By Nor Nabilah Abdullatif

Most of us have experienced going into a place that nobody speaks our native language but there are languages that we can used to make other people understand us. Chinese, Spanish, and English are among the most spoken language in the world. However, what would happen if we are stranded in a place where the people couldn’t speak or understand any of the languages that we speak? How do we communicate or ask for help? The answer is nonverbal communication. According to Nordquist (2019), nonverbal communication refers to a communication process without using spoken or written words. This type of communication is also called manual language. Nonverbal communication can be considered as universal language because it is innate and people in different cultures and countries have a common understanding of these cues.

As humans, we express our emotions through facial expressions. Frith (2009) claimed, the emotion of facial expressions are not simply reflective but also consist of communicative components.The message of fear can be conveyed via the facial expression of widen eyes, eyebrows are raised and pulled together, and lips slightly stretched horizontally. This type of cues can help other people to understand our emotions and helps us to deliver our message. No matter what kind of culture or language that we speak, we will always be able to read facial expressions.

“There was speech in their dumbness, language in their very gesture”. The quoted line was taken from one of William Shakespeare’s writings. Some of us tend to move our hands and arms while we speak. This gesture reveal important insights into the speakers’s thoughts (Holler & Beattie, 2007). A simple gesture like “thumbs up” could easily be understood as a sign of good or everything is under control. These gestures are important in giving clues to the message that we try to deliver.

We have used symbols in our daily lives. These symbols help us to understand or interpret something better. Arrows are one of the symbols that are commonly used. According to George (2005), the meaning of symbols are more easily perceived and comprehended. Thus, it can be disseminated quicker. Most of the people around the world have the same interpretation of a symbol. As an example, red colour symbolizes “stop or danger.”

Knowing the functions and interpretation of nonverbal communication is important because we are communicating with people from various cultures everyday in our lives. Being a bilingual or multilingual speaker is absolutely beneficial but if none of the spoken language works, we can use nonverbal communication. Although we do not speak the same language around the world, we still share the same ground in nonverbal communication. A language that is understood by all of the world’s population.


Frith, C. (2009). Role of Facial Expressions in Social Interactions.

George, A. (2005). Communication through Symbols: Study and Analysis. Calicut: University of Calicut.

Holler, J., & Beattie, G. (2007). Gesture Use in Social Interaction: How Speakers’ Gestures Can Reflect Listeners’ Thinking.

Nordquist, R. (2019, July 26). What is Nonverbal Communication. Retrieved from ThoughtCo.: http://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-nonverbal-communication.