Teaching learners to communicate effectively in the L2: Integrating body language in the students’ syllabus


Abstract –In communication a great deal of meaning is exchanged through body language, including gaze, posture, hand gestures and body movements. Body language is largely culture-specific, and rests, for its comprehension, on people’s sharing socio-cultural and linguistic norms. In cross-cultural communication, L2 speakers’ use of body language may convey meaning that is not understood or misinterpreted by the interlocutors, affecting the pragmatics of communication. In spite of its importance for cross-cultural communication, body language is neglected in ESL/EFL teaching. This paper argues that the study of body language should be integrated in the syllabus of ESL/EFL teaching and learning. This is done by: 1) reviewing literature showing the tight connection between language, speech and gestures and the problems that might arise in cross-cultural communication when speakers use and interpret body language according to different conventions; 2) reporting the data from two pilot studies showing that L2 learners transfer L1 gestures to the L2 and that these are not understood by native L2 speakers; 3) reporting an experience teaching body language in an ESL/EFL classroom. The paper suggests that in multicultural ESL/EFL classes teaching body language should be aimed primarily at raising the students’ awareness of the differences existing across cultures.


Keywords: ESL/EFL teaching; body language; cross-cultural communication; speech; gestures.



Abstract –Nella comunicazione una buona parte del significato viene trasmetto attraverso il linguaggio del corpo, che include lo sguardo, la postura, i gesti delle mani e i movimenti del corpo. Il linguaggio del corpo è per lo più specifico di ciascuna cultura e si affida, per la sua comprensione, sulla condivisione di norme socio-culturali e linguistiche. Nella comunicazione interculturale l’uso del linguaggio del corpo da parte dei parlanti di L2 può trasmettere significati che non vengono compresi o vengono malinterpretati dagli interlocutori, con effetti sulla pragmatica della comunicazione. Nonostante la sua indiscussa importanza per la comunicazione interculturale il linguaggio del corpo è trascurato nell’insegnamento di ESL/EFL.

Questo lavoro sostiene che lo studio del linguaggio del corpo dovrebbe essere integrato nel curriculum dell’insegnamento e dell’apprendimento di ESL/EFL. A tale scopo, questo studio: 1) fa una rassegna della letteratura che mostra lo stretto collegamento tra lingua, parlato e gesti e dei problem che potrebbero sorgere quando, nella comunicazione interculturale, i parlanti usano e interpretano il linguaggio del corpo secondo convenzioni diverse; 2) riporta dati da 2 studi pilota che mostrano il transfer dei gesti dalla L1 alla L2 e come i gesti trasferiti nella L2 non vengano compresi dai parlanti native della lingua target; 3) riporta una esperienza di insegnamento di linguaggio del corpo in un corso di ESL/EFL. Il saggio suggerisce che nelle classi multicultural di ESL/EFL l’insegnamento del linguaggio del corpo dovrebbe essere mirato in primo luogo a fare crescere la consapevolezza degli studenti delle differenze esistenti tra culture diverse.


Keywords: insegnamento ESL/EFL; linguaggio del corpo; comunicazione interculturale; parlato; gesti.


DOI Code: 10.1285/i22390359v15p83

Keywords: ESL/EFL teaching; body language; cross-cultural communication; speech; gestures.


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