Italian gestures and gestures to learn Italian

Italian gestures and gestures to learn Italian

I bet that you know all the Italian gestures. Well, at least the most famous ones, right? Italians are famous for waving their hands when they talk. It’s part of their communication style and a surely interesting thing to learn. But did you know that there are gestures that can help you learn Italian too?

That’s right. Gestures are powerful. Whether you use them to speak more “like an Italian” or to help yourself learn Italian, they can be a great source of support.

In this article, I would like to tell you more about the nature of the Italian gestures and also about other types of gestures that can come to your rescue when you’re trying to learn Italian.

Italian gestures

The Internet is full of memes about Italian gestures. Especially about the worldwide famous Italian hand. But gestures in Italian are an important part of the communication style.

Some gestures reinforce what people say. In that case, they go together with words. An example could be moving one hand backward when talking about past events, or forward when talking about future events.

Other gestures, on the other hand, have a specific meaning and replace words or entire sentences. An example of this is the so-called “Italian hand” that I talked about before. This gesture can be used without words and it means either “cosa vuoi?” (what do you want?) or “cosa stai dicendo?” (what are you talking about?”).

Another famous gesture with a clear specific meaning is the one representing the devil’s horns. This one can mean a couple of things: people use it to either keep bad luck away or to insult someone else.

Gestures to learn Italian

Gestures, in general, are so much more than a crucial part of the Italian communication style. They can also come in handy when you’re trying to learn Italian. In particular, they can be a great helper when you want to:

  • learn and remember new words
  • learn new sounds
  • understand what someone is saying

Let’s find out more about them and let’s see how to use them to help you when you’re in the challenging process of learning Italian.


Gestures can help you learn new words. If you’re learning Italian with a teacher and they present you some new words while making a meaningful gesture, this can help you remember your new words and their meaning too. Because they help you build a stronger connection between these words and their meanings.

Make sure these gestures are meaningful to you. They can either be conventional (like the famous thumb up to say “bene” (“good”) or even made up. This means that you can even link a non-conventional gesture to a new word that you’re learning. In either case, just remember that they have to be meaningful if you want them to help you learn deeply.


Gestures can also help you learn Italian sounds and recognize them when you hear them. Now, this may come as a surprise to you. It did for me, at least. But learning a new sound while clapping your hands helps you recognize this sound even four weeks after you’ve learned it.

So, again, if you’re learning with a teacher, you can ask them to teach you new Italian sounds while you clap your hands together. If you’re learning on your own, you can spot new sounds and practice them while clapping your hands. If feels weird at first, but it comes with some nice benefits.

Understanding people

Gestures, and facial expressions too, help you have a better idea of what people say when you’re watching movies, TV shows, or videos. So, even when you’re at an intermediate level (you don’t necessarily have to be advanced to do it), you can help yourself with the combination of gestures and facial expressions and figure out what’s going on.

So, don’t worry if you think that you’re not advanced enough to understand. You can always look at someone’s face and gestures and have a better understanding of what they’re talking about.

To sum up…

Gestures have an important role in the Italian communication style. They can:

  • go with words and stress their meaning
  • replace words or entire sentences

And they can also be a powerful tool to help you

  • learn new words
  • learn and recognize new sonunds
  • understand what people say

Now, over to you. Are you going to try and use them to speak and learn Italian? Let me know how it goes.


Huang, X., Kim, N. & Christianson, K. (2018). Gesture and vocabulary learning in a second language. OASIS Summary of Huang, X., Kim, N. & Christianson, K. (2019) in Language Learning.

Iizuka, T., Nakatsukasa, K. & Braver, A. (2020). Gesture may have a memory enhancing effect in the teaching of sounds in a second language. OASIS Summary of Iizuka, T., Nakatsukasa, K. & Braver, A. (2020) in Language Learning.

Oakley Barbara, Rogowsky Beth, Sejnowski Terrence Joseph, Uncommon Sense Teaching: Practical Insights in Brain Science to Help Students Learn, TarcherPerigee, 2021

Sueyoshi, Ayano & Hardison, Debra. (2005). The Role of Gestures and Facial Cues in Second Language Listening Comprehension. Language Learning – LANG LEARN. 55. 661-699. 10.1111/j.0023-8333.2005.00320.x.

Italian gestures and gestures to learn Italian

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