Body Language in English

by Helene J. Uchida

All cultures are mostly verbal, but varying degrees of nonverbal communication also exist. The purpose of nonverbal communication is to give visual signals to the other participants in the conversation. If those nonverbal signals which work in one’s own culture don’t work in another culture, one is opening the door for misunderstanding. The following are culture points to help high school students adopt body mannerisms and gestures that support the flow of English in a natural way.

  1. Stand and sit tall when speaking English.
  2. Don’t put your fingers or hand in front of your mouth when speaking.
  3. Maintain eye contact when speaking to people.
  4. Listen with your eyes ad well as your ears.
  5. Don’t close your eyes and tilt your ear to the speaker when listening.
  6. Don’t hesitate when you speak. (It’s okay to make a mistake.)
  7. Don’t spell with your fingers in your hand.
  8. Shake hands standing straight with a firm handshake, good eye contact and a smile.
  9. Do not bow when you shake hands or when you speak English.
  10. Point with your fore finger, not your middle finger.
  11. Speak in a clear, audible voice, not too soft and not too loud. (Women need not to speak in high pitched voices.)
  12. With pair work, don’t dip your head into the book, but lift the book up and employ eye contact with your partner, practicing in a natural way.
  13. Don’t memorize phrases; be natural. (The stress shows in your face when you memorize.)
  14. Don’t cup your hands and whisper to a friend; it alienates others.
  15. Don’t point to your nose when referring to yourself; point to your chest.
  16. If you don’t understand, give a signal that you don’t understand, like shaking your head. Don’t stand/sit in silence.
  17. Be attentive and helpful to teacher and peers.
  18. Act confident and poised.
  19. Select the best mannerisms from the West.
  20. Don’t turn to other people to get their comments before you answer in English. Think for yourself.

Be the best you can be!