My informant, Ofelia, gave me great insight to the verbal and non-verbal communication amongst the people of Panama. The main language of Panama is Spanish, but the language is more than that. Ofelia describes her language as the language of comforts and vulgarities, which to her implies the close relationship between the people of Panama. Instead of a standard greeting or handshake, people usually meet each other with a kiss on each cheek. Closeness is also shown by people standing very close when having a simple conversation. She even said herself that she found it very odd that no one in america stands close while speaking.
Another aspect to communication in Panama is the interaction between separate classes. Panama is split up into social sections, or a sort of hierarchy. People of lower class are treated differently than people of a higher class, close to segregation. When people of a lower class approach people of a higher class, the lower class always shows respect and seniority even if the person being addressed is younger. Ofelia talked of having maids, and because of their social status, always showed Ofelia respect by a greeting of inferiority or some sort of physical action like a bow. Lower class were always treated differently when compared to the higher class.
Her idea’s of language from her country give insight into the Spapir-Whorf hypothesis. She perceives things differently from how american’s do which could be because she speaks a different language. A simple shaking of a hand to her means an idea or some sort of epiphany, while to an average american, shaking their hand rapidly is most probably a sign of injury. Ofelia’s response was “When you move your hand it means surprise rather than an action of pain.” Perception plays a big role in linguistics from any country and it is easy to see the differences in non-verbal language between a language barrier.
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