In recent years, advances in computer technology have allowed increasingly rich multimedia content to be incorporated into educational materials in many fields, including the field of language teaching. Yet as visually appealing as such products may be, we must ask whether multimedia-enriched materials actually improve learning in a measurable way. If so, individual curriculum makers can then decide whether the benefits of the multimedia materials justify the cost of purchasing and implementing them. This study attempted to examine the effects of multimedia glossary aids on incidental vocabulary acquisition rates of L2 learners of Japanese. Subjects included 35 third- and fourth-year students of Japanese at a large private university in the United States, who read a Japanese short story using an online web application that included a multimedia-enriched glossary. A total of 27 keywords were selected from the text for inclusion in the glossary. A third were annotated with English text definitions only; another third had an English text definition plus a picture illustration; the final third had an English text definition plus a video illustration. An unannounced post-test measured vocabulary gains. A logistic mixed models regression was performed to test for differences in acquisition rate across the annotation types. Also, due to the unique dual nature of Japanese orthography, which includes both the phonemic kana and so-called ideographic kanji characters, the regression also examined interaction between orthographic representation of the keyword and annotation type on acquisition rate. A significant result (p<0.0001) was found for annotation type as a main effect, with video-annotated words showing the highest acquisition rates. Additionally, a significant interaction (p=0.0139) was observed between orthography and annotation type, indicating that multimedia glossary annotations may have affected the acquisition of phonemic kana representations of keywords differently than they affected ideographic kanji representations.



College and Department

Humanities; Center for Language Studies



Date Submitted


Document Type





Japanese, incidental learning, vocabulary, multimedia, computer, language acquisition, glossary, reading