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Texas ISD School Guide
Texas ISD School Guide

Lessons & Classroom Games for Teachers

Body Language - ESL lesson
By:Brenda Townsend Hall <tutor@teachbusinessenglish.com>

Body Language


This lesson gives practice in using the present simple tense.


Read the text below and check the meanings of any words you do not understand in a dictionary.

When we communicate with other people it is not only our words that contain the meaning. An important part of that meaning comes from what is called 'non-verbal communication'. By this we mean facial expression; gestures with hands, arms, legs; the way we sit or stand; the way we touch other people; the distance we keep between ourselves and the people we are talking to; our dress and our appearance. All these say something to other people.

Facial expressions and gestures are used by everyone often spontaneously , even unconsciously. Smiling, for example, is found in most cultures as a sign of happiness or pleasure. Gestures such as pointing, waving, shaking or nodding the head are also widely used, although the gestures themselves do not always mean the same in every culture. I once asked a Portuguese student why bank officials in Lisbon seemed so dour – sorry Lisbon bank clerks, but it's true – and he told me that if they smiled too much they would not seem serious about their work.

Because many non-verbal messages are 'culture specific', they can cause a lot of misunderstanding between people from different backgrounds. Northern Europeans and Americans, for example, like to keep a certain 'personal space' between themselves and others and feel uncomfortable if people come too close to them. In these same cultures it is considered impolite to stare , but Greeks, it is said, feel ignored if people do not stare at them in public. Europeans usually change their facial expression to show happiness, anger, boredom, sadness. For this reason they call oriental people 'inscrutable' because they change facial expression much less.

In styles of dress we also make important statements about ourselves. Dress codes vary greatly from one culture to another and it is easy to make mistakes about people's status if you don't know the cultural norm. In Mediterranean cultures bank officials and similar employees wear short-sleeved, open-neck shirts and no jackets. This casual dress would not be acceptable in northern Europe, where suits and ties are a sign of seriousness. Ambitious women in western cultures wear classic clothes in sober colours to indicate their dedication to career.

One of the main differences between verbal and non-verbal communication is that we are often not conscious of the expressions and gestures we use and so we are in danger of giving more information than we really want to, or even of giving a conflicting message with our body language to the one expressed in our words.

Some points to consider

Identify some of your culture's body language by answering the questions below. These questions are open and do not have a right or wrong answer. They are to help you think about body language.

1. When you meet someone for the first time, how do you greet him or her?

2. Do you use the same greeting for men as for women?

3. How do you greet your friends?

4. How do you greet a friend of the opposite sex?

5. How do you greet members of your family:

children, adults,old people?

6. Describe three gestures you use frequently and say what they mean.

7. How would you expect the following people to dress?

a dentist
a bank manager
a teacher
a shop assistant
a secondary school student

8. Which gestures are impolite in your culture?

Exercise 1
This exercise is to test your understanding of the text. Read the questions below and choose the best answer.

1. 'Body language' is:

A. The way we dress

B. The expressions on our face

C. Non-verbal communication

2. When we do something 'spontaneously' (line 6), we do it:

A. immediately

B. after careful thought

C. reluctantly

3. 'Status' (line 22) means:

A. condition

B. level of seniority

C. age

4. 'Classic clothes' (line 26) are:

A. fashionable wear

B. casual dress

C. unobtrusive, sensible dress

5. A 'conflicting message' (line 30)gives people:

A. useful information

B. confusing information

C. wrong information.
Grammar Guru

The Present Simple Tense
To form the present simple tense you take the base form of the verb (the infinitive without 'to'):
 I
 We
 You sing / dance / work
 they

For the 3rd person singular, use the base form, but add the letter –s:
 He
 She sings / dances / works
 It

 When a verb ends in the letter –y then it becomes –ies instead of –s (I try/he tries)
 When a verb ends in –s, –x, –z, –ch, –sh then the third person singular adds –es:
(she passes, he fixes, it buzzes, he reaches, she polishes).
 Other exceptions are: (do) he does/ (go) she goes / (have) he has.
 The verb to be is as follows: I am, you are, he/she/it is, we are, you are, they are.

I/we/you/they + don't + base form: I don't live in a town
He/she/it + doesn't + base form: She doesn't speak French.

Do + I/we/you/they + base form: Do you work in this office?
Does + he/she/it + base form: Does he play golf?

