A Comparative Study of British and Chinese Non-verbal Communication in “Are Our Kids Tough Enough? Chinese School”

Authors: Hamzeh Moradi (Nanfang College, China)
Speakers: Hamzeh Moradi
Strand: Nonverbal Semiotics
Session Type: General Session


Compared with verbal communication, relatively little research has examined the non-verbal communication between the Chinese and the British. The primary focus of the present research is on Chinese and British body language and patterns of body movements and their social and cultural functions during social interactions. This paper takes the documentary “Are Our Kids Tough Enough? Chinese School,” broadcast by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in 2015, as the primary source of research material and data. It examines the body language of British teachers, students, and Chinese teachers in the BBC documentary in terms of eye contact, gestures, body movements, facial expressions, body distance or proxemics, and body touch, and it provides a comparative analysis of such non-verbal communication patterns among these groups. This research adopted synchronic and comparative research methods.  Synchronic analysis was used to explore the possible similarities and differences between Chinese and English body language and non-verbal behaviors in terms of forms, semantics, functions, and contexts to better understand modern cross-cultural communication between China and the UK. On the basis of comparative or contrastive analysis, commonly used in language research, the paper aimed to describe the Chinese and English body language systems and presented a simultaneous comparison to highlight the similarities and differences that may affect communication outcomes. After screening the kinesics or non-verbal behaviors of the participants in the documentary and selecting representative items as the basis of our contrastive analysis, we classified them as the analytical objects and criteria of the study. The results highlighted similarities and differences between Chinese and English non-verbal communication due to diverse social, historical, and cultural backgrounds, which may lead to the discovery of the underlying attitudes and values of the two cultures. Taking these comparative cases into consideration can improve individuals’ non-verbal communicative awareness and cultivate their intercultural communicative competence, to avoid intercultural misunderstanding and help both parties successfully complete information transmission and achieve communicative goals. In addition, this paper can also help people who have just entered the second culture environment reduce social and psychological distance, pass the stage of cultural shock, and better integrate into the foreign social environment.

Keywords: Body language, British, Chinese, Cross-cultural communication, Non-verbal communication