What is it about?

Teachers’ use of gestures in the classroom can support the language acquisition of learners in learning a second language (Stam & Tellier, 2022). Depending on learners’ language skills, different dimensions of gestures (e.g., deictic, metaphorical) are considered to facilitate successful language comprehension. This study investigates which gestures teachers use in German as a second language (GSL) classrooms and to what extent teachers adapt their gestures to learners’ language proficiency. Teacher gestures in 10 video-recorded integration and preparation classes were analyzed. Two coders reliably identified 4143 gestures. Results show that GSL teachers predominantly used deictic gestures, metaphorical gestures, and feedback by head movements. Moreover, between-learner variability in teachers’ use of deictic and metaphorical gestures was explained by teacher-perceived German language proficiency of learners. These results suggest that teachers systematically adapt some dimensions of gestures in GSL classes, thus emphasizing the importance of studying nonverbal interactions for a better understanding of language acquisition processes.

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Why is it important?

This research is important because it shows that gestures play a significant role in language learning, especially for students who are learning a second language. It suggests that teachers might naturally adapt their nonverbal communication to help students who are struggling with the language, which could ultimately improve language acquisition. Understanding these nonverbal interactions can provide insights into how language learning happens in the classroom.

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This page is a summary of: Do teachers adapt their gestures in linguistically heterogeneous second language teaching to learners’ language proficiencies?, Gesture, December 2023, John Benjamins,
DOI: 10.1075/gest.22023.sah.
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