The Power of an Image: Images, Not Glosses, Enhance Learning of Concrete L2 Words in Beginning Learners

  • Laura M. Morett


Prior research suggests that viewing still images and iconic gestures depicting concepts facilitates the learning of concrete words in the initial stages of second language (L2) acquisition. To date, however, the effect of viewing iconic gestures and images hasn’t been systematically compared to the effect of glosses in the learning and retrieval of concrete words in early stage L2 acquisition. Therefore, it is unclear whether dual coding theory of embodied theories of cognition provide the most accurate account of these effects. This study demonstrates that concrete L2 words learned via viewing still images are recalled better than L2 words learned via viewing iconic gesture and that L1 glosses fail to facilitate L2 word learning in beginning learners. Together, these findings indicate that images facilitate the learning of concrete L2 words above and beyond glosses in learners unfamiliar with the target language, and that glosses are not always necessary for effective L2 word learning.


L2 word learning Gesture Images Embodied cognition Dual coding 



Portions of this research were presented at the 22nd annual Second Language Research Forum (October 2013). I thank Brian MacWhinney for inspiring the idea for this project and the faculty of the Language and Reading Group at the Learning Research and Development Center at the University of Pittsburgh for providing the space and resources necessary to complete it.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Educational Studies in Psychology, Research Methodology, and CounselingUniversity of AlabamaTuscaloosaUSA

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