Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Spanish Community Service Learning and "Gestos": How to Speak the Language of Gestures

by Ann Abbott

I concentrate a lot on creating teaching materials that help my students improve their spoken Spanish and listening comprehension in order to work effectively in the community.

However, just the other day I was having a conversation with a friend, and at a certain point I didn't understand what she was saying. Actually, I didn't understand because she wasn't saying anything--she was waving her fingers in opposite directions. I missed the meaning of our conversation because I didn't understand her gesture! Turns out, the gesture "said" this: to be coming and going, going out a lot, going in different directions, having two things going on at the same time, etc.

If it happens to me, it must happen to our students in the community as well.

What gestos have stumped you? Or if you're a Spanish-speaker, have you ever been confused by any gestures that Americans use?

Some useful resources: here and here.


  1. Hah! I have a good one. At my Spanish summer camp (Concordia Language Villages) we (consejeros) have to present these skits to the kids every day at lunch about spanish-speaking culture/traditions/customs. One day my group and I did one about how in Colombia and Venezuela, instead of pointing with their finger at something, they literally use their lips and sort of 'pucker' in the direction of whatever they want to point at.

    So for the skit we pretended 2 of us were silly gringas and 2 people were from colombia and venezuela, and we asked them which way something was and then proceeded to act grossed out because they looked like they wanted to kiss us. We used that because one of my friends in the group was from Colombia, and another one had done volunteer work in Venezuela, so he noticed the gesture and how different it was.

  2. I love that! Wish you had a video. :)