Body in Mind: How Gestures Empower Foreign Language Learning
Article first published online: 17 NOV 2011
© 2011 The Authors. Journal Compilation © 2011 International Mind, Brain, and Education Society and Blackwell Publishing, Inc.
Mind, Brain, and Education
Volume 5, Issue 4, pages 196–211, December 2011
How to Cite
Macedonia, M. and Knösche, T. R. (2011), Body in Mind: How Gestures Empower Foreign Language Learning. Mind, Brain, and Education, 5: 196–211. doi: 10.1111/j.1751-228X.2011.01129.x
- Issue published online: 17 NOV 2011
- Article first published online: 17 NOV 2011
It has previously been demonstrated that enactment (i.e., performing representative gestures during encoding) enhances memory for concrete words, in particular action words. Here, we investigate the impact of enactment on abstract word learning in a foreign language. We further ask if learning novel words with gestures facilitates sentence production. In a within-subjects paradigm, participants first learned 32 abstract sentences from an artificial corpus conforming with Italian phonotactics. Sixteen sentences were encoded audiovisually. Another set of 16 sentences was also encoded audiovisually, but, in addition, each single word was accompanied by a symbolic gesture. Participants were trained for 6 days. Memory performance was assessed daily using different tests. The overall results support the prediction that learners have better memory for words encoded with gestures. In a transfer test, participants produced new sentences with the words they had acquired. Items encoded through gestures were used more frequently, demonstrating their enhanced accessibility in memory. The results are interpreted in terms of embodied cognition. Implications for teaching and learning are suggested.