05 March, 2009

Talking With Your Hands is good for your family!

I am that person you'd think could not say a word if I was not able to use my hands and arms. Imagine my joy every time I read a new report about how good gesturing is for the development of societies. (Good, clean gestures, that is!) I have experienced this myself while teaching and/or while traveling in foreign countries. You've heard jokes or seen movies where people practically play charades to understand each other if they do not speak the same language. Or how they talk louder thinking that will help...(which is a whole other post all together)!

Remember the movie "Lilies of the Field with Sidney Poitier, where he helped teach English to the German nuns? (You really must rent this one if you have not)!

Well, Just out last month from researchers at The University of Chicago is a report on gesturing and language, something I am interested in as a foreign language teacher, tutor, and enthusiast.
Early Gesturing has important connections to language acquisition and school preparedness. The name of the study is "Differences in Early Gesture Explain SES Disparities in Child Vocabulary Size at School Entry," and was co-authored by Susan-Goldin Meadow and fellow psychologist Meredith Rowe.

They found that there is a significant language difference between children from families who gesture a lot, and those who don't. They also noted that the differences were divided between lower and higher income families, as well. How very interesting!

They wrote:

"Children who convey more meanings with gestures at age 14 months have much larger vocabularies at 54 months than children who convey fewer meanings and are accordingly better prepared for school, " for their piece in the journal Science on Friday, Feb. 13.

"The research showed that the differences particularly favored children from higher-income families with well-educated parents and may help explain the disadvantages some children from low-income families face upon entering school," said Susan-Goldin Meadow.

Other related articles can be found here.

There is significant research (The folks at TPR world) to support the benefits of gesturing in foreign language learning, but also in other subjects as well. There is another article about gesturing helping with learning/remembering math facts here.

The latest research which shows that early gesturing helps childhood development in their primary language (in the home) right from the start really makes sense to me, since I've had a little first-hand experience. I've seen how it can help older children and adults to learn/understand a second or more languages as we grow and learn.

Many of you have also had experience by teaching your own babies to sign when they are hungry, thirsty, want "more," etc.

Alright, now! Let the language acquisition begin! (Javamom asserts, waving her arms and hands like an Italian Momma!)

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