Humans may have been trying to devise a universal language since kingdom come, but it seems that we had one all along – gestures. A new study by a team of researchers from the University of Alberta, Canada led by Simone Pika found that the unspoken communication of gestures is so strong that bilingual people often use the fluent gestures from one language, even when speaking the words of another.
As a part of the study, the researchers followed a bilingual group who spoke gesture-rich languages like French and Spanish as their mother tongue, and English – a gesture-poor language – as their second language.
The team also gathered a group of English-only speakers as a control group. As a part of the experiment conducted by the boffins, each person in the groups was given a Pink Panther cartoon to describe in their mother-tongue.
The researchers found that bilingual individuals gestured more frequently when discussing the cartoon, even when speaking in English.
Though this discovery was not unexpected, the researchers did get a surprise when they noted that the group which spoke English as their mother-tongue also gestures far more frequently.
The researchers state this is because once people learn the enhanced gesture “vocabulary”, it becomes an important aspect of communication, used alongside all languages known by the speaker.