Dianne Hales identifies and shares the many hand gestures used during Italian language conversation. With the help of a photograph and explanation, Hales teaches us how to do as the Italians do!
Italians, with their innate passion to communicate, have never let words get in the way. In Italy the shrug of a shoulder, the flip of a wrist or the lift of an eyebrow says more than a sacco di parole (sack of words).
Gestures are to Italian conversation what punctuation is to writing. Hands become exclamation points, periods, commas, question marks.
Even before the law banned talking on cell phones while driving, Italians would pull over to the side of the road because they couldn’t drive and carry on a conversation. In the old days of telephone booths, Italians would step outside so they would have space to express themselves fully.
Whether you realize it or not, you are already somewhat fluent in Italian body language. Gestures used in other countries — such as holding up an index finger to speak or interrupt, putting a finger to the lips to request silence or scratching one’s head when befuddled — translate precisely into wordless Italian.
And you can always improvise. If something smells bad, you don’t have to say “che puzza!” Simply pinch your nose. If you’re hungry, pat your stomach. If you can’t hear what someone is saying, cup your ear.
The meaning of other gestures can vary from region to region and always depend on context. A clenched fist can signify rage, irritation, anger or threat, for instance. Fingers bunched together may indicate complexity or confusion.