"Our mutual ignorance about the gestures of other cultures is an unintentional recipe for misunderstandings, embarrassments, and conflicts. The video A WORLD OF GESTURES was designed to teach specific gestures and also sensitize the viewers to the variety and importance of cultural differences.

"The video brings to light a previously unsuspected repertory of human diversity," says Archer, "and it is humbling to realize that the gestures so familiar in our own society constitute only an arbitrary and very small fraction of the world's cultural landscape."

Other than a few basic gestures (such as patting one's stomach to indicate hunger), there are no universal motions. A foreigner can run into serious problems if he or she responds inappropriately to hostile or rude gestures.

Gestures are not taught as part of foreign language programs. A person studying a foreign language will learn words, but not the subtleties of nonverbal communication.

"A WORLD OF GESTURES" , says Archer, "explores the origin, meaning, and function of gestures. For example, why is it that certain cultures have a huge number of obscene gestures? Most Latin American societies have an impressive arsenal of gestures that say 'screw you' or, more accurately, 'screw your mother.'" (see Mexico) Some Latin societies have cultivated these insults so finely that the message can be conveyed by a whistle with five notes, or even by five hand claps.