Learning a Second Language Naturally the Voice Movement Icon Approach


  •  Manuela Macedonia    

Abstract

Second language (L2) instruction greatly differs from natural input during native language (L1) acquisition.
Whereas a child collects sensorimotor experience while learning novel words, L2 employs primarily reading,
writing and listening and comprehension. We describe an alternative proposal that integrates the body into the
learning process: the Voice Movement Icon (VMI) approach. A VMI consists of a word that is read and spoken
in L2 and synchronously paired with an action or a gesture. A VMI is first performed by the language trainer and
then imitated by the learners. Behavioral experiments demonstrate that words encoded through VMIs are easier
to memorize than audio-visually encoded words and that they are better retained over time. The reasons why
gestures promote language learning are manifold. First, we focus on language as an embodied phenomenon of
cognition. Then we review evidence that gestures scaffold the acquisition of L1. Because VMIs reconnect
language learning with the body, they can be considered as a more natural tool for language instruction than
audio-visual activities.



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