. Heidelberg: Springer, 185199.
Pujolà, J.-T. (2002) CALLing for help: researching language learning strategies using help facilities in a web-based multimedia program. ReCALL, 14(2): 235262.
Pulido, D. (2007) The relationship between text comprehension and second language incidental vocabulary acquisition: A matter of topic familiarity? Language Learning, 57(1): 155199.
Price, K. (1983) Closed-captioned TV: An untapped resource. MATSOL Newsletter, 12: 18.
Rodgers, M. (2012) The effects of intralingual subtitles on the comprehension of successive episodes of a television drama. Paper presented at Subtitles and Language Learning Conference, University of Pavia.
Rost, M. (2002) Teaching and researching listening. Harlow: Pearson Education Limited.
Selva, T., Verlinde, S.Binon, J. (2002) Le Dafles, un nouveau dictionnaire électronique pour apprenants du français. Proceedings of the Tenth EURALEX International Congress, Copenhagen, Denmark, 199–208.
Sydorenko, T. (2010) Modality of input and vocabulary acquisition. Language Learning & Technology, 14(2): 5073.
Tacq, J. (1997) Multivariate analysis techniques in social science research: From problem to analysis. London: Sage.
Vandergrift, L. (2004) Listening to learn or learning to listen. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 24: 325.
Vandergrift, L. (2011) Second language listening. Presage, process, product, and pedagogy. In: Hinkel, E. (ed.), Handbook of Research in Second Language Teaching and Learning. New York/London: Routledge, 455471.
Vanderplank, R. (1988) The value of teletext sub-titles in language learning. English Language Teaching Journal, 42(4): 272281.
Vanderplank, R. (1990) Paying attention to the words: practical and theoretical problems in watching television programmes with unilingual (CEEFAX) sub-titles. System, 18(2): 221234.
Webb, S. (2010) Using glossaries to increase the lexical coverage of television programs. Reading in a Foreign Language, 22(1): 201221.
Webb, S.Rodgers, M. (2009) Vocabulary demands of television programs. Language Learning, 59(2): 335366.
Winke, P., Gass, S.Sydorenko, T. (2010) The effects of captioning videos used for foreign language listening activities. Language Learning & Technology, 14(1): 6586.



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed