2 Mar 2018
For children it is easier to express themselves through non-verbal communication, especially during the toddler years, when they are mastering the process of verbal communication. Some of the common non-verbal cues that toddlers use are: pointing, eye contact, open hands, pulling or pushing something. Therefore, nonverbal communication is important for strengthening children’s verbal messages.
When we want to exchange information with someone, we usually use two ways of communication: verbal and non-verbal. Verbal communication refers to the use of language, sounds and words to relay a message. On the other hand, Nonverbal communication refers to a system of communication without using the words to express oneself. It includes facial expression, body movements, tone of voice, posture, gestures, and eye contact among others.
When learning a foreign language, non-verbal communication also plays an important role. Significant research suggests that new vocabulary is best learned by the use of different senses. According to Macedonia and Knösche (2011) performing gestures while learning new words in a foreign language is particularly effective. They found in their study that the words that were taught with movement were more remembered and used when creating new sentences in a foreign language.
In our Oac Language Program we combine gestures with the Spanish word when incorporating this into our children’s routines, helping to create a mental image. If we are learning “hola” (Hello) we wave our hand. If we are learning “amarillo” we point to something yellow. We explore, and touch yellow items in our surrounding area. Gestures create additional sensory input that strengthens the words the children are learning.
References: Macedonia, M. and Knösche, T. R. (2011), Body in Mind: How Gestures Empower Foreign Language Learning. Mind, Brain, and Education, 5: 196–211. doi:10.1111/j.1751-228X.2011.01129.x