Arabic Language Blog

Non verbal communication – actions and reactions Posted by on May 26, 2011 in Culture

Following on with the topic of non-verbal communication, sometimes we communicate by doing things, e.g. knocking on the door or ringing the bell is a way of communicating that one needs or wants to enter or speak with someone inside. Also, at school, the bell tells students when to start the lesson and finish it, when to have their breaks, etc. The siren of an ambulance or another emergency car tells drivers that the driver is dealing with an emergency and requires attention.

The horn and lights of one’s car is also a means of communication. This provides a good example of differences between both cultures, as in the West people use the car lights all the time to communicate the directions they intend to take, to allow other drivers to go first, etc. However, in the Middle East, Egypt is my main reference here; the horn is used all the time to communicate different messages. It is used so extensively that tuning the horn sound in a certain way can mean words like, ‘can I go first?’, or ‘STOP!’ Therefore, the car horn is used too much in Egypt, and when you visit it for the first time, or after a long time, you feel what noise!

Moving hands to show come and go is another way of communicating actions.


Doing certain things can be a way of communication, and not doing things can also be a way of communicating certain attitudes like, ‘I do not care’ or ‘I am not interested!’


Looking into your watch can tell someone that they are late! In old Arabia, when one is at a meeting, and they wears his cloak, it conveyed disagreement and withdrawal from the meeting. We have a word used in everyday language based on this attitude, which is ‘مقموص’, and now we use it to convey this attitude.

We have seen and we still see in the Arab revolutions how music, banners, graffiti and other ways of non-verbal communication are used to communicate political attitudes.


One cannot underestimate the value of non-verbal communication in everyday life communication.


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