Non-Verbal Signals for ESL
My husband makes fun of me all the time for doing it, but I admit - I'm a hand talker. Any story I'm telling, direction or instruction I'm giving, any opportunity to communicate verbally my hands come along for the ride. They add colour, movement, bold, underline, italics, accent and life... they sometimes have a mind of their own... and they have the added "benefit" of giving my husband an excuse to completely take the mickey out of me. Na ja!The use of non-verbal signals are critical in the adult learning environment though, as you're probably discovering (if you're new to training). If you're an established trainer you've probably developed your own lexicon, and while it may not be what your colleagues or counterparts use as long as you're consistent and your students understand what you mean and what you're asking of them, then use it!So, why is it important to use hand signals - sometimes called silent communication signals - in our training? To answer this we could have a discussion about metacognitive skill development, the need to addressing different learning styles... or we could think of it as I mentioned above - adding underline, bold, italics, colour and movement to the spoken word. Effective language training ensures the L2 (target language) is the one predominantly spoken, avoiding use of the L1 (students' native language) as much as possible, and avoiding translating. That's right - you don't necessarily have to speak your students' native language(s) in order to be an effective, awesome language trainer.In my experience a student learns best and retains knowledge longer when making connections between the L2 and L1 themselves, constructing their own bridges, drawing inference and meaning from their own exploration of a language. As the saying goes - don't tell, show. That's where our "hand talking" comes into it. And art skills. And acting. And sometimes singing. But let's leave those for another day...So, what do I use? Well, for explaining time forms or encouraging a student to use the correct one, have a look at the photos below. It's not rocket science, but it works (particularly if you imagine time as a line stretching behind you and in front, with you smack bang in the middle. Very Einsteinian...)Past Tense (behind, that "time line" stretching into the past), looks somewhat like I'm hitching a ride...Future Tense (in front, that "time line" stretching into the future); yep, here's looking at you!Present Tense (particularly useful for Present Simple, facts)At the moment (particularly good for Present Continuous)So, what do you use? What have you seen others use? Have you ever cracked up - as my husband has - at the "hand talking" you've seen, either in a classroom or out and about? And if we consider cultural differences, what signals may not be appropriate in what cultures?