Researchers at The University of Nottingham have shown that when learning a foreign language, students learn rapidly and retain more vocabulary when they play informal games with the target vocabulary before they receive direct instruction on the vocabulary.
The informal exposure to the vocabulary in the form of being shown the word and a picture that showed the meaning of the word actually ended up incidentally teaching the vocabulary. The study participants were not aware that they would be tested on the words later. The participants were native English speakers new to the Welsh language. The group that received the incidental learning phase out-scored the control group for speed, accuracy, and retention of vocabulary meaning a week later.
Reference: Bisson M-J, van Heuven WJB, Conklin K, Tunney RJ (2013)
Incidental Acquisition of Foreign Language Vocabulary through Brief
Multi-Modal Exposure. PLoS ONE 8(4):
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