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3.6 Master their body language



Blog 3.6 addresses the non-verbal aspect of communication, which is of paramount importance for progressing quickly in a foreign language. The benefits of focusing on local gestures and seeking to understand them generate multiple advantages when engaging in or maintaining a conversation.




To perceive body language in its local context requires an ongoing effort. As soon as you stop observing gestures consciously, the only meaning that you receive is an auto-pilot understanding derived from your own culture.  You infer a meaning from what the gesture would mean in your own culture and not  necessarily in theirs. To decipher native body languages requires local experience and practice as usage, variety and intensity of gestures vary from culture to culture. 


Nature versus culture


A broad and generic example of such a difference at work between Latin and Anglo-Saxon cultures is the following embedded belief:  for the English speakers too much gesticulation equates to loss of control and hence loss of credibility whereas for the Latins, too little emotional display conveys a lack of credibility and hence a lack of trust.


The argument is raging in the field of psychology on the subject of nature versus culture with regard to body language. In the meantime, the daily experience of engaging in multiple cultures and languages leads me to lean towards the belief that regions and local cultures have their own specific meaning for some gestures.  So even if most gestures are 'proven' to be similar, their usage and the extent to which they are deployed vary consequently across cultures.  


The aim here is not to engage in this debate but to stimulate attention and observation of body language to help you focus your attention on native speakers with whom you want to engage with.


To this end, I recommend that you use the following body language dictionary to help you refine your perception and approach to the subject.


Body Language Dictionary 


Focus on native speakers


As you engage in a conversation, especially as a beginner, the fear of getting it wrong may get in the way and prevent communication. Observing gestures and cues, relaxing into reading body language and seeking to make sense of it, helps connect with others and distracts from the natural obsession of getting it right.  In short, by shifting attention away from yourself, not only do you enhance your understanding but you also contain and partly subdue your fear of speaking.


In The Language Talent, a chapter is dedicated to both the techniques and uses of body language to enhance speed of progression as well as an in-depth review of issues regarding gestures, examining specifics in the context of dealing with other cultures.  



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