Saturday, January 24, 2015

Clear advice: Love your (pronunciation teaching) method!

Have recently "discovered" the popular blog of James Clear who, to quote his self description:  . . . writes about science-based ideas for living a better life and building habits that stick.

I was, of course, immediately hooked when I got to the last word there--and great haptic metaphor! Full disclosure: He is also a weight lifter. Sports and exercise coaches are simply the best when it comes to developing systems that involve movement and discipline--like pronunciation teaching.

He concludes an intriguing post entitled "Forget About Setting Goals. Focus on This Instead" with the striking line: "Fall in love with systems!" (Required reading!)

Clear is not referring to "Aims and aspirations" that provide motivation and passion, as described by Wells (2003) :

"What are the student’s personal aims and aspirations in language learning? . . . Some just want enough English to communicate at a basic level, or indeed just enough to pass some examination. Others aim to achieve the best they possibly can. We must cater for both types and for those who fall somewhere between. Speaking personally, I must say that my own aspiration in learning languages is NS-like proficiency. I acknowledge that I may be unlikely to attain it. But that doesn’t stop me aiming for it. I try to inspire my students with the same high ideal. If it were suggested that I should not even aim so high, I should feel short-changed. "

Many describe today's language teaching as "post method," meaning that there are no longer any generally applicable systems that work in a broad range of contexts. Very true. That does not mean, however,  that a "local" method is not necessary. On the contrary . . .

Balancing "high ideals" and feasible process is the trick. For example, the "wrong" kind of goals for learners working on pronunciation are often simply unrealistic, given the time, talent and resources available. Nothing wrong with aiming at NS-like level, unless you are an intermediate-level student with only three months to get there, etc. Even a goal such as "fixing" use of "th" or a particular vowel in a week or two by the same intermediate student can be at best counter-productive. That is especially true without a very rigorous practice regimen handy to direct energy and effort.

Do your students "fall in love" with your system or one that they have adapted from yours? Do you provide them with a "clear" framework detailing their part in the process, understanding of what is behind it and how it facilitates progress? Do you follow up with them consistently on how they are doing and how they working in it?

Clear's point is that making change "stick," which demands discipline and limiting attention and focus, also requires commitment to a set of principles and consistent scheduling--along with having confidence and trust in both the system and the provider of it. Once a learner's general, realistic goal has been articulated and locked in, attention (and passion) must shift to the systematic "heavy lifting" of the day-to-day training process and stay there. Trust, love (and obey) the method, the system! (See his framework for getting started in that direction.) What an absolutely radical, "retro" notion today!

Do you have a "clear" one-page description of your system that students can easily understand, follow--and love? A quick review of published pronunciation textbooks didn't turn up anything close to that. I am working on one now (for haptic pronunciation teaching) that will serve as a model for my graduate students in applied phonology this semester to follow as they develop their own.

I'll share that shortly here, too,  a "loveable" system of sorts. If you have a good one now, please pass it on. I'll create a "Love-my-methods" page off the blog to display them.

Love to see yours . . .

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Don't look now: Recall, rapport and (haptic) pronunciation teaching

Nice study by Nash, Nash, Morris and Smith. (summarized by Science Daily) titled, " Does rapport-building boost the eyewitness eyeclosure effect in closed questioning?" (See full citation below.) 
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Many appear to close their eyes to help remember. Research in several fields has looked at the impact of eye closure. One of the persistent puzzles has been why there should be such variability in subject response, whether in hypnosis or, as in this study, witness recall of events. One hypothesis has been that rapport with the interviewer or researcher is critical. Here is the bottom line from the authors: 

"It is clear from our research that closing the eyes and building rapport help with witness recall . . . Although closing your eyes to remember seems to work whether or not rapport has been built beforehand, our results show that building rapport makes witnesses more at ease with closing their eyes. That in itself is vital if we are to encourage witnesses to use this helpful technique during interviews."

I have for decades ( more or less randomly) asked students to use eye closure when trying to "anchor" or recall pronunciation. By anchoring I mean using a gesture culminating in touch of both hands on the stressed syllable of a word or phrase. When doing that, in general, the eyes tend to follow the hands, to some degree controlling attention in the visual field. There are, occasionally, learners who seem to be better at anchoring with eyes closed as well. (I have worked with a few blind students and, once guided through the gestures of the system, they do at least as well as the sighted, if not better.) 

Another aspect of the process that I have not always attended to well is what I'd call "daily rapport," something closer to what is used in the study, working quickly to get relaxed, comfortable attention in the class before getting back to the heavy lifting.

