Replacing Teacher Talk with Gestures: Nonverbal Communication in the Foreign Language Classroom



ABSTRACT  Studies on nonverbal communication in the classroom have generally focused on the elementary school and on teaching methods which may be employed in teaching any subject matter. Researchers have paid little attention to the unique situation in language classes. Yet foreign language teachers who consciously control their movements and stance enjoy a subtle but effective power. During pattern drills, they can increase noticeably the tempo of the class, while concurrently reducing teacher talk. Throughout a class period encompassing such varied activities as conversation and choral repetition, language teachers can use gestures to signal and instigate changes in the class atmosphere and thus further their instructional goals. Moreover, through nonverbal communication, they can effect personalization between class members and thus lessen the inhibitions which normally plague language students. For teachers who wish to analyze and improve their own use of gesture and nonverbal communication in the classroom, it is suggested that a videotape recording of the class provides useful and objective feedback.