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CROSS-CULTURAL STUDIES: NON-VERBAL COMMUNICATION
Contemporary teaching of English is paying more and more attention to non-verbal communication as the most cultural part of behaviour. It is common knowledge that communication, language and culture cannot be separated. To communicate successfully in English you must be aware of the culturally-determined patterns of verbal and non-verbal communication which speakers of English follow.
Non-verbal communication expresses meaning or feeling without words. For this communication we use such non-verbal signals as gesture, posture, facial expression.
Universal emotions such as happiness, fear, and sadness are expressed in a similar non-verbal way throughout the world. There are, however, non-verbal differences across culture that may be a source of confusion for non-native speakers. Learners are often not aware of how gestures, facial expressions, eye contact and the use of space can crucially affect speech interaction and cause some communicative breakdown [3, p.13].
It is calculated that in the communication of attitudes and emotions, 93 % of the message is transmitted by the tone of voice and by face expressions, and only 7 % is represented by words. Apparently, we express our emotions and attitudes more nonverbally than verbally [2, p.274].
The next observation is of psychological type: native speakers admit that they are less tolerant of socio-cultural infringements (non-verbal includings) done by any type of non-native speaker than they are of the grammatical errors or lexical misuse [1, p.8].
At last, as teachers we can always guess when students do not know an answer. They either look down at their notes, stare out through the window, make hesitation pauses, but they never look in the eyes.
Nowadays successful development of cross-cultural communicative skills presupposes the learners’ communicative competence development in non-verbal behaviour. One of the techniques developing an awareness of our culture and sensitivity of the culture of others is, for example, the use of a questionnaire.
A first step in this kind of work might find out how many of the following questions your students can answer. The questionnaire bellow can be used as an example:
1. How do you say ‘No’ without speaking?
2. When you meet a friend (a teacher) in the street, how do you greet him?
3. When you are talking to someone you know well (you don’t know), how close do you stand?
4. What gestures do you use to indicate the following? It’s OK. Come here. Go away. It’s expensive.
5. How do you stop a taxi?
6. How do you show that you are listening to and agree with what someone is saying?
7. What gesture do you use when you are eating (talking on the telephone, tired)?
8. What part of the person’s body do you look at, when he/she is speaking to you?
The answers to the questions can cause the discussion, in which a teacher focuses students’ attention on the meaning of eye contact, turn-taking in conversation, the meaning of various gestures, conventions for greeting people (e.g. hand-shaking, embracing, kissing). Above all, this task creates an opportunity for the learners to express politely themselves non-verbally and to reveal something of the culture.
Thus, as non-verbal behaviour is able to manage the immediate social situation, to express attitudes and communicative intentions and to reveal the cultural values, it needs to be taught in the communicative classroom or in a special cross-cultural pragmatics course.
1. Greenall S. Saying it without words: socio-cultural competence for low level learners // IATEFL-Hungary Newsletter, 1995. No.8. – p. 8–10.
2. Leki I. Academic writing: techniques and tasks. – New York: St.Martin’s Press, 1989. – 327 p.
3. Seryakova I. Nonverbal communication: an issue to be taught or ignored? // IATEFL – Ukraine Newsletter, 1998. No 13. – p. 12–14.
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