Gesture and memory

When learning a foreign language associating gestures with words can help you to remember them. The gestures are stored in parts of the memory that handle movement, while the words are stored in parts concerned with sound. Linking the two together helps reinforce the memory. If you also learn the written forms of the words, and visualise them when you think of the words, you can strengthen the memory even more.

You could even try adding particular tastes, smells and/or textures to your memories of words, especially to words for foods, drink and living things. The richer the associations, the more likely your are to remember the words.

Research has found that babies who gesture a lot when they talk, and whose parents use plenty of gestures when talking to them, tend to have a larger vocabulary by the time they start school. Another study found that people remember things they’ve heard better if they were accompanied by gestures.

I have been experimenting associating foreign words with British Sign Language signs, and am finding this a good way to memorise the words.

So don’t be afraid to weave those hands around when learning and speaking foreign languages.