Speaking Test Strategies 21 Using gestures and body language

Old man sitting outside gesturing while talking
Gestures send the right unspoken message.

In this lesson, we will talk about body language and gestures. Sending the right unspoken messages will make your overall communication much more effective. 

Introduction: 

Everyone uses gestures when they communicate. In this lesson, we will think critically about them and work on matching strong gestures with other parts of communication, like phrases and intonation.

Warm Up: 

Answer these questions with your teacher: 

  1. How important are gestures in your speaking test?
  2. What gestures do you already use?
  3. Have you seen native English speakers use gestures? What are some examples?
Language: 

We are going to think about when you can use gestures, and then what gestures you can use. 

Thinking

At the start of some answers, you may need time to think. Here are some gestures for thinking: ​

  • Scratch your chin​.

 

 

 

  • Tap your cheek. 

 

 

 

  • Lean back.

 

 

 

  • Look up and frown. 

 

 

Emphasis

When making a key point, you can use gestures for emphasis

  • Pointing forward is very strong and is considered rude in some cultures, so a safer gesture is to make a loose fist or use an open hand to motion forward.​

 

 

 

  • Use eye contact with strong adjectives along with your gesture.

 

 

Uncertainty

If you are not sure about an opinion or a fact, you can use gestures to show that. For instance: 

  • Shrug your shoulders with open hands. 

 

 

 

  • ​Or just use open hands without the shoulder shrug. 

 

 

Comparison

If you make an analogy or compare two things, you can gesture to one side, then the other. 

 

 

 

 

Counting

If you count points through your answer or in your conclusion, then count up, starting with your index finger. You can use this during the middle of your answer, especially if you say, "Second..." or "Third...".  You may also want to use this in your conclusion as you repeat your key claims. 

 

 

Referring to yourself

If you talk about yourself, you can gesture to yourself. Just motion towards your chest. This seems natural with phrases such as: 

  • Well, personally, I think... 
  • In my case...

 

 

 

Practice: 

1. Read this answer aloud, using as many gestures as possible. 

Question: Where do you see yourself in 20 years? 

Well, let me think about that. Twenty years! I haven't really thought that far ahead, so I don't know exactly, but let me see. Well, my company is fantastic, so I guess I'd like to still be working here. On the other hand, starting my own business could be great. I'm not ready to do it now, but in twenty years, it's possible. So, to wrap up, I guess I see myself either at this company or at my own company. I'll have a management job, a nice office, and a happy family! I hope, anyway. 

2. Discuss the possible gestures with your instructor. 

 

3. Now practice answering another question with natural gestures.