Going to begin taking a second look at eye closure during directed recall in our work and the requisite level of rapport to enhance it. 

An "eye opening" piece of research, eh! 

Full citation:
University of Surrey. (2015, January 16). Closing your eyes boosts memory recall, new study finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 20, 2015 from

Monday, January 19, 2015

When a nod is nod enough: Coconut Cheeseburger

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On the way to the TESOL convention in 1987, at the Greenville-Spartenburg airport, there also was a “mass” of tanned, wacky (hungover?) college students on their way back from spring break in Florida. Next to where I was sitting there was a group of about a dozen who were laughing uproariously.

The story went that one of the young women had intended to order a coke and a cheeseburger at a restaurant, but was served, instead, a Coconut Cheeseburger. As the recipient of the exotic sandwich continued to deny having ordered it, another insisted that he had, in fact, observed her do just that.

What was fascinating was that both were using energetic upper torso nods with simultaneous "thigh slaps"—which created and emphasized either one or two tone/rhythm groups: (“I’d like a Coke / and a Cheeseburger.”) or what he said she said: (“I’d like a Coconut Cheeseburger.”)

It was easy to “see" how in a noisy restaurant--where there was, apparently, a coconut cheeseburger on the menu--that the waiter could get it wrong. Had she used one obvious upper torso nod or two? (Nod, if you guessed right, that the protagonist was a male, English major, almost certainly a significant other of the recipient of the burger--or trying desperately to become one!)

It would take me another two decades to figure out how to make that principle work systematically-- in haptic pronunciation teaching..

Thursday, January 15, 2015

No (pronunciation teaching) experience . . . REQUIRED!

Got a comment on a recent YouTube video clip: "I'll admit that I am a doubter . . . I have never tried Bill Acton's method, but in my experience . . . "

Normally, I prefer doing teacher training with those who have not had too much phonetics or have not been teaching pronunciation using an "orthodox" method for too long. (I suspect that the commenter meets neither criteria!)

I try to avoid retreating to the post-modernist's ultimate cliche of "If you aren't an X then you can't possibly know or understand an X's method"--but in this instance, I think I will. Too often, criticism of this (experiential) system is from those who have never, will not or cannot try it. There are several posts that consider valid psychological, pedagogical and neurological grounds for those responses.

Admittedly, haptic pronunciation teaching (EHIEP) is for some experiential learning in the extreme. Buy in to the system is unquestionably so. Typically, if we can get a teacher to attend a workshop--or students to do the first three modules of the system, they're sold.

We are always working on ways to truncate that process, but so far it is inescapable: You have got to do some of this stuff to get it. For "Newbees," it should be a piece of cake; others should just try to tone down "fossilized" pre-frontal chatter and let their bodies figure it out for them--first.

"Train the body first." (Arthur Lessac)

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Change of date for Haptic Pronunciation Teaching Seminar (February 28, 2015)

AHEPS v3.0 Bees and Butterflies
(Serious fun!)
As announced earlier, we DO plan on holding a day-long seminar on haptic pronunciation teaching next month, February 28th, at Trinity Western University in Langley, BC (originally scheduled for Saturday, the 21st.)

Morning (9~12)

  • Haptic learning preliminaries
  • Vowels and word stress
  • Rhythm and phrase grouping
  • Intonation

Afternoon (1~5)

  • Fluency
  • Expressiveness
  • Consonants
  • Haptic-integrated teaching methods
Evening (Optional)
"Get-in-touch" Dinner

$100 (Materials provided as downloads and streaming), or
$150 (Includes hardcopies of all DVDs, Guide and Notes)

Enrolment/RSVP deadline: February 13th! If you plan on coming, drop us an email: If you can't make this one, join us May 23rd for the next one!

On the 21st, instead, we'll be at the 2015 Vancouver Island Regional Conference at Global Village Victoria. We hope to have a haptic workshop at the conference, too. If you are coming, check in with us in the networking area in the morning at the first coffee break!

Mastering new movement (and pronunciation!): Follow through, follow up or foul up?

Mastery learning has gotten an undeservedly bad rap in many areas of education--but not fo
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r those of us engaged in the "somatic" or bodily arts, where systematic control of movement in training is critical. In athletic or music training it is a given; in contemporary pronunciation work and elsewhere it is a decidedly mixed bag. Articulatory work with learners, for example, can be incredibly difficult. What level of mastery of a sound, for example, is adequate in a given context? More importantly, how can you get there?

