How can cospeech gesture be used to teach Irish in primary schools more effectively?1.  IntroductionAfterspending roughly 13 years studying Irish, students are leaving education with apoor standard of Irish.

A report carried out in 2006 by Dr.John Harris ofTrinity College, Dublin stated that there has been a sharp decrease in thelevel of oral Irish since 1985 and 2002. The Irish Examiner also informs usthat the 2011 census shows a huge 30% of 15-19-year olds, 54% of20-24-year-olds and 63% of 25-29-year-olds are not able to speak Irish.

The mainmethod of teaching Irish in classrooms today is through the language of Irishitself. However, the statistics above show that this method is eitherunsuitable or is lacking something. This paper will look at using gesture incongruency with this method of teaching Irish that is currently in place.A congruentor co-speech gesture, are “communicative movements of hands and arms thataccompany concurrent speech”.

There arefour types of words/vocabulary: Reading, writing, listening and speaking.(Montgomery 2007). In this paper, we are going to only discuss using gestureto  aid second language learning that isbeing learnt verbally: Listening and speaking.The way inwhich we learn our native language is by listening to language being spoken andactions being displayed with the words to emphasise their meaning: we do notfocus at producing language when we are first learning our native language.

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(Asher 1977) How Language FormedHumanlanguage first formed from nonverbal communication systems such as gesture.(McNeill 2006). The formation of human language occurred during the Stone Agewhen humans came down from the trees. Michael C. Corballis references WilliamC. Stokoe, who suggests that humans moving to the ground from the trees was bychance, which freed up their hands, allowing them to create gestures. However,their creation of language through gestures formed due to their need tocommunicate because of their environment, evolving physiology and a need tosurvive. As Spencer D.

Kelly states, although it is difficult to prove bylooking at fossil records alone, that human language evolved from gestures, ifwe look at modern behavioural and neurocognitive fossils, it is possible tohypothesise that if speech evolved from gestures that this integrated system continuedto exist until the present day.This neuralrelationship between gesture and speech was discovered first in “mirrorneurons” in the F5 region of monkey’s brains (Spencer D. Kelly et al. 2008).These mirror neurons discharge first, when the monkey carries out an action andsecond, when they see another monkey carrying out the same action (Rizzolattiand Arbib 1998).

The Human mirror system is located in the Broca’s area, anarea that has a key role in language production (Acharya & Shukla 2012).Further research was carried out on this and it was discovered that it islikely that the Broca’s area in the human brain evolved from the F5 area inmonkeys.  This implies that there is alink between the neural areas for language and gesture (Kelly, S.

2008). Asecond experiment that highlights this connection between speech and gesture wascarried out by Floel et al. (2003): they used transcranial magnetic stimulationwhich is a procedure that can either impair or aid the brain’s neuralprocessing of stimuli. Floel et al. (2003) used the transcranial magneticstimulation to impair the brain’s processing. His experiment showed that whenareas of the brain responsible for gestures had their neural processinginterrupted, speech production was also impaired. This clearly shows that thereis an integrated system between speech and gesture.

 How Speech and Gesture are IntegratedResearchers,such as Willems et al. (2007) and Skipper et al. (2007) carried out experimentsto show how speech and gesture areintegrated in the brain. They used fMRI (which stands for ‘Functional MRI’),which measures the amount of blood flow to the brain in response to a stimulus.

The results of this experiment showed that the Broca’s area of the brain,integrates gestural and speech information in a similar way duringcomprehension. Thisresearch proves that our speech evolved from gesture, that speech and gesture havean integrated relationship together and how they’re both integrated. Now we aregoing to look at what effect this has on learning.When wordsare being learnt in a foreign language, learning them in accompaniment withgestures improves how well the words are remembered compared to if they arejust taught verbally. (Zimmer 2001) One of themain difficulties with learning a second language is learning vocabulary. Theproblem is that vocabulary is arbitrary and when a person looks at a wordthey’ve never seen before, it is difficult to find a connection between whatthey’re reading and/or hearing and the subject that the word is referring to.This is where gesture can be used.

A useful example of this problem is given byKelly et al. (2009): the example given is to take the word to “drink” and theword “nomu” in Japanese. They are both words with the same meaning, however,there is no apparent relationship between them: there is nothing to tell usthat they are both related to the concept of drinking.Piagetdiscusses the idea that learning new vocabulary is a sensorimotor process. Asensory motor process is “a relationship between the sensory system (nerves)and the motor system (muscles). Also, it refers to the process by which thesetwo systems (sensory and motor) communicate and coordinate with each other” (Brown2014). This research has been expanded on more recently and shows thatvocabulary learning involves the use of the body in cognition. (Goldin-Meadowand Alibali, 2013)Macedonia(2014) states that the idea that gesture aids vocabulary retention was firstwritten about by Radonvilliers (1768) however, it wasn’t until the late 60sthat Asher attempted to use the body to teach second languages.

