foreign language

MI Theory and Foreign Language Learning

Notes by Howard Gardner

On a common sense basis, the teaching and learning of languages—native or foreign—should be a straightforward exercise of linguistic intelligence. Indeed, when teachers of foreign languages used to tell me that they found MI theory helpful, I was skeptical.

But ultimately I have become convinced that, in capable hands, MI ideas can be quite useful to teachers of language. In this empirical article, the authors provide evidence that bodily-kinesthetic intelligence can be helpful in the mastery of foreign languages. Moreover, the use of gestures in presenting and practicing words and phrases turns out to be useful for both concrete items and abstract ones. This line of work raises the question of whether teachers of foreign language can also make use of other intelligences – for example, musical intelligence and spatial intelligence – and, if so, whether specific learners are aided differentially in which intelligences can serve as help-maidens. If there turn out to be individual differences in which intelligences are helpful in mastering a language, this finding has implications for the learning of languages, whether done person-to-person or via some kind of electronic or digital means.

To read the article in its entirety, click here.