More than words


 

What would you think if you see me doing the gesture of pointing my finger to the temple and moving it in circles?

For me, it’s clear that I want to express someone is crazy, but if I were in the north of Europe I could be in trouble since it’s considered very offensive and even penalized by law, or in Japan, same gesture means different things if the finger is moving forward (‘thinking’) or backwards (‘craziness’).

 

 

So, do you think is important to show this non-verbal language to the students of a language? Watch this video:

 

Probably you are able to follow the conversation even though you don’t have a great understanding of Spanish only by following the gestures. Well, here come the good news, we, Spanish, gesticulate a lot to the great help of the communication, some times to support the sentence, others used instead of the sentence, like in this case, which, believe me, is not so unusual to find in real life.

Gesticulate helps a lot, but this non-verbal language is universal? Pretty much, but not completely. Every language and every culture has its own code of gestures. Some of them are shared by other cultures, and others are only shared in the same group. Think about nod. For me, when you nod, you are saying yes, but in Bulgaria you would be saying no! So, if I’m learning Bulgarian, I’d expect being taught that to understand the answer of a simple “yes/no” question.

As I pointed in earlier posts, learning a language and therefore teaching it implies teach and learn the culture, the behavioral patterns and the gestures, this non-verbal language that gives us so much information if we get it right, but that can put us in trouble if we misinterpret.

As a teacher, have you recourse to non-verbal activities to make the students interact and think about this underlying gestuality cultural code? What kind of activities you use in the classroom?

As a student, do you find interesting to learn about the culture, cultural behaviors and gestures typical in every language?

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