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A large part of non-verbal communication happens unconsciously.The way closeness and distance are established through physical contact between individuals, for instance, is something that usually happens unconsciously, although physical touch can be used intentionally in particular situations, for example the act of shaking somebody’s hand when greeting them (cf. One of the main teaching objectives in the foreign language classroom is the development of communicative competence.Although the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages does at least intermittently pick up on non-verbal communication (cf.4.4.5), the way this is dealt with does not suffice: the text sporadically refers to body language in terms of pointing, gesture and mime to support the verbal reference – but it does not include a structured and explicit description of non-verbal competences.As the psychologist Scherer (1980: 225) notes, ambiguities in the use of the term can often be traced back to the fact that the term ‘non-verbal’ refers both to visible phenomena such as gestures and facial expression as well as to audible aspects such as speaking styles and quality of speech.It is for this reason that Scherer (ibid.) proposes making a distinction between vocal and non-vocal phenomena.Moreover, there can be cultural differences in the use of one and the same sign.Second, non-verbal signs are not always transmitted in an intentional way, that is, there is not necessarily a specific intention underlying the use of a sign.
The following figure shows a systematic overview of the main forms of non-verbal communication (cf.
Most manuals for foreign language teaching similarly do not include materials and exercises which focus on non-verbal forms of communication (cf. And yet, several recent publications in the domain of foreign language teaching show that non-verbal forms of communication are very important not only for the teaching of language, but also for intercultural learning (cf. In addition to this, a variety of methodological work has been published in practice-oriented journals, suggesting different approaches to including non-verbal forms of communication in foreign language classes (cf. It is not surprising that these suggestions always include role-plays, mime and other action-oriented and holistic activities that consider the entire body with its different forms of perception and expression.
Many of these exercises originate from drama pedagogy and have found their way into foreign language teaching: they stress the value of non-verbal elements for language learning, not only when it comes to creating authentic communicative situations in the classroom, but also as a compensation strategy for listening and speaking as well as in the context of intercultural learning (cf.
Second, I want to illustrate how foreign language classes based on drama pedagogy can contribute more effectively to a consideration of non-verbal communication on the different levels of the teaching and learning of a foreign language.
Usually, non-verbal communication is defined in opposition to verbal communication: all phenomena with a communicative value that are not part of verbal communication are summarised under the umbrella term ‘non-verbal communication’.
Third, the way we move our bodies […] provides information about us to others.