Asher (1969)and Engelkamp & Krumnacker’s (1980) noticed that if a person was given anaction phrase in a foreign language, such as “close the door” and the personthen carried out the action, the person’s memory of that command’s phrase wouldbe much better than if they had only listened to or read the phrase.  Gestures Aid Vocabulary RetentionOne of themost important experiments on the importance of gesture for language learningwas conducted by Kelly et al. (2009). The participants of Kelly’s experiment weretaught 12 Japanese verbs, with each verb being repeated twice.

The verbs weredivided into 4 modes: Speech (S), Speech and Congruent gesture (S+CG), Speechand Incongruent Gesture (S+IG) and Repeated Speech (RS). The ability for theparticipants to recall the verbs was tested after five minutes, two days, oneweek. The results of this investigation showed that participantsremembered the most novel Japanese words with speech and congruent gesture(S+CG), less with repeated speech (RS), less again with speech alone (S) andthe least with speech and incongruent gesture (S+IG).

  What thesefindings mean for gesture and second language leaning:Speech and Congruent Gestures (S+CG) aided vocabularyretention better than Speech (S) alone; and incongruent gesture worsenedvocabulary retention, this supports the claim that gesture aids vocabulary learning in a second language because of an”simultaneous semantic overlap” between speech and gesture and not as aresult of hand waving that catch the viewers’ attention. (Kelly et al. 2009) A paper which discussed this topic is Feyereisen (2006).In his paper, he discusses the idea that congruent gestures aid vocabularyretention because they are able to take the arbitrary meaning of words andground their meaning to a concrete representation in the form of a handgesture. Contrasting this, Feyereisan (2006) suggests that incongruent gesturesmay do the opposite, that learning vocabulary with incongruent gestures worsensthe memory of them it visually breaks the link between the word and a concreterepresentation of the words, making them harder to remember Second, Speech and Congruent Gesture (S+ CG) aidedvocabulary retention more than repeated speech, which shows that when information being learnt is simultaneouslydivided between speech and gesture, this yields better vocabulary retentionthan if the information was taught only through speech. (Kelly et al. 2009) In addition to this, congruent gestures aiding vocabulary learning is not simply a result ofextra exposure to the word’s meaning. It could be argued that the participants were receiving more informationin the Speech and Congruent Gesture (S+CG) than speech alone and this was thereason that congruent speech improved their learning best: the participantswere hearing the word and then on top of that, seeing the word’s meaning throughgesture.

However, the participants did not learn the vocabulary as well whenthe words were repeated in Repeated Speech (RS). This kills the argument that congruentgestures improved the participants’ learning because of extra exposure: theparticipants had double the exposure in Repeated Speech (RS) and they didn’tretain the vocabulary as well as Speech and Congruent Gesture (S+CG).Speech and Congruent Gesture (S+CG) not only producedbetter results, but it shows that gesturescan be used to teach second language vocabulary in less time as thisexperiment showed that repeating the vocabulary twice didn’t improve learning. An investigation by Macedonia & Knösche (2011) studiedthe learning effect of congruent gesture on abstract words. Abstract words areadverbs, verbs and nouns. The words that were being taught were placed intosentences.

Each sentence had four grammatical components which were: object,subject, adverb and verb. The only words with concrete meaning were the nouns(the nouns referred to the actors themselves), all other words wereabstract.  The words were taught to theparticipants through speech alone or through congruent gesture. The resultsfrom this experiment showed that gesture enhanced memory of the learned words,but not only for concrete words but also abstract  These experiments show that gestures show that gesturegreatly aids memory retention of vocabulary. GestureReduces Workload on the BrainSkipper et al.

(2007) conducted an experiment whichwas aforementioned showed participants videos of stories that contained speechand gestures. Skipper’s experiment showed that the Broca’s area integratesgesture and speech during language comprehension in a similar way. However, inthe experiment, Skipper used fMRI to prove this. The results from the fMRIshowed that stories that contained congruent gestures made the links betweenBroca’s Area and other motor areas that are responsible for gesture processingwere weaker that stories that contained incongruent gestures. The fact that thelink was weaker showed that when speechis accompanied by gestures, the effort placed on the Broca’s Area during speechcomprehension and processing was reduced.  Another experiment that showed that co-speech gesturereduces the workload on the brain was conducted by Hamm et al. (2002).

Theexperiment used ERPs (which stands for event related potentials). ERPs measurethe electrical activity of the brain in reaction to a stimulus. Hamm et al.

(2002) gave the participants in the experiment sentences that contained bothspeech and gesture. They were then presented with pictures that a) correlatedto both the speech and gesture or b) the speech solely. The ERP results showed thebrain produces a smaller N400 and N300 effect when the pictures correlated toboth the speech and gesture, rather than the speech alone. Hamm et al. (2002)explains that smaller the N300 and N400 effects show easier integration of semantic information. This illustrates that gesturesimproved the processing of speech. Note: N300 isthe image based semantic integration that occurs 300ms in the brain after thestimulus is shown.

