Handwriting Is Better Than Typing When Learning a New Language, Study Finds

Researchers tasked 42 adult volunteers with learning the Arabic alphabet from scratch: some through writing it out on paper, some through typing it out on a keyboard, and some through watching and responding to video instructions. Those in the handwriting group not only learned the unfamiliar letters more quickly, but they were also better able to apply their new knowledge in other areas — by using the letters to make new words and to recognize words they hadn’t seen before, for example. While writing, typing, and visual learning were effective at teaching participants to recognize Arabic letters — learners made very few mistakes after six exercise sessions — on average, the writing group needed fewer sessions to get to a good standard.

Researchers then tested the groups to see how the learning could be generalized. In every follow-up test, using skills they hadn’t been trained on, the writing group performed the best: naming letters, writing letters, spelling words, and reading words. The research shows that the benefits of teaching through handwriting go beyond better penmanship: There are also advantages in other areas of language learning. It seems as though the knowledge gets more firmly embedded through writing.