TRP (Total Physical Response) learning, or the use of hand gestures to accelerate language acquisition, harks back to the 1960s. While observing children learning a language from their parents, Dr. James Asher realised hand gestures were a naturally used when people learned a language. Following this realisation, Asher encouraged teachers to use gestures in language learning and students were encouraged to mimic the gestures used by teachers when learning new vocabulary.
Studies later showed that students who were taught using gestures remembered more vocabulary in the short term and could also recall more words in the long term; the words taught using gestures were more easily recalled by the study’s participants.
Even abstract words and phrases were more easily learned using gestures and when participants were asked to create their own phrases from words learned in the study, they were more likely to use vocabulary they had learned with gestures.
While teaching vocabulary using gestures is an optional component of the Chinese Buddy programme, we strongly believe the use of hand gestures while teaching and encouraging students to use them while learning will help kids work out how to learn Chinese faster and to have more fun.