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Unit 4 Body Language Reading COMMUNICATION: NO PROBLEM? Yesterday, another student and I, representing our university’s student association, went to the Capital International Airport to meet this year’s international students. They were coming to study at Beijing University. We would taken them first to their dormitories and then to the student canteen. After half an hour of waiting for their flight to arrive, I saw several young people enter the waiting area looking around curiously. I stood fro a minute watching them and then went to greet them. The first person to arrive was Tony Garcia from Colombia, closely followed by Julia Smith from Britain. After I met them and then introduced them to each other, I was very surprised. Tony approached Julia, touched her shoulder and kissed her on the cheek! She stepped back appearing surprised and put up her hands, as if in defence. I guessed that there was probably a major misunderstanding. Then Akira Nagata from Japan came in smiling, together with George Cook from Canada. As they were introduced, George reached his hand out to the Japanese student. Just at that moment, however, Akria bowed so his nose touched George’s moving hand. They both apologized— another cultural mistake! Ahmed Aziz, another international student, was from Jordan. When we met yesterday, he moved very close to me as I introduced myself. I moved back a bit, but he came closer to ask a question and then shook my hand. When Darlene Coulon from France came dashing through the door, she recognized Tony Garcia’s smiling face. They shook hand and then kissed each other twice on each cheek, since that is the French custom when adults meet people they know. Ahmed Aziz, on the contrary, simply nodded at the girls. Men from Middle Eastern and other Muslim countries will often stand quite close to other men to talk but will usually not touch women. As I get to know more international friends, I learn more about this cultural “body language”. Not all cultures greet each other the same way, nor are they comfortable in the same way with touching or distance between people. In the same way that people communicate with spoken language, they also express their feelings using unspoken “language” through physical distance, actions or posture. English people, for example, do not usually stand very close to others or touch strangers as soon as they meet. However, people from places like Spain, Italy or South American countries approach others closely and are more likely to touch them. Most people around the world now greet each other by shaking hands, but some cultures use other greetings as well, such as the Japanese, who prefer to bow.

These actions are not good or bad, but are simply ways in which cultures have developed. I have seen, however, that cultural customs for body language are very general—not all members of a culture behave in the same way. In general, though, studying international customs can certainly help avoid difficulties in today’s world of cultural crossroads! Using Language SHOWING OUR FEELINGS Body language is one of the most powerful means of communication, often even more powerful than spoken spoken language. People around the world show all kinds of feelings, wishes and attitudes that they might never speak aloud. It is possible to “read” others around us, even if they do not intend for us to catch their unspoken communication. Of course, body language can be misread, but many gestures and actions are universal. The most university facial expression is, of course, the smile— its function is to show happiness and put people at ease. It does not always mean that we are truly happy, however. Smiles around the world can be false, hiding other feelings like anger, fear or worry. There are unhappy smiles, such as when someone “loses face” and smiles to hide it. However, the general purpose of smiling is to show good feelings. From the time we are babies, we show unhappiness or anger by frowning. In most places around the world, frowning and turning one’s back to someone shows anger. Making a fist and shaking it almost always means that someone is angry and threatening anther person. There are many ways around the world to show agreement, but nodding the head up and down is used for agreement almost worldwide. Most people also understand that shaking the head from side to side means disagreement or refusal. How about showing that I am bored? Looking away from people or yawning will, in most cases, make me appear to be uninterested. However, if I turn toward and look at someone or something, people from almost every culture will think that I am interested. If I roll my eyes and turn my head away, I most likely do not believe what I am hearing or do not like it. Being respectful to people is subjective, based on each culture, but in general it is probably not a good idea to give a hug to a boss or teacher. In almost every culture, it is not usually good to stand too close to someone of a higher rank. Standing at a little distance with open hands will show that I am willing to listen. With so many cultural differences between people, it is great to have some similarities in body language. We can often be wrong about each other, so it is an amazing thing that we understand each other as well as we do!

Cloning

Cloning has always been with us and is here to stay. It is a way of making an exact copy of another animal or plant. It happens in plants when gardeners take cuttings from growing plants to make new ones. It also happens in animals when twins identical in sex and appearance are produced from the same original egg. The fact is that these are both examples of natural clones. Cloning has two major uses. Firstly, gardeners use it all the time to produce commercial quantities of plants. Secondly, it is valuable for research on new plant species and for medical research on animals. Cloning plants is straightforward while cloning animals is very complicated. It is a difficult task to undertake. Many attempts to clone mammals failed. But at last the determination and patience of the scientists paid off in 1996 with a breakthrough - the cloning of Dolly the sheep. The procedure works like this: On the one hand, the whole scientific world followed the progress of the first successful clone, Dolly the sheep. The fact that she seemed to develop normally was very encouraging. Then came the disturbing news that Dolly had become seriously ill. Cloning scientists were cast down to find that Dolly's illnesses were more appropriate to a much older animal. Altogether Dolly lived six and a half years, half the length of the life of the original sheep. Sadly the same arbitrary fate affected other species, such as cloned mice. The questions that concerned all scientists were: "Would this be a major difficulty for all cloned animals? Would it happen forever? Could it be solved if corrections were made in their research procedure?" On the other hand, Dolly's appearance raised a storm of objections and had a great impact on the media and public imagination. It became controversial. It suddenly opened everybody's eyes to the possibility of using cloning to cure serious illnesses and even to produce human beings. Although at present human egg cells and embryos needed for cloning research are difficult to obtain, newspapers wrote of evil leaders hoping to clone themselves to attain their ambitions. Religious leaders also raised moral questions. Governments became nervous and more conservative. Some began to reform their legal systems and forbade research into human cloning, but other countries like China and the UK, continued to accumulate evidence of the abundant medical aid that cloning could provide. However, scientists still wonder whether cloning will help or harm us and where it is leading us.


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