Long-Term Effects of Gestures on Memory for Foreign Language Words Trained in the Classroom


  • Manuela Macedonia,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department for Information Systems, University of Linz
    2. Research Group, Neural Mechanisms of Human Communication, Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences
    • Address correspondence to Manuela Macedonia, Department for Information Systems, University of Linz, Altenbergerstr. 69, 4040 Linz, Austria; e-mail: manuela@macedonia.at

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  • Wolfgang Klimesch

    1. Department of Physiological Psychology, University of Salzburg
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Language and gesture are viewed as highly interdependent systems. Besides supporting communication, gestures also have an impact on memory for verbal information compared to pure verbal encoding in native but also in foreign language learning. This article presents a within-subject longitudinal study lasting 14 months that tested the use of gestures in the classroom, with the experimenter presenting the items to be acquired. Participants learned 36 words distributed across two training conditions: In the audio-visual condition subjects read, heard, and spoke the words; in the gestural condition subjects additionally accompanied the words with symbolic gestures. Memory performance was assessed through cued native-to-foreign translation tests at five time points. The results show that gestures significantly enhance vocabulary learning in quantity and over time. The findings are discussed in terms of Klimesch's connectivity model (CM) of information processing. Thereafter, a code, a word, is better integrated into long-term memory if it is deep, that is, if it is comprised of many interconnected components.