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Gesture-Based Language Learning – Can More Pupils Learn More?

My research addresses what happens when hearing children receive English-language-training in which hand gestures distinguish between syntactically unique morphemes. I consider the question of whether more children correctly use morphemes when taught with the accompanying syntactically specific gestures, as compared to control classes. In summary, can a gesture-based approach help second language learners pay attention to features of language they might otherwise miss, thus proceduralizing syntactic patterns more effectively? My current study examines the effects of 14 hours of gesture-based language instruction on beginning English students’ long-term oral fluency. We know efficient language learning processes are crucial in multilingual societies. Might there also be evidence to show that a gesture-based approach is appropriate for the multilingual and diverse groups of students found in inner city schools, a context which presents particular challenges for language teachers?

Natasha Janzen Ulbricht, PhD candidate (nju@zedat.fu-berlin.de)