09 March 2011

Sounds of Silence

From reading Hall and Hall's "The Sounds of Silence" I reflected upon my own body language, what it says about my culture, and how it might differ from other cultures.  Here is an summary of the text:
The only language used throughout most of the history of humanity (in evolutionary terms, vocal communication is relatively recent), [nonverbal communication] is the first form of communication you learn.  You use this preverbal language, consciously and unconsciously, every day to tell other people how you feel about yourself and them.  This language includes your posture, gestures, facial expressions, costume, the way you walk, even your treatment of time and space and material things.  All people communicate on several different levels at the same time but are usually aware of only the verbal dialog and don't realize that they respond to nonverbal messages.
This text relates to several aspects of my India field study.  First is simply a safety issue.   I need to make sure I'm not sending inappropriate signals through body language.  This may mean avoiding eye contact or not smiling at strangers, as I've heard for other countries.  This is something that I would ask my host family about.

Second is a bit more involved.  For a teacher, combined elements of nonverbal communication facilitate classroom management.  A teacher who looks small and insecure will not be able to gain the respect and confidence he or she needs from the students.  Though I will not likely teach in the TCV, I plan to be a participant observer, and my level of participation is as of yet undetermined.  I am hoping to have some opportunities to volunteer in English conversation classes, too.  I may need to change habits of gestures, facial expressions, etc. in order to behave properly in a classroom setting.

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