We use the present simple tense to express several different ideas:
1. To say that something is generally true (it is not related to specific time):she speaks several languages; he drives very carefully.
2. To express scientific facts: metal expands when heated; the sun rises in the east, water boils at 100°C.
3. To give instructions: put the ingredients in the mixing bowl and add one cupful of water.
4. To express likes and dislikes, feelings etc.: I hate cold weather; he is happy about his promotion; she likes her new job.
5. To talk about habits and routines: I like to watch television in the evening; I have coffee for breakfast; he goes to work by train; she usually gets up early.
6. To express a commitment: he promises to work harder; she agrees to the new contract.
7. To talk about something that is scheduled to happen in the future: the train leaves at six o'clock this evening; she leaves for New York next week; the restaurant opens at midday.

Exercise 2
Read the company information below and choose the correct verb (insert the number) for the gaps from the list below.

In many countries, Unilever.....the home care market, which

cleansing and hygiene products. In the personal care market, Unilever......

leaders in products for skin cleansing, deodorants and antiperspirants.

Innovation........vitally important in these markets. Recent success stories include:

* The launch of liquid tablets within the laundry business.

*Comfort Vaporesse, which......fabrics smell fresher and prevents limescale when used in steam irons.

* Pond's Perfect, launched in Japan, which......a leading position in the mass sector of the anti-ageing market.

Unilever's brands......for consumers everywhere and they produce

products for all kinds of requirements and conditions – from laundry soap

bars for consumers using river water, to tablets for the most advanced

washing machines. In both home care and personal care, Unilever has

products that.......the diversity of their consumers.

1. cater
2. holds
3. leads
4. match
5. is
6. are
7. includes
8. make

Grammar Tip

When the present simple tense is used to describe activities that happen on a regular, frequent or occasional basis, the verb is often accompanied by an adverb of frequency and an adverbial phrase of time.

Here are some examples:

He always takes his shower in the morning.

She usually goes shopping at the weekend.

We often have barbecues in the summer.

Sometimes they swim in the river.

We rarely go abroad for our holidays.

You never do the washing-up.

Exercise 3

Choose the letter that best describes the use of the present simple tense in the sentences below the list:

a.Routines/regular habits
b.General truths
c.Scheduled event
e.Scientific fact

Wash at 40°C. Do not iron.
This flight leaves at 14.00
Heat rises
He has coffee and toast for breakfast.
I accept the terms of the contract.
He speaks four languages.
I love sightseeing.

Free writing: now write a sentence of your own for each use of the present simple tense.

Routines/regular habits
General truths
Scheduled event
Scientific fact

Style Tip

Language structures can be used to suggest nuances of meaning as well as obvious ones.
See below how question styles can express such nuances.

Simple questions

You can use simple questions to obtain the information you need:

 Can you drive?
 Does he live here?
 Where do you work?

Questions like this are very direct and suggest simply that the questioner is interested in receiving the answers.

Negative questions

If you use negative questions, however, you reveal an attitude of surprise, expectation, even disapproval:

 Can't you drive? (the questioner believes you can't and uses a negative question to show surprise)
 Doesn't he live here? (the questioner thinks he does and uses a negative question to indicate that belief)
 Where doesn't he work? (the questioner believes the person being talked about works in several places and perhaps disapproves of that).

By choosing our structure we can reveal an attitude that lies behind the obvious meaning of the words.

Exercise 4

Make negative questions form the prompts below, e.g.

You/eat/meat Don't you eat meat?

1. She/can/swim

2. We/can/park/here

3. He/like/his job

4. She/speak/French

5. They/understand/the situation

6. You/want/to watch the match


Body language 'speaks' through facial expressions:


and through the messages we give from the way we dress, whether we stand or sit, how close we come to people.

Here are some exercises on the vocabulary associated with body language.

Exercise 5

Match these actions with the messages they give

to frown

to smile

to cry

to tremble

to raise your eyebrows

to grit your teeth
being afraid

being surprised

being determined

being worried

being happy

being sad

Exercise 6

Posture is the word used to describe the way we use our whole body. We can stand straight and still, like a soldier on parade; we can sit back in a relaxed manner; we can fold our arms, cross our legs; we can lie down; we can jump about. Each posture reflects our emotion and attitude.

Think about postures and what they can show. Match the description of a posture , to an attitude or emotion . Don't forget to use your dictionary to check the mean of new words.

1. She sits and folds her arms, hugging her body

2. She stands and pats her hair

3. He stands and adjusts his tie

4. He shrugs his shoulders

5. He sits and puts his head down or down or slightly to one side

6. He sits and bangs the table

7. He sits and fidgets and then stands and walks about.

8. She leans forward

a. anger
f.male pride
h. lack of concern

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