How much does does what you say really matter? Not much, according to A. Barbour, author of Louder Than Words: Nonverbal Communication. He claims that only 7% of communication is actually verbal. Here are the other things you can do to communicate in your new language before you even start speaking.
1. Facial expressions - they mean different things in different languages. A smile might show anger in Japan and a shake of the head can show agreement in India. Very different from their meanings in the UK.
2. Body language - standing with your hands in your pockets is perfectly acceptable in the UK. In Indonesia, though, it’s rather rude, as is making standing with your arms folded.
3. Gesture - it’s more common in some languages than others but pointing at someone could land you in hot water in China where it’s very impolite.
4. Posture - your posture and gait can help you fit into the role of speaking a new language. By copying the people around you, it’s easy to make yourself fit in.
5. Mouth positions - Making the correct shape with your mouth is one of the keys to good pronunciation. Obviously, the actual sound is made inside the mouth but by copying the shapes native speakers make with their mouths when they speak, you can pick up some useful practice getting your mouth muscles in shape.
Putting it all together is when main thing. With communication being such a delicate balance of so many factors, it’s difficult to keep them all in mind when you speak. That’s why having a great online language teacher or face-to-face tutor is such a great help. Your teacher will be able to point out the things you are doing wrong and you can even see how you look while you are speaking using a mirror or webcam.
So even if you are a complete beginner with your speaking, getting the non-verbal communication part could really help you get your point across in your new language.
Today’s image is by Jeremy Doorten.