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The Saying Actions Speak Louder Than Words English Language Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Language
Wordcount: 1303 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Multicultural education programme is aimed to develop the knowledge about diverse cultures, therefore the author of this Bachelor thesis focuses her attention on this subject. Non-verbal communication should be understood not only with the language of hand or facial expressions but also when a person speaks: eye contact, smile, pauses in speech and the distance between interlocutors as well as other factors are important. Sen argues that ‘in the context of multicultural communication, it becomes imperative that we train ourselves in decoding the non-verbal signs in a communication progress’ (2004: 163).

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Clayton suggests that non-verbal communication should be discussed in three areas, ‘related to the individual, to language, and to the context’ (2003: 115). Non-verbal communication related to an individual involves “eye contact”, “touching”, “posture”, “gestures” and “facial expressions” (ibid.: 115-118). Non-verbal communication related to language includes “vocal qualities”, “intonation”, and “the use of silence” (ibid.: 119). The last one, non-verbal communication related to the context is discussed by “olfaction”, “clothing”, “sonal appearance”, “artifacts” as well as “feeling about space” and “attitudes toward time” (ibid.: 120-123).

Some people believe that words are most important in speech because sometimes they do not notice how important non-verbal communication could be and that it can say more about someone than words. The person can lie when he is speaking but his behavior as for instance, embarrassment, always tells the truth.

The principles of non-verbal communication between representatives of different cultures can help to overcome the incomprehension even without the knowledge of language. Discussing eye contact one should notice that it is the tool for contact establishment. In business field the direct eye contact means a sense of confidence.

Nevertheless, the author of the research believes that Russians do not prefer to fix eye contact for a long time. In American culture vice versa it is the way how people usually behave. According to Clayton, ‘direct eye-contact implies truth and honesty in the dominant Anglo-American culture’ (ibid.: 115).

Another significant aspect of non-verbal communication is gestures. Feyereisen and de Lannoy quote Kendon (1986) and McNeill (1985), ‘[…] gestures and words both relate to the mental representations that constitute thinking’ (Feyereisen and de Lannoy, 1991: 2). Individuals of diverse cultures can interpret some universal gestures differently. When one thinks about the word “yes” or “no” it means “nodding” and “shaking” the head. (Clayton, 2003: 117) Still in some countries, for instance in India or Bulgaria, the gesture “no” means the agreement (ibid.: 117).

From these examples of gestures’ use it can be seen how differently communities can interpret the meaning. Further, within a multicultural environment, every culture forms a single notion of established manners, greetings, gestures and handshakes’ use.

It is very often considered that a certain nation can use gestures more frequently than others. The author of the present research provides an example from the respondents’ answers (see Appendix 2; question nr. 11), one Latvian student wrote, ‘usually Russian people within talking use many gestures’. This type of behavior can confuse diverse cultures’ representatives where the active use of gestures is not welcome. Latvians, for instance, do not prefer to use a lot of gestures in their oral discourse, especially with strangers. A direct eye contact and outwardly restrained behavior are the most characteristic features for them. They also do not prefer to smile quickly greeting other persons.

It is important to analyze how representatives of different cultures behave being in one group. Some foreigners, for instance, Americans or Italians being in Latvia could be confused with the type of unfriendly behavior of native people. Americans and Italians always smile greeting others but this could be atypical for the natives of other countries.

The author knows from her own experience that Russians in Latvia differ from Russians in Russia especially by use of gestures. This signals that being in one group or living together in one country [Russians in Latvia] affects all those natives not only adopting the choice of words or sentence patterns from the Latvian culture, but also behavior, gestures and attitudes.

To sum up, Russians in Latvia are more composed in behavior than Russians in Russia. It is typical for them in Russia to use a lot of gestures that are accompanied sometimes by a loud voice and very fast talking. Russians in Latvia were being socialized to the typical cultural behavior of Latvians. The process of adaptation of some features of non-verbal communication is developed since representatives of cultures always cooperate and affect each other being in one group.

Feyereisen and de Lannoy quote Halliday (1973) and Levinson (1983) ‘pragmatics also draws attention to the social conditions in which gestures occur’ (Feyereisen and de Lannoy, 1991: 24). ‘The context of the verbal emission, gestures included, must be taken into account to understand the meaning of utterance” (ibid.). Thus, every gesture occurs in appropriate context and conditions. As an example, Asians always smile when they are embarrassed. They usually demonstrate a neutral expression when angry, that makes impossible to understand their emotional condition. American people always keep smiling in order to show that everything is going well.

The awareness of cultural differences in non-verbal communication leads to understanding the behavior of other people. Nevertheless, it is sometimes difficult to find a way how it is better to act.

The above-mentioned suggestions are considered to be very important and everyone should understand that if someone behaves differently and sometimes incomprehensibly this can mean that he/she is coming from another culture.

Clayton arguing about students’ nonverbal communication differences in the classroom, asserts that

[…] the loudness of a student’s response may be a sign of sincerity; the belligerent-sounding comment may be awkward intonation; […] the quest for more personal interaction may indicate an unconscious need for closer contact with authority; the wince under our affectionate pat on the back may mean discomfort with physical touch; […] an “inappropriate” smile may mask shame, embarrassment, or fear […] (2003: 128).

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Finally, everyone should be more attentive to others in order to communicate successfully; especially it is important during the process of education. Clayton adds that teachers cannot know all nonverbal languages of other cultures but she assumes that what we can do is ‘[…] to lay aside our own cultural blinders, be sensitive to a variety of responses, be open to and affirming of different interpretations, and hopefully learn from our students […]’ (ibid.).

To conclude the author of the research would like to emphasize that:

the awareness of cross-cultural differences leads to acceptance over cultures;

the individual becomes more open-minded;

the ability to interpret cross-cultural differences and use this knowledge in practice helps to act in a positive way;


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