Non-verbal Communication in L2 Language Teacher Training
刘海咏, Ph.D. Assistant
戴从容, Ph.D. Associate
Professor, Fu Dan University/
Although non-verbal communication like tones of voice, body posture, facial expressions, and gestures play an important role in terms of the effectiveness of human interactions (Pike, 1967; Kendon, 2004), very little relevant research has been conducted in L2 pedagogy.
Sime (2006) and Ehrman and Domyei (1998) identify the cognitive, emotional, and organizational functions of non-verbal communication and argue that L2 learners’ perception of the non-verbal behavior of the teacher has a direct influence on their learning. In this paper, I study these functions from the perspective of teachability and teacher development, in particular that of Chinese teachers.
Given its cross -cultural and -linguistic variation, non-verbal communication can be treated as part of what learners can acquire in a target language (Gullberg, 2006), i.e. its cognitive function, which, however, has not always been recognized by language teachers (Jungheim, 2001). I suggest that deliberate introduction, instead of mere exposure, to number-signing, handling objects with both hands, avoiding eye contact with seniors, closer personal distance, and no shrugging or hugging, etc. will help L2 students become more communicatively competent in Chinese (cf. Canale, 1983; Samovar, Porter, and Stefani, 2000; and Xing 2006).
Furthermore, Stam (2006) and Yoshioka and Kellerman (2006) have discovered that speakers of verb-framed languages like Japanese and Spanish and of satellite-framed languages like Chinese and English (Talmy, 2001) inappropriately transfer their L1 gestures of motion verbs to their L2 signing in the other group, an error worth addressing in L2 teaching. Allen (2000) and Lazaraton (2004) have also discussed the need for gestures to improve students’ listening comprehension and lexical learning and retention.
Relaxed body posture, an abundance of gestures and eye contact, and positive facial expressions show the teachers’ enthusiasm, which is the emotional function of non-verbal communication that can better engage the students (Sime, 2006). I suggest that the teacher’s practice of consciously calling on a student with an upward open palm, timely nodding, slightly leaning toward the students, and using the appropriate volume and speed of speech can encourage students to talk more in class (cf. Liang, 2004).
Finally, the organizational function of nonverbal communication serves as tools of classroom management; for example, wagging the index finger and head shaking can keep the class in control (Sime, 2006). In my teaching, I also stress the iconicity and timing of functional gestures. For example, conventionalized signals in the class for “Read after me!” with raised voice and both forearms moving inward to chest level and “Complete sentence!” with the index finger sliding from left to right will not only save more time for drilling but also reduce students’ confusion over what the teacher wants them to do. It does not take long for the students to acquire these efficient conditioned responses. Also, asking a question first, waiting for 1 or 2 seconds, and then calling on a student can keep the entire class, rather than only one student, in an anticipatory mode. Another helpful tool for the teacher to buy time before responding is writing on the blackboard.
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