Digital game-based vocabulary learning : where are we and where are we going?

Di ZOU, Yan HUANG, Haoran XIE*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

136 Citations (Scopus)


Given the importance of word knowledge for second language acquisition, there is always a need for effective word-learning approaches from language learners. With the rapid development of educational technologies, game-based learning is emerging into a field with considerable potential, within which, digital game-based vocabulary learning has accrued increasing attention from language learners, educators and researchers. The present research reviews studies on digital game-based vocabulary learning from five perspectives: a general overview of published studies, digital games for vocabulary learning, theoretical frameworks, research issues and findings, and implications. Using specific criteria for article selection, 21 publications in SSCI journals were finalized for the systematic review. Findings revealed 10 types of digital games dominate the field, and these generally demonstrate positive effects in promoting short-term and long-term vocabulary learning, facilitating reading and listening comprehension, increasing motivation and engagement, decreasing anxiety and fostering interactions among learners. These findings further render implications that are meaningful for vocabulary learning and game design.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)751-777
Number of pages27
JournalComputer Assisted Language Learning
Issue number5-6
Early online date25 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jul 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research received grants from the Standing Committee on Language Education and Research (EDB(LE)/P&R/EL/175/2), the Education Bureau of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the Innovation and Technology Fund (No. GHP/022/17GD) and Internship Programme (InP/083/18) from the Innovation and Technology Commission of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the Funding Support to ECS Proposal Rated 3.5 (RG16/2018-2019R), the Interdisciplinary Research Scheme of the Dean's Research Fund 2018-19 (FLASS/DRF/IDS-3) and the Internal Research Grant (RG93/2018-2019R), The Education University of Hong Kong.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Game-based learning
  • digital game
  • vocabulary acquisition
  • word learning
  • systematic review


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