I was recently reading through an academic journal on communication and found a very interesting section that discussed the differences, pros, cons, advantages, disadvantages, and merits of both verbal and nonverbal communication. I found it so interesting that I went back to my old writing exercise book that I bought during my schooling and decided to look up an exercise associated with verbal and nonverbal communication. I just finished it last night and here are the results from that exercise.
- Is a smile a universal nonverbal form of communication?
I personally believe that a smile is definitely a universal form of nonverbal communication. I have always lumped certain nonverbal aspects together, such as nodding and shaking your head. In fact, some scholars believe that nonverbal communication, as long as it remains emotionally positive, will carry across separate languages as a universal symbol of positivity. Another ideal believed by those same scholars is the theory that facial expressions transcend spoken language. As I have learned, people know that smiling is either a sign of happiness or euphoria. One of the first things I was taught at the hotel where I was employed before Covid-19 was to smile at every guest that walks through the door. No matter the culture or background of the individual that walks through the door, they always return my smile, and it makes the entire connection with them seamless. When you work in customer service you’re also taught to smile while talking on the phone because while it may not be seen, your voice will carry the tone, intonation, and reflection of a smile, making it more jovial and welcoming.
2. What are some of the ways that you, as an American, have been taught, or unconsciously learned, to synchronize your nonverbal behaviors?
One of the few things I immediately learned about synchronizing my nonverbal communication with the world around me was to conform to how others were feeling. An example would be how people act in a doctor’s office waiting room. It is generally unacceptable to stare at other people all around, but in a doctor’s office, a relatively private place, it is even more unacceptable. According to scholars, nonverbal communication as an overall whole allows for people to coordinate through eye contact, facial expression, and gesticulation. In this case, people tend to keep to themselves when in a doctor’s office in the United States, refusing to make eye contact or even making any gestures outside the norm. Synchronizing oneself to the surrounding population allows for more cohesion. This requires a careful understanding of the culture in which you reside. If you’re visiting another country, you need to understand their cultural communication for both verbal and nonverbal forms. A couth form of communication in America might not be the same in another country or culture.
3. Communication, both verbal and nonverbal, comes with a universal set of rules. Those rules are Phonology, Morphology, Semantics, Syntax, and Pragmatics. Define those rule sets and provide a specific example of those rules in American culture and a random international culture.
Phonology is the study of the organization of sound. The study focuses on the production of sound, regardless of the language being spoken. Although it is regardless of the language, the sounds and differences between the languages are also studied.
An American example is the pronunciation of the name, “Jose.” Even though it is generally known how it is typically pronounced, the English language tries to teach us to sound things out phonetically. In this case, it would be pronounced, “Joes” or “Joe-say.” Immediately upon seeing it, a Spanish speaker would say, “Hoe-zay” or “Hoe-say.”
Morphology analyzes the system and structure, much like syntax, of a language. Languages, both fictional and nonfictional are classified by this study.
Morphology tells us that most words only have one definition or meaning, however, certain words can mean multiple things. In America, the word “sweet” can be used to convey how sugary a food is, while it can also be used to describe a kind person. Across the seas, the Arabic language requires certain aspects of sound from the throat to be put into practice for the words to mean certain things. If the throat sound is incorrect, then the word changes meaning.
Semantics focus on the meaning that each language expresses through distinguished implications. As languages evolve, so does the expressed meanings throughout the language.
The British use an American derogatory term for something completely different. In America, the term “fag” is often used as a derogatory word for homosexuals, whereas in Great Britain, a fag is a cigarette.
Syntax is the relation that words have with one another. Languages all have different ways of phrasing words together. As an example, when a French speaker is heard, an English speaker might hear a word he or she understands, but it is said in a different order in the sentence, which is different from English.
As described in the definition, many foreign languages say things differently than English speaking Americans. For example, Americans use adjectives and verbs before something to describe what it is or what it is doing. For instance, “the blue car.” In other languages, the syntax of their grammar might have an English translation of, “the car that is blue” or “the car blue.” It ultimately has the same meaning, but varies based on language. Another example in English would be, “A French restaurant,” whereas in French it would be, “Un restaurant Francais.”
Pragmatics is the analysis of how certain speech patterns, verbal and nonverbal cues, and language affects conversation and the path on which it travels. The study of pragmatics shows how certain language facets can directly influence communication in different people.
America has almost been institutionalized to say things like, “Hello, how are you?” and to respond with, “Fine and you?” It is almost considered rude not to say that when starting a conversation. In Japan, speaking to a stranger in public can have rude undertones, as they prefer to keep speech such as that behind closed doors, ergo an interesting response might occur if public conversation were attempted.
4. What is one possible drawback of phonology if a nonnative speaker has poor accuracy? What might be done to master a new phonology?
One of the biggest problems for nonnative speakers is the inability or difficulty to learn the correct pronunciations of words. Each language has their own way of pronouncing letters and sounds, and it can range from minute similarities to vast differences. When people start learning a new accent for a movie or fun, the sounds are usually the first thing people learn. Once a grasp of the sounds is secure, as well as understanding the importance of the sounds, the language can become easier to learn. Touching back with the Arabic language, once the throat sounds and trills done with the tongue are mastered, the language can become easier to learn.
5. What happens in the course of conversation when semantics causes confusion between you and the receiver?
When I worked as a guest representative at a hotel, this was a common occurrence. A lot of dissension exists between some local guests when they ask for the bubbler, as most people in the United States refer to this as a water fountain or drinking fountain. When I was working there, a new maintenance worker became staffed at the hotel, and a guest stopped him in the hallway and asked for the location of the nearest bubbler. The worker had no idea what the guest was asking, so he directed her to the nearest bar, because he thought bubbler had to refer to champagne. The entire front desk staff actually got quite a laugh out of the whole thing, but the maintenance worker also learned something about the semantics in the language in this part of the country.
6. What do you think Ludwig Wittgenstein meant when he said that, “the limits of my language are the limits of my world”?
Interestingly enough, I recently watched a movie called Traitor. In the movie, two Muslims are speaking. Both men are completely fluent in English and Arabic, and one man asks the other, “Do you dream in English or Arabic?” The conversation then became a debate about rhetoric and the importance of what dreaming in English meant to them. I personally believe that Ludwig Wittgenstein was referring to the idea that language directs, consumes, and revitalizes all. If I am unable to read verbal cues, understand nonverbal communication, or speak with another person, then I am severely limiting myself to a world of ignorance. Why live a life of secluded naiveté when a few spoken words can help us transcend to a level of human relationship beyond that of just speaking our own language?