Hello, students from all over the world!
For our article of the month this time as a topic I have chosen a theme that is a hallmark for us Italians because if it is true that in Italy there are infinite accents, pronunciations, and dialects, which can vary from region to region but even from city to city (but we will talk about this in another article), we Italians manage to understand each other even without speaking because there is a universal language that unites us. Well yes, I am talking about what we always do, now unintentionally, which is GESTICOLARE (gesticulate). We gesture for anything and a gesture can have different meanings depending on the situation, facial expressions, the way it is done, and so on. Just think that I, at the beginning of my experience as an italki tutor, did nothing but try to quiet my hands or tried to put them under the desk so as to "hide" them so as not to distract the student or to prevent him or her from finding me "strange," but then on reflection, I realized that I was making a mistake and there were several reasons for this: the first was that by concentrating on the movement of my hands, I was listening less to the person I was talking to and then, secondly, and this is, in my opinion, the most important motivation, which then led me to experience all the video lessons very naturally, is that by gesturing with my hands and with my body in general, I was making the student live an experience and not just a lesson or a conversation with a native Italian speaker and furthermore often my way of moving my hands to reinforce a concept, was also a reason for opening a topic of conversation.
But let's cut to the chase: why do we gesticulate, have we ever wondered? Is there a logical and scientific explanation for this pronounced phenomenon that distinguishes our culture abroad? Or do we simply relegate its explanation to our love for the theatrical world?
Well, one of the first theories that tried to answer this question concerns past territorial occupations. It is thought that the Italians probably felt the need to develop an alternative form of communication among themselves during the centuries when the peninsula was occupied by Austria, France, and Spain. Since these occupations did not last long and the language was now contaminated, new ways to communicate were needed, and bodily expression was certainly the most direct way.
Another corroborated theory as to why we gesticulate is one that ties in with the period of colonization in southern Italy. In fact, a professor of psychology at a university in Rome says that in cities as crowded as those in southern Italy were, it was as if there was a kind of competition and that therefore the whole body was used to gain the attention of others. Both explanations seem to be plausible and it could be that they are both partly true, so it could be possible that there is not only a reason for this phenomenon but that many small things created this way of speaking without using the voice.
Let us come to the numbers and examples: it has been estimated (again by the same scholar and lecturer mentioned just before, by the way) that there would exist at least 250 different gestures and each of them stands for one or even more meanings.
A classic example of a typical Italian gesture, perhaps the best known in the world and which is also depopulating on the most used social networks, for which an emoji () was also invented, is that of the pine-cone hand: also called the tulip hand, it is a gesture characterized by grouping the fingers in a way that recalls the shape of a pine-cone, swinging the hand toward the interlocutor. It has a double meaning: interrogative or critical. In the first case, it could be translated into speech as "what do you want?"; in the second case it could be translated as "what are you talking about!" or "not at all." In the first meaning usually, the hand moves quickly, in the second case the hand swings more slowly to emphasize the critical position of the interlocutor. As you have therefore well understood, we Italians speak with gestures and words, and this phrase is not an exaggeration but a reality. Recent studies by researchers at the University of Parma, have shown that our brain recognizes words and objects by helping itself with the gesture we have internalized of them. And this potential then is also exploited for rehabilitation therapies in the treatment of brain trauma.
They, therefore, concluded that "Our gesturing habit is so internalized that it can be considered nonverbal speech, which nevertheless conveys a clearly decodable meaning." And it is with this beautiful sentence that I bid you farewell and look forward to the next article. Have a good study, ciaooo!