Learning foreign language vocabulary with gestures and pictures enhances vocabulary memory for several months post-learning in eight-year-old school children

Christian Andrä, Brian Mathias*, Anika Schwager, Manuela Macedonia, Katharina von Kriegstein

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)
6 Downloads (Pure)


The integration of gestures and pictures into pedagogy has demonstrated potential for improving adults’ learning of foreign language (L2) vocabulary. However, the relative benefits of gestures and pictures on children’s L2 vocabulary learning have not been formally evaluated. In three experiments, we investigated the effects of gesture-based and picture-based learning on 8-year-old primary school children’s acquisition of novel L2 vocabulary. In each experiment, German children were trained over 5 consecutive days on auditorily presented, concrete and abstract, English vocabulary. In Experiments 1 and 2, gesture enrichment (auditorily presented L2 words accompanied with self-performed gestures) was compared with a non-enriched baseline condition. In Experiment 3, gesture enrichment was compared with picture enrichment (auditorily presented words accompanied with pictures). Children performed vocabulary recall and translation tests at 3 days, 2 months, and 6 months post-learning. Both gesture and picture enrichment enhanced children’s test performance compared with non-enriched learning. Benefits of gesture and picture enrichment persisted up to 6 months after training and occurred for both concrete and abstract words. Gesture-enriched learning was hypothesized to boost learning outcomes more than picture-enriched learning on the basis of previous findings in adults. Unexpectedly, however, we observed similar benefits of gesture and picture enrichment on children’s L2 learning. These findings suggest that both gestures and pictures enhance children’s L2 learning and that performance benefits are robust over long timescales.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)815-850
Number of pages36
JournalEducational Psychology Review
Issue number3
Early online date18 Apr 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was funded by the German Research Foundation grant KR 3735/3-1, a Schulbezogene Forschung grant from the Saxony Zentrum für Lehrerbildung und Schulforschung (ZLS), and an Erasmus Mundus Postdoctoral Fellowship in Auditory Cognitive Neuroscience. B.M. is also supported by the European Research Council Consolidator Grant SENSOCOM 647051 to K.v.K.

Open access funding provided by Projekt DEAL. We thank Julia Schwerin for assistance with planning and preparing the study, as well as serving as a teacher to the children in two experiments.


  • Enrichment
  • Foreign language education
  • Gesture
  • Multisensory learning
  • Sensorimotor learning
  • Vocabulary learning


Dive into the research topics of 'Learning foreign language vocabulary with gestures and pictures enhances vocabulary memory for several months post-learning in eight-year-old school children'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this