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Body Language In Language Learning

We may be ‘speaking’ the same language, but are we ‘looking’ the same language?

Chat is the most common way that the 7.442 billion of us in the world communicate and it can be a handy way of improving our speaking and listening skills in our target language.

How many people speak English?

As a first language: 350 billion people

As a second language: 430 million people

With so many native and non-native speakers of English dotted around the globe, you’re guaranteed to find fellow native or non-native speakers of English to help you learn and improve your knowledge of the language on your travels.

Whilst striking up a conversation with someone at the Hostel bar about your preferred drink – be it a bitter rum, cold beer, sophisticated gin or not-so sophisticated shot of sambuca – on the upper level of the tour bus with the wind in your hair or plane over the ocean to your desired destination may all seem like obvious go-to things to do for forming new, fulfilling and long-lasting connections, believe it or not, you can communicate without saying anything.

Ever heard the saying ‘If looks could kill?*’ or ‘love at first sight?*’ – (I must say I'm sceptical about this one.)

It’s called non-verbal communication and it’s the about the way you look at people. These signals are sent through body language, and it doesn’t always necessarily have to be the type Usher and Kid Cudi sing about -  ‘I can read your body languuuuaaage’. Although that song is catchy.

Why are these non-verbal cues important?

The mind or brain is like a sponge. A super absorbing organ that stores memories and it can retain much better information if that info is associated with strong emotions. Whilst reading out of a dictionary can provide detailed descriptions of the words, associating the sound of a word with emotion could be more effective.

In a classroom situation, a teacher who truly understands the importance of emotion in the classroom, and who believes that all students can learn, can offer opportunities for success to all students (Reid, 1999, p. 305). On Lingora, we're passionate about helping you improve your speaking and listening skills using methods that offer an alternative to classroom-based learning.

In some contexts, where we cannot understand what someone is saying, we look to the person for a sultry raise of an eyebrow, sneaky sneer of the nose or sudden bulge or roll of the eyeballs.

Facial expressions

Psychological research (Ekman and Friesen) has shown that there are six types of universally accepted facial expressions which have been identified across all cultures:

  1. You and your friends are clowning around, you’ve completed an ‘impossible’ – or so you thought at first – task or when you see your excitable pet jumping for joy - Happiness.
  2. Also known as down in the dumps. Glum. Or sullen. Sadness.
  3. How you feel when unwrapping the gifts under the Christmas tree. Surprise!!!7
  4. Those things you don’t want to face - Fear.

  5. This usually comes with being disappointment or contempt in someone’s behaviour, or maybe you’ve just eaten something that tickles your taste buds – the disapproving kind! Disgust.

  6. Often accompanied by frustration or annoyance. Your face like a raging ripe tomato and you’re about to ‘flip your lid…*’ Anger.

    Here are the cues to lookout for that show the face is in fact listening…

    1. Expression Motion Cues Psuedo-Muscles Used
      Happiness raising and lowering of mouth corners 6 linear muscles
      Sadness lowering of mouth corners raise inner portion of brows 6 linear muscles
      Surprise brows arch eyes open wide to expose more white jaw drops slightly 3 linear muscles
      Fear  brows raised eyes open mouth opens slightly 3 linear muscles 1 sphincter for the mouth
      Disgust  upper lip is raised nose bridge is wrinkled cheeks raised. 6 linear muscles
      Anger brows lowered lips pressed firmly eyes bulging

      4 linear muscles 1 sphincter

      for the mouth

       

       

Can you match the many faces of Mr. Bean to each of the emotions? Answers revealed at the end of this post…

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

Eye contact

Using your eyes to covey meaning is important for building rapport between yourself and a native speaker. Those two beady seeing devices are a powerful tool for showing someone how much you are paying to attention to them, how much you are in tune with what they are saying or how passionate and invested you are in what you are nattering about yourself.
In studious settings, pupils – the ones in class, not your eyes this time - tend to more emotionally and intellectually invested in relationships in which they have positive relationships with their teacher and as mentioned earlier, the pupils, in your eyes, can be a useful stepping stone in building these connections

Did you know…?

Eagle eye is a noun in the English language used to describe someone staring at you with intent or watching you veryyyy closely? Staring can either be interpreted as hostile, or a sign of intense concentration or affection. This shows how different types of eye contact can convey opposing emotions. As a bird of prey that is always on a quest for his next mousey meal deal, the eagle has a fervent stare, and that’s where the noun comes from.

                                                       I'm watching youuu...

The many faces of Mr. Bean: 1 = Disgust. 2 = Happiness. 3 = Sadness. 4 = Surprise. 5 = Anger. 6 = Fear

Why not talk in your target language about a famous actor or singer from your culture over on the Lingora site? We can evaluate this for you to help you improve your speaking and listening skills.

On Lingora, you could also share your experiences of body language and facial expressions when interacting with native speakers.

We'd love to hear from you about things that you've noticed! Like us English folks typically tend to frantically shake our heads if we disagree with something!

*If looks could kill - Someone looks at someone in a very angry way

*Love at first sight – Falling in love with someone as soon as you see them

*Flip your lid – Suddenly lose control or become very angry