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The history of hand gestures

Listen to a lecture about the history of hand gestures to practise and improve your listening skills.

Do the preparation task first. Then listen to the audio and do the exercises.



Language level

Advanced: C1


I live in northern Italy and apart from the gestures mentioned in this listening, we tend to use other gestures, such as, for saying ok make with the thumb and the forefinger a sort of a circle, for saying " what to do you want" in a critical way, we close one of our hand so that the top of every or quite every of our fingers touch with themselves and then we move our hand up and down, often saying in the meantime "what do you want from me?". We use the last gesture I have described in particular when somebody has accused us to have made something wrong that we haven't do. Another gesture that we make is this: we rise one of our arm about until the head maintaining all the fingers, except for the thumb, of the hand of that arm united, stopping immediately the arm when it arrives at that height. This gesture has a vulgar meaning. We use it when we are very angry with somebody or something.

in my country there some other gestures like hugs, touching fists, weird and some complex gestures that show each other how friends they are.

Yes there are some other hand gestures that are widely used in my culture, but most of them are commonly known and used in most countries.

I do not think that we do have any different hand gestures in my culture , most of them are commonly known and used in most countries.

Yes. There are others.


After listen to this audio I wonder if there are names in english for the new kinds of greetings nowadays during covid-19 crisis. Knowing the new etiquette Is interesting for all of us


I found this audio very interesting and useful.
Is fun to discover where our habits come from, and the habit of shaking hands in a way to say hello and goodbye, and to raise our thumbs when we agree with something is very interesting and surprising to know that this habits and gestures have remained in the history thousands of years.

Also, I have discovered some new words that I didn't knew, and as I listened to the audio I realised that I understood it without having to read the transcript, so next time, I will only listen to it without reading.

what does the phrase "pardon the pun" mean?

Hello Anna

A pun is a phrase or word that has more than one meaning. The pun the speaker refers to here is 'I'd touch on some of (the hand gestures)'. The idea is that if you touch something, you use your hand to do it. Since the topic is hand gestures, there is a double meaning here.

Does that make sense?

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you for the lesson. This is exactly for my level of English.