By Amy Still Nonverbal communication consists of facial expressions, tones of voice, gestures and eye contact. Having the skills to read and interpret these nonverbal techniques is a key element in understanding those of another culture. For instance, if a person, who speaks a language other than English, is speaking in his native tongue and his facial expressions indicate that he is happy, and his tone of voice is upbeat and cheerful, and his gestures are gentle and welcoming and his eye contact is warm and inviting, one might insinuate that this person is in a good mood. From the context of the situation at hand and the ability to decipher his nonverbal communication, one could read into the specific needs and desires of this person. Interacting with people from different cultures often requires the skill of reading nonverbal communication. If an English speaking family takes a trip to another country where the primary language is something other than English, it may result in difficulties. My family and I took a trip to Canada last year, and while there are quite a few people who speak English, and getting around was not hard, there were some authentic French places where the employees spoke mainly in French. Luckily, my mom had taken French in High School and she was able to comprehend enough of the language, while using her knowledge of nonverbal communication. She could often tell whether or not they were out of a certain dish solely by the employees’ facial expression. This is a small-scale example; however, it still uses the same principles used to decipher any other language barrier that could exist. Another example of this that could exist in the school environment is within a typical ESOL classroom. The students that encompass this class are those in need of extra help in mastering the English language. These students come from diverse backgrounds and are often rooted in their own traditions. The value of ones’ name, as discussed in a previous week, may hold more significance than one may think. In essence, it is necessary to introduce a student by his given name, and if a nickname is wanted by the student, that’s when he or she will offer one, it should not be forced upon him or her. The ability to read a child’s nonverbal signals such as facial expressions, eye contact and other gestures made during certain activities is necessary to make a comfortable and respected atmosphere. Teachers need to be aware of the entire classroom, making sure that things are not said to belittle unique co-cultures. They need to portray the attitude that just because Americans’ are seen as superior in the United States, doesn’t mean that the English speaking population will hold the same status in other places of the world. My experiences with nonverbal communication do not involve a different culture. I have been very involved in volunteering with those who endure mental and physical disabilities. I baby-sit a little girl who has William’s Syndrome, a rare genetic disability, which results in a variety of different symptoms. In five- year-old Maddie’s case, she is nonverbal, meaning she does not have the ability to verbalize her thoughts, or desires. I have had to learn what she needs and wants through deciphering her gestures and noises. Through this experience, I have learned patience and intuitiveness, two of the essential skills that are very essential to entering the teaching profession.Amy Still is a student in the undergraduate School of Education at Nova Southeastern University. She lives in Miami-Dade County, Florida.
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