Body language is an important aspect of intercultural communication and using video allows you to observe the body language in action. I classify body language as follows.
* Facial expressions. This includes eye contact, smiling etc.
* Gestures: arms folded, arms by the sides, arms waving about etc.
* Posture: how people stand, whether they lean forward or sit back, are relaxed or stiff.
* Proximity: how close people stand to each other
* Dress: How do people dress? Is it formal or informal?
* Location: Where does the interaction take place? How does the environment affect what people say and how they say it?
And here's an activity I use with a new DVD based programme called EUROPE AT WORK (www.EIworkplace.net). The 14 DVD scenarios show cultural misunderstandings in different environments. The one on body language is about eye contact and is particularly useful.
Set up the video unit ready for showing on a DVD player.
1 Divide the class into groups. Get each group to focus on one area of the DVD scenario as above. So you will need a minimum of six groups.
2 Explain the task. They must watch the DVD and observe what happens.
3 Play the DVD unit WITH THE SOUND MUTE. The class observe what is happening and make notes.
4 Elicit from each group what they have observed.
5 If you want, ask them to predict the topic of the conversation and also predict the mood.
6 Play the DVD again, this time with the SOUND UP. Each group checks its observations.
7 Each group clarifies its observations and relates them to the topic of the DVD.
8 Summarise the key body language points and check how they relate to the mood of the speakers and the language they use.
9 At the end, ask the three questions.
* What have you learned about British/ US etc. culture?
* What have you learned about your culture?
* What will you say or do differently if you meet a person from the UK/US etc.?
See Tomalin B and Stempleski S 'Cultural Awareness' (OUP) and Susan Stempleski and Barry Tomalin 'Film' (OUP' for more ideas in this area.