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Creative Roles of Language Gesturing

July 13, 2023

Ever had the need to communicate without speaking a word? Well, that's where gestures come in. Typically, monolinguals experience this when traveling abroad. Researchers suggests that simple gestures are the very foundation of human language.

Movements we make with our hands, face, or other parts of our body can deliver a message via creative gesturing. They can be used instead of speaking or alongside speech to help get a message across. Take for example flipping someone the bird, making the classic "OK" sign with your thumb and index finger, beckoning someone to come closer, or giving a thumbs-up as a show of approval.

Gestures have specific forms and meanings. So the next time you make a gesture, remember that it's not just a simple movement – it's a powerful form of non-verbal communication. Unfortunately, the role that language gesturing plays in support (or in lieu) of a verbal exchange is often overlooked.

Interpreters use gesturing in American Sign Language

In a verbal exchange, the topic of a sentence is what is being talked about and the predicate is what is being said about the topic. American Sign Language sentences are most often signed in a topic-comment arrangement where the subject of the sentence is the topic, and the predicate is the signed comment. A language process called topicalization.

But the significance of gestures goes beyond just interpretation. They play a crucial role in language development, especially for children. Encouraging gestures actually promote a child's development of overall communication skills. It is a way for those at the youngest ages to express themselves long before they learn to verbally communications.

Ventriloquists are Masters of Gesturing

Ventriloquism is the ancient art of speaking with the tongue without moving the mouth or face. It's a performance act that creates an illusion that the voice is coming from another source. It works because humans use their eyes to find a sound source and become biased toward the location of the visual stimulus. Origins can be traced back to 2000 BCE in Egypt where ventriloquism was used by shamans and priests.

Today’s ventriloquist attract audiences worldwide. American Jeff Dunham became famous on a global tour thanks to his hilarious puppet Achmed the Dead Terrorist, who proved to be a fan favorite in Abu-Dhabi. The television show America’s Got Talent helped to popularize and monetize conversational language gesturing, when AGT winner Terry Fator signed a $100M contract in Las Vegas. Since then, 12-year-old ventriloquist Darci Lynn became the youngest winner of AGT and is now a global performer.

Spain’s Celia Muñoz performed a unique act of ventriloquism on AGT without a puppet. Muñoz is a classically trained opera singer whose gimmick uses non-puppet sources like a radio or telephone prop. More recently, Romania’s singing ventriloquist Ana-Maria Margean Put a Spell on the audience and the AGT judges. Samuel the Multilingual Ventriloquist is a polyglot who performs at corporate events and international multilingual gatherings. The Italian performer, along with his lineup of visual stimuli, deliver an extraordinary show in English and Italian as well as any other language that an event promoter requires.

Is Speaking from Behind the Podium Dead?

It was long thought that speaking from behind a podium (actually a lectern) could make the speaker seem more professional as well as help them relax. In fact, the lectern itself served as a visual stimulus to be the center of focus for a waiting audience. Similar to the ventriloquist’s puppet, the audience associates a lectern with where the sound is expected to come from.

As the co-founder of Apple Computer, the late Steve Jobs was considered to be a guru of iconoclastic thinking and one of the world’s most visionary speakers. Early on, Jobs broke the mold of what a keynote speaker was suppose to look like wearing jeans and sandals to the podium. As Apple grew, Jobs emerged from behind the lectern and turned traditional presentations into an art form using language gesturing for effect.

Steve Jobs deliberately looked for ways to break away from the physical and psychological barriers between his message and his audience.

Even experts in the field of communications changed their minds after realizing it was more effective to speak to an audience directly, especially when selling your brand. Jobs' decision to move out of the bully pulpit was a purposeful gesture meant to break the mold of podium etiquette and replace the boring image of "talking heads". He eliminated the static visual and freely moved about the stage creating a more dynamic presence that helped him connect and engage with Apple’s followers. Not by chance mind you; but by practicing endless hours so his fluid speech and movements matched his message, much like a ventriloquist.


At ProLingo, we understand that your messaging deserves a dynamic delivery in the native tongue of your multilingual audience. ProLingo specializes in multilingual localization and event equipment for presentations. For optimal results in translating and interpreting your brand messaging, contact our language specialist at 800-287-9755 to discuss your needs for any spoken, written or signed language.

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