But what is it that gives this language, spoken by so many, its own identity? As a student of Italian, and after spending time with natives from Italy, I began to notice that Italian is far from being just a language of words. By simply walking through the streets of Italy and observing, it becomes evident that there is a clear difference between Italian and other languages. Italian natives are infamous for their expression through body language, and something very noticeable is their use of hand gestures that accompany the spoken language. After a recent conversation with a friend of mine from Potenza, Italy, I realized that there is a whole other side to this wonderful language. He described to me the numerous hand gestures and there meanings and after speaking with him I became increasingly intrigued by how much significance these gestures seemed to have, and how much they characterized the Italian language. After further research I found many examples of words that were accompanied by a hand movement, and a number of feelings that may be expressed just by a simple action. For example, a mother may scream ‘basta!’ at her quarreling children whilst waving their hands in front of them, indicating them to stop. Here are a few more of my favourite examples:
• One may swear on something by simply holding their two index fingers to their mouth in the shape of a cross.
• One may express indifference to something, showing that they ‘don’t care’, by swiping the hand forward from underneath the chin.
• To indicate that somebody is ‘crazy’, one may point at their own head.
Others include those signifying cleverness, desperation, and of course to describe something as simply bellissima! After some revision of these gestures, my Italian friend was extremely amused by my attempts to mimic and copy them, and after a while I realized that as a typical British girl studying Italian, it didn’t seem right to try and adopt this type of behavior that came so naturally to him, yet so unnatural and awkward to me. In conclusion, we decided that it is not essential as a foreign learner of Italian to be able to express themselves through these well known gestures, but what is essential is to understand the meaning of them. A recognition and understanding of these can make it much easier to grasp the feeling of any conversation that may be taking place around you!