For a few years now, I have been doing empirical research in my one-to-one courses teaching English pronunciation. I discovered that certain specific gestures, mostly hand and arm, actually change and improve the pronunciation of my clients, and quicken their mastery of the sounds that give them an “accent” or make them difficult to understand. Most of them work at the vowel and consonant level of pronunciation, but there are a few that help with challenging-to-pronounce words, also. These gestures are not cultural, they are not illustrative, or tied to ideas or thoughts. They tie directly to articulation and make difficult English sounds easier to acquire, especially vowels, and especially for adults. I occasionally look for research that supports what I know to be true, and finally….hooray….I think I’ve found some! Research by Susan Goldin-Meadow at the University of Chicago shows that gestures help learners in a variety of ways.
And here’s a link to a 6-second video I made for 2 gestures that help in the acquisition of English B and V (for speakers whose L1 doesn’t use both sounds, like Spanish and Farsi.)
These are so easy that people often begin to dismiss them once they know them, however, for gestures to be effective, students must use them simultaneously with pronunciation practice. It can be very short, focused practice, and should be regularly done (but not combined with vocabulary development, not inserted into public speaking, not as an aside to writing or grammar or anything else…just pronouncing-sounds time).
If you’d like to know more about The Gesture Approach, stay tuned. More is coming!