S. Zampolli

Susquehanna University (UNITED STATES)
Theoretical Framework:
Adult language learners have to rely mostly on their explicit memory. Their brain reached its final shape and their implicit memory has became weaker and requires a lot of repetition to be activated and store material. Differently, the explicit memory has maintained its ability to store words, since its role does not change throughout our life. How can we help adult learners to memorise?

Trying to find an answer, two elements regarding memory have been taken into account. First, visual memory is very robust (Standing, 1973). Second, explicit memory is strongly related to emotions because of the role the limbic system has in memorisation process. In other words, as many studies prove, positive emotions help memorisation.

This project was developed in a Communicative Approach teaching context, where lessons are taught only in the target language (immersion). Students are encouraged to study new lexicon in context, in order to link word in the foreign language and meaning.

Project: DizGif, a visual dictionary
Among all the blog platforms online, Tumblr is the selected one because it is very user-friendly, visually appealing, popular among young people and, most of all, allows the use of animated gifs. GIF images can display animation and, thanks to these feature, they can be used to display an action. Movements make possible to disambiguate the meaning of certain words (for examples, showing an object in use) and to effectively display verbs. GIFs are better than videos because they have small sizes (usually less than 1MB) and are images, so they are easy to handle (it is possible to save, copy, paste them with a right-click only).

During the presentation, participants will be shown how to create their own visual dictionary step by step: how to create a Tumblr blog, how to customise it (style, post orders, fonts, linked apps), how to create and manage its content. Then, they will be shown how to create original animated gifs from a YouTube clip, or a video they take with their camera, phone or webcam.

The visual dictionary proposed as example is called DizGif (, a visual dictionary developed for American students of Italian at Susquehanna University, Pennsylvania.

The pros of creating and using a Tumblr based visual dictionary are mainly three. First, students are given the possibility to study/get in touch with lexicon while linking words and their meanings, reinforcing the idea that to speak a foreign language involves more than just substituting words in language A with words in language B. Second, the blog can be used as an interactive collection of flashcards, very helpful during revision. Third, it has proved to be a pleasant tool, that students feel willing to use.

The main con is that it is a very time consuming tool to create, but at the same time, once is done, is done. It can be used year after year, made richer and richer. Moreover, it can become a class activity if the teacher asks the students to contribute creating their own gifs. The second con regards Tumblr itself and its blog Internal search which can look up just one tag at a time. This means the teacher needs to educate his/her students on how to search for posts and tag them accordingly.

Link to Prezi presentation containing video tutorials: