Imagine the classroom of the future – where languages are taught with a physical workout. It may not be as far-fetched as you might think. According to several studies, people learn new languages much quicker when movement accompanies them.

Twenty volunteers were enrolled in a study at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, Germany for a six-day language course. The language, “Vimmi” is an artificial language made up to allow researchers to interpret the results easier. During the course, half the material was taught through spoken and written instructions and exercise. The other half of the course was taught with body movements that accompanied each word, and the students were asked to act out the word.

Those who learned through movement and acting out the words learned the fake language significantly better than those who did not, and were better able to make these words to form sentences.

Surprisingly, it was not just action words, like ‘jump,’ ‘cut’ or ‘laugh’ that were easier to remember. The trick of movement also worked for words that were more abstract, such as ‘rather,’ which has no simple gesture to re-enact.

Researchers Manuela Macedonia and Thomas Knösche, from the Max Planck Institute, argue that enacting the words with gestures and movement helps the memory to create more complex definitions

Based on fMRI scans, the pair argue that enactment helps memory by creating a more complex depictions of the word, and that makes it much easier to retrieve. Unpublished results from tests in real language classes suggest that the method “could really speed up foreign language learning in schools,” says Macedonia.

Previous studies have shown that performing representative gestures during encoding of the brain enhances memory for concrete words – most particularly for words that express action.

Preschool teachers at Port St. Lucie Community Center in Florida, help their young students to develop language and gross motor skills through Music and Movement classes. This is becoming an increasingly popular way to help young children improve their vocabulary and language skills in schools across the country, and a way to teach a child without forcing them to learn – it is automatic.




About the author:

Ron White is a two-time U.S.A. Memory Champion and memory training expert. As a memory keynote speaker he travels the world to speak before large groups or small company seminars, demonstrating his memory skills and teaching others how to improve their memory, and how important a good memory is in all phases of your life.



New Scientist – Learn language faster with gestures:

Wiley Online Library – Body in Mind – How Gestures Empower Foreign Language Learning: