Gullberg, M. (2011). Multilingual multimodality: Communicative difficulties and their solutions in second-language use. In J. Streeck, C. Goodwin, & C. LeBaron (Eds.), Embodied interaction: Language and body in the material world (pp. 137-151). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Using a poorly mastered second language (L2) in interaction with a native speaker is a challenging task. This paper explores how L2 speakers and their native interlocutors together deploy gestures and speech to sustain problematic interaction. Drawing on native and non-native interactions in Swedish, French, and Dutch, I examine lexical, grammatical and interaction-related problems in turn. The analyses reveal that (a) different problems yield behaviours with different formal and interactive properties that are common across the language pairs and the participant roles; (b) native and non-native behaviour differs in degree, not in kind; and (c) that individual communicative style determines behaviour more than the gravity of the linguistic problem. I discuss the implications for theories opposing 'efficient' L2 communication to learning. Also, contra the traditional view of compensatory gestures, I will argue for a multi-functional 'hydraulic' view grounded in gesture theory where speech and gesture are equal partners, but where the weight carried by the modalities shifts depending on expressive pressures.