Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow

Volume 7 : 8 August 2007
ISSN 1930-2940

Managing Editor: M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
Editors: B. Mallikarjun, Ph.D.
         Sam Mohanlal, Ph.D.
         B. A. Sharada, Ph.D.
         A. R. Fatihi, Ph.D.
         Lakhan Gusain, Ph.D.
         K. Karunakaran, Ph.D.
         Jennifer Marie Bayer, Ph.D.



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Nonverbal Communication:
The Language of Motivation for Pakistani Students

Malik Muhammad Tariq Hassan, PhD Candidate


The role of nonverbal communication in pedagogic environment is not fully realized and exploited by the teachers and educationists in Pakistan. All energies are spent to improve the verbal part of classroom communication while the nonverbal part is usually taken for granted. However, different researches in the world have proven a fact that the second language teachers, who consciously control their nonverbal communication, enjoy a subtle but effective power in the class. Not only they enjoy more control over their classes but also spend less energy in talking. The students are also more involved and motivated in such classes and feel freedom to speak and participate in classroom discussion.

To investigate this issue in Pakistani pedagogic environment, a survey was conducted in a remote district of Pakistani Punjab (Muzaffargarh District). Two hundred and forty one college students (mostly fourth and fifth year students from both girls and boys colleges) were selected from six different colleges of Muzaffargarh to form a representative sample (taken from all three tehsils, an administrative unit under the larger unit called District, in South Asia). After recording their views the result was compiled.

The findings of the study clearly showed that our college students are not only conscious of teachers' nonverbal communication but are also biased (either positively or negatively) towards certain type of nonverbal cues and behaviours, thus suggesting the teachers to be more careful and conscious about their nonverbal communication inside the class.

At the same time the study also provides a kind of feedback to young Pakistani teachers who believe in innovation and reflective teaching. The study also has some implications for our policy makers (who design refresher courses and training programs for the English language teachers) to permanently include a component of nonverbal communication in teachers' training programs.

Why Nonverbal Communication?

Communication is basically a process of sharing meanings and this sharing of meaning involves many new kinds of interpretations. These interpretations sometimes become very risky; they become risky especially in the oral communication where we try to interpret the message by analysing the verbal part of the message only and ignore the nonverbal part. Because it is the nonverbal part, which sometimes carries the real meaning due to which serious problems arise. Many instances of such situations can be found in our classrooms. We often see that a teacher says "very good" in response to the student's reply in an ironic tone. On the surface, these remarks seem to be appreciation but everyone understands that it is a kind of censure. It is basically the context (in which these words are spoken) and the accompanying nonverbal communication (of the teacher) which makes the meaning clear quite contrary to the real words uttered. So, the study of nonverbal communication in the classroom is as important as any other thing related to second language teaching in Pakistan.

This study aims to take first step in this direction and tries to discover the importance of our teachers' nonverbal communication in class by recording students' views.

Nonverbal Communication: A Major Part of Communication

Many researchers (in the fields of psychology, anthropology and linguistics) have stressed on the importance of nonverbal communication in human interaction. For example, Mehrabian (1972) and von Raffler-Engel (1976a) argued that language acquisition could not be fully understood unless it is observed within its context of socialization and unless the concomitant paralinguistic behaviors were also observed. Explaining the significance of nonverbal communication Abercrombie wrote: "We speak with our vocal organs, but we converse with our whole body" (1968:55).

Nonverbal Communication is Natural, Reliable and Spontaneous

Nonverbal communication is unique type of communication. It is usually natural, un-controllable and un-concealable and so usually does not misguide. The nonverbal messages, hidden in the nonverbal cues, are mostly immediate, continuous, natural and reliable. In most of the cases they convey the real message of the speaker. They play a very significant role in inter-personal communication and so are very important for the teachers who communicate directly with the students in their classrooms.

Many aspects of nonverbal communication are relatively applicable in most parts of the world. There is a tendency to convey similar messages through similar type of nonverbal signals and behaviours. The nonverbal cues should, therefore, be carefully read and understood as they provide information, which help in making initial judgments about the speaker especially in cases where the direct verbal questioning is inappropriate or misleading as it happens in our classrooms where the students cannot ask questions directly from the teachers and had to rely on the nonverbal communication of their teachers.

Nonverbal communication is also important as it gives us information about our relationships with others, particularly in regard to status, liking, and responsiveness and is particularly appropriate for conveying an emotion. And it is the emotions, which are responsible for motivating or depressing the students. This highlights the importance of nonverbal communication which arouses feeling of liking or disliking in the students and consequently prove to be a source of motivation or otherwise in the class.

A Part of Communicative Competence

If we see different models of communicative competence we can easily asses one thing and that is the significance of nonverbal communication. Dell Hymes, a famous linguist who introduced the concept of communicative competence back in 1960's, believed that there were certain rules of use without which the linguistic or grammar rules were useless. Among many things, which he thought were needed for communicative competence, were also the rules of nonverbal communication (of the target language). Thus, he highlighted the rules of nonverbal communication as important as other grammar rules for learning a second language.

Research Methodology

For this research, survey method was adopted. For this purpose, a questionnaire was specially designed to assess the use of nonverbal communication of the English language teachers at the graduate and post-graduate level. This questionnaire was designed to include majority of nonverbal cues (used in the classrooms) and was altered according to the specification of worthy staff members with whom it was discussed in detail. Before its dispensation to the students it was carefully explained to all the teachers (of all the degree awarding colleges of Muzaffargarh) who helped the researcher in conducting this survey. They were also requested to translate each and every clause of the questionnaire in the class so that the students might understand it fully and answer it properly. Care was also taken to have maximum participation from the students and that every clause of the questionnaire was adequately attempted.

The properly filled questionnaires were then collected back from the teachers of all the colleges (of Muzaffargarh) so that the data could be analysed and the results could be compiled.


Cooperative Learning Incorporating Computer-Mediated Communication: Participation, Perceptions, and Learning Outcomes in a Deaf Education Classroom | Ethnic Killing in India | Exotic Phonemes: A Study of Manipuri Phonemes | Tendulkar's Silence! The Court is in Session: Social Criticism and Individual Tragedy | Nonverbal Communication: The Language of Motivation for Pakistani Students | Building Community in Countries of Adoption - Situation in Singapore | HOME PAGE OF AUGUST 2007 ISSUE | HOME PAGE | CONTACT EDITOR

Malik Tariq Hassan, Ph.D. Candidate
Lecturer in English
Govt. Post Graduate College

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