Most famous Italian hand gestures and why Italians speak with their hands

Italian hand gestures and why Italians speak with their hands

If you want to “parla Italiano” well, then you have to learn how to punctuate your words with the myriad hand gestures that are such an important part of Italians’ spoken communication. Those gestures convey subtle differences in meaning which can be hard to pick up on. One article in the New York Times claims that Italians use around 250 gestures daily.
Sometimes gesturing can get out of hand, even in Italy. Last year, Italy’s highest court ruled that a man who inadvertently struck an 80-year-old woman while gesticulating in a piazza was liable for civil damages. The judges ruled: “The public street isn’t a living room!”

According to some, the origin of the habit of communicating with one’s hands can be traced back to the Greek colonization of southern Italy; in those times, cities were extremely crowded and body language was particularly important to catch each other’s attention at all levels. Other experts think Italians develop a special language made of gestures and signs between the 14th and 19th century, when large sections of the peninsula were occupied by foreign powers, namely France, Spain and Austria.

There are plenty of Italian hand gestures tutorial videos out there, but there is one that is particularly pleasing to the eye – with the male models of Dolce&Gabbana! Can you tell the models who are Italian from those who aren’t, just from the way they use their hands?

Listen to this story and Verbalists on Spotify:

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