The effect of using gestures to learn words in a second language.

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This study was designed to determine the effect of deictic gestures on learning Spanish adverbs of words. Adverbs of place are words that describe the location of an object. Most languages use these words. However, languages differ in the number of words they use for adverbs of place. For a language learner, acquiring a language that uses more words to describe an action than their native language can present difficulties with learning the second language because they have to create new semantic categories (Ellis, 1994). According to the dual coding theory, learning can be improved by presenting information in different formats (Clark & Paivio, 1991; Paivio & Lambert, 1981). Research has shown that gestures, and especially deictic gestures, can facilitate language learning (Goldin-Meadow, 2005; Huang, Kim, & Christianson, 2019). Therefore, this study looked at the facilitative influence of deictic gestures on learning Spanish adverbs of place. Dutch native speakers with minimal Spanish proficiency participated in the study because the Dutch language has two words (hier and daar) for adverbs of place while the Spanish language has three words (aquí, allí, and allá). The study had a training phase whereby one condition received instructions on the Spanish adverbs of place with deictic gestures, and the other condition received instructions that did not include deictic gestures. The participants were then tested on how well they had learned the Spanish adverbs of place by using a location identifying task in which participants looked at a video and had to tell how far an object was from the speaker in the video. The subjects could earn one point for each correct answer, with a total of twelve points. The results pointed out that deictic gestures did not significantly facilitate the learning of adverbs of place in Spanish in this study. A possible ceiling effect had occurred due to participants in both conditions acquiring high scores. Even though this study did not confirm that deictic gestures can influence language acquisition, it might offer insights for companies and institutions that deal with a foreign language and language acquisition.
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