A Vietnamese – American cross – cultural study of English language teachers’ nonverbal behaviour in INTERACTING WITH THEIR Vietnamese STUDENTS

Since 1986, when the open - door policy and doi moi began to be applied in Vietnam, the country and its people have witnessed significant changes in many aspects of life. People from other countries have started to come in with investments. The presence of multinationals in Vietnam, in particular, has created an appetite for learning English and communicating in the language. In the light of globalization, language and communication cannot be separated from our daily lives (Marley, 2001). It is omnipresent that, in communication, we express our emotions and attitudes more nonverbally than verbally. One study in Anglophone countries showed that in the communication of attitude, 93 percent of the message was transmitted by the tone of the voice and by facial expressions, whereas only seven percent of the speaker’s attitude was transmitted by words. Birdwhistell (1997), who deserves most credit for awakening interest in serious nonverbal studies, has also estimated that at most only about 30 percent of what is communicated in a conversation is verbal. People observe us to see HOW we are saying things and what we are DOING, more than they actually LISTEN to the WORDS used. If we smile, they relax and smile; if we scowl at them, they tense up and become defensive. Likewise, if we stand rigidly behind, tether ourselves to the lectern and scarcely move, they become rigid – physically and mentally. Hence it is safe to assume that non - verbal behaviour is undeniably important in communication, within a culture and across cultures. Considering the facts given above, we can see that in English language classrooms, teachers frequently conduct direct communication, which serves as a fundamental skill not only in university teaching but in real life as well. Among the many direct communication forms, making presentations, delivering speeches and explanations, giving lectures, reports and briefings in class have become a compulsory part of teachers' tasks. Nonverbal behaviour including gesture, posture, facial expression, gaze, and distance is tightly weaved in all these skills. There are various chances or occasions when Vietnamese learners of English are taught by native teachers, and Vietnamese teachers attend or observe their classes. It is for this reason that both Vietnamese learners and teachers of English should develop a thorough understanding of non – verbal behaviour performed by native teachers of English. While a case may be made that they will grasp the meaning and the use of native speakers’ nonverbal behaviour after extensive and prolonged exposure to the target culture, perhaps through immersion in the host culture, this is a luxury enjoyed by only a small minority of language learners and teachers. Most Vietnamese foreign language learners and teachers may never have the chance to observe and absorb the subtle nuances of non - verbal communication at first hand. Therefore, Vietnamese - Anglophone cross – cultural studies of English language teachers’ nonverbal behaviour in interacting with their Vietnamese students appear vital and useful in this way.

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