Incidental Acquisition of Foreign Language Vocabulary through Brief Multi-Modal Exposure

Marie Josée Bisson*, Walter J.B. van Heuven, Kathy Conklin, Richard J. Tunney

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


First language acquisition requires relatively little effort compared to foreign language acquisition and happens more naturally through informal learning. Informal exposure can also benefit foreign language learning, although evidence for this has been limited to speech perception and production. An important question is whether informal exposure to spoken foreign language also leads to vocabulary learning through the creation of form-meaning links. Here we tested the impact of exposure to foreign language words presented with pictures in an incidental learning phase on subsequent explicit foreign language learning. In the explicit learning phase, we asked adults to learn translation equivalents of foreign language words, some of which had appeared in the incidental learning phase. Results revealed rapid learning of the foreign language words in the incidental learning phase showing that informal exposure to multi-modal foreign language leads to foreign language vocabulary acquisition. The creation of form-meaning links during the incidental learning phase is discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere60912
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 8 Apr 2013

Bibliographical note

©2013 Bisson et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits
unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


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