Non-verbal interaction in the early years: Case study of Mandarin learning in Australia

(1) * Ranran Liu Mail (Western Sydney University, Australia)
(2) Nadia Di Martino Mail (University of Newcastle, Australia)
*corresponding author


Traditionally, early years education is a voice-dominated discipline where scholars pay little attention to children’s natural non-verbal communication in second language acquisition (SLA) (Spyrou, 2016). In many cases, children silence is often perceived as a problem and is captured as selective mutism (see, for example, Bligh, 2014). This article looks at a case of child silence as positive communication rather than negative mutism, a topic which is rare in the research discourse of early childhood education. If the discourse does not refer to child silence as mutism, it would then focus on the customary notion of ‘the silent period’ (Roberts, 2014) rather than on cases of micro silence within naturally occurring social interactions. This is a gap in research on silence in children language learning that this work will address. Since little research has allied this topic with teacher education (Bao 2014), the authors hope to provide implications for teacher practice drawn from data on children’s non-verbal interactions during Mandarin learning.


children’s non-verbal communication, silence, second language acquisition, early childhood education and care



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