The N400 effectis the traditional semantic integration that occurs 400ms in the brain afterthe stimulus is shown. (Kelly et al 2009) All of these experiments show that gestures improvememory and processing of vocabulary and that it reduces the amount of effortneeded to learn the new language. Now we’re going to investigate which type of gestureis the most effective. 1. how well vocabulary is learnt incongruency with iconic gestures, rather than other gestures, such asemblematic.

2. the effectiveness of vocabularylearning when participants see but do not congruently produce gesture withspeech.3. how well vocabulary is learnedwithout producing gesturesGesture to help understand languageGesture to help remember vocabularyambiguous/ non ambiguous.How do we learn a first languageiflearning novel words with gestures facilitates sentence production.2.

  Gesture’sinfluence on language production and comprehension3.  Howdoes gesture improve second language learning? Examples 4.  Whatis lamh?Now that we’veseen that gestures significantly improve second language learning, the nextquestion is which is the most effective gesture to use to? As mentioned at the beginningof this paper, one of the greatest problems with learning a second language is learningvocabulary. “Words are arbitrary and bear no inherent relationship to theirreferents (Quine, 1960 as referenced in Kelly et al 2009). What are the Different Types of Gesture?Kelly etal. (2008) discusses the 5 different types of gesture that McNeill 1992mentions in paper: deictic, metaphoric, beats, emblematic and iconic. Deicticgestures are pointing gestures (Liddell & Metzger 1998), for example, is aperson points and says, “this bag”: without the person pointing to the bag, itwould not be possible to determine which particular bag they are talking about.

This type of gesture is not particularly helpful to teaching a second languageas as we have seen in various experiments carried out by researchers, such as,we now know that the gestures must embody the meaning of the word, so that ifthey were to be used on their own, it would still be possible to gain meaningfrom them. However, a pointing action used on its own has no meaning. Metaphoricgestures are used to turn abstract ideas into concrete representatives (Andric2012). This is gesture is used for abstract ideas,and so would not be helpful in teaching a second language. Beatgestures illustrate the rhythm in speech, they coincide with the pauses, breaksand rhythms of the language. Beat gestures are generally back and forth or upand down hand movements (Alibali 2005).

Again, these gestures would not helpconvey meaning of words and so would not be suitable.Emblematicgestures are generally gestures that have culturally specific meanings (Uhliget al. 2012). For example, a person giving a “thumbs up” could signify “welldone” or “I’m okay.

Emblematic gestures do appear to meet the criteria neededto aid language learning: emblematic gestures embody the meaning of the wordwhich allows the learner to ground the meaning of an ambiguous word to aconcrete representative. We will not lookat iconic gestures. “Iconic gestures are a natural and prevalent part ofspoken language, but they are different from speech in that they are notarbitrary, and instead convey information that visually represents the conceptsto which they refer” (Kelly et al. 2008) An example of this is when someoneplaces their hands together as if praying and lays their head on their hands,the person is able to convey the image of sleeping. Both emblematic gestures and iconicgestures embody and ground the meaning of words, so which is more suitable andeffective? Emblematic gestures have a number of drawbacks: emblematic gesturesmay not translate into other cultures. For example, in Japan the “thumbs up” gestureis a sign for “money. Other culturally defined gestures (emblematic) includethe ‘peace sign’ or the “V” for victory sign that Winston Churchill brought induring World War II.

Depending on where this gesture is used, depends on itsmeaning. For instance, in countries such as Ireland, England and Australia,this is an inappropriate and rude gesture if the palm is facing towardsoneself. However, iconic gestures are universal, they can be understood in anylanguage in any country. An example of this is if a person forms a “c” shapewith their hands and lifts their hand to their mouth to represent “to drink”. Iconicgestures “facilitate word vocabulary learning by linking words in one’s nativelanguage and words in a foreign language through rich and non-arbitraryembodied meanings.” (Kelly et al.

2009)So, if thismethod of teaching second languages aided by gestures were to be taken on byschools, there would be many advantages for a universal system of gesturingi.e. if there were only one gesture that all schools used for the verb “to drink”such as the ‘c-shaped’ gesture, or only one gesture that all schools used forthe word “book”, such as placing both hands parallel to each other. These advantageswould include: all school using the one system of gestures would reduce confusioni.

e. if a child were to change schools, the same gestures would be present. Asseen from Kelly et al’s (2009) experiment, incongruent gestures actually worsened language learning, so if the childwere to move schools and the teacher present was using gestures for words thatthe child already knew but that didn’t match what they had already learnt, thiswould disrupt their learning. In additionto this, the benefit of using iconic gestures is that they are easilyunderstood, the teacher would not have to teach the pupils how to “read them”.

Therewould be no time wasted teaching iconic gestures as they are gestures that areused every day: they are gestures that enhance comprehension of what is beingsaid. A good example of this every day use is when a parent is teaching a childto talk. In order for the This showsthat a universal gesture system would be most effective. There is a signlanguage system currently in use called “Lamh”, that majorly focuses on iconicgestures.  5.

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