Can't find the right word? You might want to start moving your hands. New research at the University of Alberta suggests that gesturing while you talk may improve your access to language.
Dr. Elena Nicoladis and her research colleagues observed the hand gestures of bilingual children as they told the same story twice, first in one language and then the other. The researchers were surprised by what they saw.
"The children used gestures a lot more when telling the story in what they considered to be their stronger language," said Nicoladis, a psychologist at the U of A. "These results seemed counter-intuitive to us. We thought the children would be more inclined to use gestures to help them communicate in their weaker language."
Based on these results and the results of earlier studies, Nicoladis believes there is a connection between language and memory access and gesturing.
'Famous hand gesture by Doctor Spock'
- Dr. Elena Nicoladis
She speculates that all of this knowledge may come in handy for people who have difficulty speaking, such as ESL students and some elderly people.
"If you're in a situation where it's important to get the language out and you're having difficulty, it may help to start making gestures," said Nicoladis, who conducts most of her research on hand gestures with Dr. Paula Marentette of the University of Alberta Augustana College.
"There's certainly a lot more work that needs to be done before we can understand everything about gestures and why we make them," Nicoladis added. "But the results so far have given us a lot to think about."
"Can't find the right word? You might want to start moving your hands."
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