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Gestures Help Students Learn New Words in a Foreign Language

by Sharita Forrest / Jan 29, 2019

Professor Kiel Christianson

Presenting vocabulary words to students with gestures, even motions that don’t convey the meanings of the words, can improve students’ comprehension of new words in a foreign language, according to a new study co-written by University of Illinois Educational Psychology professor Kiel Christianson and graduate student Nayoung Kim.

Any gestures are helpful in foreign-language instruction as long as they cannot be confused with other to-be-learned words and if the number of new words presented to students at one time is limited, said Christianson.

The aim of the study was to compare participants’ comprehension of vocabulary words in Mandarin when they were taught new words paired with iconic or arbitrary gestures and without gestures.

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