Body language

It is not only speech, however, that allows communication. Other bodily movements also convey meanings. This so called body language is a mixture of innate and learned movements. Innate movements are common to all societies and include acts such as smiling. But most body language is learned in a manner similar to speech. Therefore just as spoken language varies from society to society so does body language. For instance, nodding indicates agreement in the Western world but means disagreement in certain Indian societies.

Some of the signs used to communicate a person’s thoughts or emotions are obvious: when you are nervous you sweat and your lips and hands shake. Other signs are more subtle. If we do not want to be disturbed we close up to keep others out – we cross our legs and arms. If on the other hand we want company we take up a more relaxed posture. Most of the time body language is used to support spoken communications. For deaf persons however, it is of vital importance. For them the prime method of communication is by observing gestures, special hand-positions (sign-language) or by reading lips.