Project E: Research 

Research on Second Language Acquisition and Gesture/Embodiment


(from Stam, G. & McCafferty, S. (2008) Gesture Studies and Second Language Acquisition: A Review. In Gale Stam and McCafferty Steve (Eds). Gesture. Second Language Acquisition and Classroom Research. New York: Taylor & Francis. P. 3-24)


L2: second language


  • Stam (2004): gesture is part of the overall language proficiency: advanced learners appear to demonstrate more gestural patterns indicative of native speakers of L2.

  • Yoshioka and Kellerman (2006): gesture patterns of L2 speakers are often related to the TFS (thinking-for-speech) pattern of the L1, as TFS becomes deeply rooted in the mind during L1 acquisition.  

  • Allen (1995): use of emblematic gestures improves vocabulary retention in L2. 

  • Negueruela et al (2004): use of beat gestures on stressed syllables allows students to internalise the prosodic structure of L2.

  • Haught and McCafferty (forthcoming): gesturing (while performing) helps students develop new roles for the self.

  • Neu (1990): non-verbal competence adds to the perception of L2 speakers as more proficient even when their actual linguistic competence is lower. 


On Drama/Acting and Second Language Learning

The idea of applying Drama to teaching English as a second language (L2) has been in circulation for about thirty years (Stern, 1980; Smith, 1984; Rinvolucri, 1984). While there is a growing interest towards the use of Process Drama, there are almost no studies that have attempted to analyze actual pedagogical practices that applied a systematic use of a particular acting technique to language teaching. L2 researchers have only recently begun to see the language learning process, in particular the acquisition of oral communication skills in L2, as mimetic (McCafferty, 2008). Mimesis, as a creative imitation (or representation) of the “other”, is typically seen as the essence of the actor’s profession, especially in the realist school of acting, such as the  Stanislavski System developed by the Russian theatre actor, director and theorist Konstantin Stanislavski. A few recent studies (Haught, J., & McGafferty, 2008; Carkin, 2010) point out the potential usefulness of the Stanislavski System for L2 pedagogy; however, the Stanislavski System is often reduced by L2 researchers to only one of its components – the actor’s empathy for the character s/he has to perform. Research in L2 acquisition tends to ignore completely the Method of Physical Actions Stanislavski developed later in his life (Stanislavski, 2008). The Method of Physical Actions allowed actors to achieve “realistic” performance not through empathy and emotional substitution (Emotional Memory) but rather through careful observation, focus on the objectives of both verbal and non-verbal actions, building a logical line of actions, improvisations (études), and paying meticulous attention to physicality of verbal and non-verbal actions. My research will investigate the applicability of the Method of Physical Actions to L2 teaching in order to see how the inclusion of “physical action” can contribute to the development of L2 and the formation of L2 identity. (A. Babayants, in press)