Face-To-Face With Change:  The 
Implementation of Technology-Enabled Learning of Nonverbal and Paralinguistic Features of Language

Frequently Aked Questions

1. Did students in the Project 1 courses really acquire new behaviors to apply in context?

I have many videotapes of excellent student performances as evidence of their having learned the role models which comprise the course's short-term goal. In truth, we want them to incorporate these behaviors into their own spontaneous behaviors in the target language over the long term. Since a longitudinal study of student acheivement in this area was not a goal of the first project we did not actually find out in a statistical way whether that happened. However, I have the permanent addresses of everyone who ever took the course and control groups from the same semesters in the hope that I will be able to follow up on that some day. I have one anecdotal letter which indicates that the student acheived a higher "naturalness" and "communicativeness" quotient than her peers in a study abroad program in spite of their having had more hours of language instruction. When we did spontaneous student skits in some of the courses, students found themselves incorporating new behaviors, but again that information was not quantified. The fact is that the instruments for measuring this kind of improvement were not available until near the end of Project 1. It is our great hope in this new project to finally be able to use them in order to answer the very question you have posed.

2. To what extent are you teaching about kinesics and to what extent are students able to draw on models and make them their own?

I recommend avoiding teaching about kinesics especially as there is very little research on which to base any prescriptive formula. The most important job is to teach skills of observation and then to lead students in the experience of native-like kinesics and communicational performance. I want to also get away from the notion that this is entirely about kinesics. I would only be interested in any communicational element inasmuch as it contributes to interactional synchrony. Interactional synchrony is the proper pacing and rhythm, give and take, of a communication. Your body parts, your sounds, your use of space all contribute to creating the engaging, seamless flow of information that is the hallmark of good communication. (But, ultimately, the name of the game is interactional effectiveness!)

3. How can one overcome the inertia in the language teaching profession regarding the proposed skill areas covered in this project? Will a method like this always need special workshops and funds?

In any new training process there is a first stage requiring formal training of a select cadre of users. After that first stage you may need some subsequent waves of formal training but that need attentuates over time as the information begins to be transmitted in informal or self-funding ways. I believe that we will need to give workshops at conferences and seminars for several years to come. But as the years go on and as this work is established as a necessary part of all language training, we will be able to finance workshops more readily from attendee fees rather than from an outside funding source. One thing that will help in the informal transmission process is the on-line discussion group we propose.

4. Is body language teachable?

Ask any actor. (Many components of our method are inspired from the theater.) Negotiators, lawyers, nurses, teachers, psychologists and others are often given some professional training in this area. You may as well ask is language teachable. If we can learn a foreign language (a set of behaviors for our mouth and tongue) why, then, can we not extend that to the rest of the body in order to give integrity of style to our communication in the foreign language? At the conclusion of this project we hope to have hard data to back up the claim that body language is teachable. (Remember, though, that we are not talking about a set of discrete behaviors but rather the achievement of synchronous behavior through proper movement habits.)

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