Body language and culture

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Marah
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Body language and culture

Postby Marah » 2014-05-31, 18:50

What are the elements in body language that, according to you, give foreigners away when they speak a foreign language? What is the typical American/German/Chinese/etc body language?

For instance, in this video Luca Lampariello mentions lips and shoulder movements that are really common among French natives and I think his observations are spot-on.
http://youtu.be/HhU3z2oYh3w?t=3m37s
Par exemple, l'enfant croit au Père Noël. L'adulte non. L'adulte ne croit pas au Père Noël. Il vote.

Sol Invictus
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Re: Body language and culture

Postby Sol Invictus » 2014-05-31, 21:13

I think, unless a certain geasture is a cultural norm for certain situation (in which case foreigners too usually know about it), but just a manerism people from certain culture tend to use, people not using it or using unusal body language might seem slightly unusal, but more likely it won't even register. I mean I use my hands a lot when I try to explain something, because I try to map concepts in the air for other person to see, I don't think other Latvians do, but nobody would think I am from another culture for it. However copying body language might make you more convincing, say, if you were playing person of another culture (as done in the video). Not sure it alone would be enough to give culture away, this probably could be tested by, say, showing people videos of discussions without sound and asking if they can identify culture of people in the video by body language alone

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Saim
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Re: Body language and culture

Postby Saim » 2014-06-01, 7:35

I think people do have intuition for "local" body language - in this sense body language may be just as important as accent when guaging the foreignness of people. It's difficult to describe but it's definitely there.

One of the hardest things I find with Punjabi is not the language itself (grammar, vocabulary), but rather body language and other cultural codes that I haven't quite figured out. In Punjab I stick out like a sore thumb not just because of my command of the language and accent but also because of the way I act in general. Between European cultures this difference may not be so obvious but if you compare a Punjabi to whichever European the difference is huge.

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Re: Body language and culture

Postby vijayjohn » 2014-06-01, 19:22

I don't know whether this really counts as "body language," but that reminds me of something my brother noted when he went to New Delhi with his wife. In India (and various other countries, at least in Asia), there's this practice of charging foreigners a lot more than local people. In order to avoid being charged "foreigner's price" while visiting the Red Fort, my brother and sister-in-law tried to pretend to be Indian by randomly jabbering in their respective languages while standing in "line" to get tickets (I think). However, people could easily tell they weren't from India because they were too polite; they were just patiently standing there. If they were from India, they would've been pushing and shoving. :lol:

Anyway, Indian body language. There's the well-known one with the wobbly head (in fact, I believe there's a whole YouTube video on how to use that particularly body language effectively in an Indian context). And the (probably even better known) hand-folding and bowing thing, but I'm trying to think of other ones.

Well, here are two things I just thought of:

1. It seems that if you cry in public among Indians without any prior explanation, they will often assume that someone died (or else something similarly horrible must have happened) and cry with you.

2. Among scientifically oriented Indian men (mostly engineers), I've noticed this habit of putting their hand in a certain position while trying to make a point during a conversation, and then keeping it there, frozen in that position, for at least two minutes (sometimes as long as five) even though the conversation has already moved on from the aforementioned point. IIRC, when I asked my dad about it, he claimed that the purpose of this was to establish/maintain the point that was raised.

One more thing that I think may be specific to (fairly conservative) Malayalees: If two or more people who are considerably older than you are having a conversation, you are allowed to listen but not to participate unless one (or more) of those people asks you to.

Sol Invictus
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Re: Body language and culture

Postby Sol Invictus » 2014-06-01, 20:39

To me it always has seemed that "body language" mostly is used to refer to unintentional/less considered movements that other people also pay less or no attention to and not so much to geastures with a concrete meaning agreed upon by everyone :hmm:


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