Vive le mix, vive le bodytalk: language and kinesthetics in multicultural identities

Watching a video by Carrington-Brown this morning –  feeling slightly guilty as it has been a while since I posted here – yet enthralled by their take on cultural identities, I did a quick scroll down to fly over public opinion.  Found this comment by Roxy J:

You’re really incredibly funny and your facial expressions and impressions are on point. I could relate to a lot of them since my grandmother does Scottish dancing (she’s English, but her great-grandmother is Spanish ), my father is part Indian and most of my family who are French and English, have made me listen to Edith Piaf. While I was born in the Caribbean and my grandad is Moroccan. Lol, quite a mix.

Without reading the text again, how many nationalities can you remember across the generations listed here by Roxy J? That’s quite a mix indeed! I wonder which languages are dominant and how language maintenance works in such a complex context.

The other thing that I picked up  –  and which I haven’t given any real attention to so far in my research  –   is the correlation between language and body. Body either in the form of dance, but especially in the form of facial expressions. We know you need to ‘use’ your mouth differently according to the language spoken. German comes more from the back of my throat whilst French is formed in the nose and on the lips. But what about the rest of the face in its capacity to generate cultural identity? I know there are certain things I do with my face only when speaking a specific language: Jamaican English, for example. The ability to get the body language right – to combine the kinesthetic elements with linguistic ones – is also a marker of proficiency. Think about hands!

In France and in Germany, when learning to count to ten using their fingers, children are taught the same combination of fingers to make the number three (and therefore the number eight) :

09-08 number 3  A (4)

SDC10065 katja VIIII seem to remember making the number three by tucking my little finger down behind my thumb. In any case, it’s easier to move from my three to making a four by hiding my thumb, as the French and German and I suppose most others do. Try it!

What about you? Which facial expressions and/or other aspects of body language come to mind in your particular case? Do you have any photos/stories you would like to share? We often don’t even notice such bodytalk because it has become so natural to us, but a look through your family photo album could be quite revealing. So open those albums and get your scanners ready!


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