A new study by Howard, Wolpert and Franklin (Summarized by Science Daily -  See complete reference below), looked at the function of follow through in learning new movement. Subjects were trained in a new hand movement (grasping and turning a handle of sorts) and a "path" to a resting state for the hand to take after the targeted movement execution. 

What they discovered was that the more inconsistent the movement on the follow-through path, the more the mastery of the targeted movement was compromised: " . . . this research suggests that this variability . . . reduces the speed of learning of the skill that is being practiced . . . "

Keep in mind that this is training in movement, although the parallel to learning in general seems striking. There are analogous practices in various disciplines. In hypnotherapy, for example, what immediately follows the focused training will always be some kind of dis-associative technique to "protect" what has been anchored from distraction and conscious "doubt" or negation.

Following up on a recent post on "distraction," after reading the study, I did a quick review of the pedagogical movement patterns (movement, or controlled gesture, plus touch on stressed vowel) that we use in haptic pronunciation teaching. About half have a prescribed follow through back to a resting posture or state. Interestingly, the ones that do NOT tend to be the more problematic. Definitely requires follow up on my part!

How well  or consistently do you "conduct" the physical side of your teaching, especially pronunciation?  

Full citation:
Ian S. Howard, Daniel M. Wolpert, David W. Franklin. The Value of the Follow-Through Derives from Motor Learning Depending on Future Actions. Current Biology, 2015 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2014.12.037

Monday, January 5, 2015

Revenge of the multi-taskers: Distracted during motor (or pronunciation) learning or practice? No problem!

This is the second in a series of posts on creating and managing effective language or pronunciation practice, (analogically) based on Glyde's guitar practice framework. (See earlier post.) His
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principle #5 was common-sensical: Failing to avoid distraction.

Earlier posts have looked at the interplay between haptic (movement and touch) and visual and auditory modalities. One general finding of research has been that visual stimuli or input tend to override auditory and haptic. In part for that reason, we have worked to restrict extraneous visual auditory distraction during haptic pronunciation work. In therapy, on the contrary, many times distraction is used quite strategically to draw the patient's attention away from a problematic experience or emotion.

Now comes a fascinating study by Song and Bedard of Boston University (summarized by Science Daily - See full citation below) demonstrating how visual distraction during motor learning may at least not be problematic. As long as subjects were subjected to relatively similar distraction on the recall task, the fact that they had been systematically distracted during the learning task seemed to have little or no effect. Furthermore, if the "distracted" subjects were later tested in the "non-distracting" condition, they did not perform as well as their "distracted" fellow subjects.

In other words, the visual context of motor learning was not a factor in recall--as long as it was reasonably consistent with the original learning milieu.

So, what does all that mean for effective pronunciation practice? Quite a bit, perhaps. Context, from many perspectives is critical. Establishing linguistic context has been a given for decades; managing the classroom environment (or the homework practice venue) so that new or changed sounds are recalled in a "relatively similar setting" to how they were learned is another question.

One of the principles of haptic pronunciation teaching is to use systematic gesture + touch across the visual field to anchor sound change--maintaining as much of learner attention as possible for at least 3 seconds. In practice, the same pedagogical movement patterns (PMP) are used--and, according to learners, even in spontaneous later recall of new material the PMPs often figure prominently in visual/auditory recall as well.

So, to paraphrase Glyde's 5th principle: Avoid inconsistent distraction (in pronunciation teaching), at least in those more motor-based work or phases. Or better yet, embrace it!

Brown University. (2014, December 9). Distraction, if consistent, does not hinder learning. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 18, 2014 from

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Play it again, SLLP! (Avoiding the 8 deadly sins of second language learning practice)

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With apologies to Humphrey Bogart, a good first question in a learner interview is something like: How do you practice your pronunciation or English? If he or she plays or has recently played a musical instrument or sang well, I will follow up with an analogous, music-based prompt. 
Glyde at has a new piece on something like the "8 deadly sins of bad (guitar) practice--and how to overcome them," which applies beautifully to our work: (His specific "how to" recommendations have been omitted for the time being.)
  • Playing instead of practicing guitar
  • Focusing too much on new material
  • Going through the motions. 
  • Failure to break up large practice sessions
  • Failing to avoid distractions
  • Failing to avoid boring practice routines 
  • Failing to set up a practice schedule
  • Failing to apply what you know
Not sure that I have ever seen a better, comprehensive framework for embodied practice. I'm going to come back and look at how that approach works specifically in haptic pronunciation teaching. In the meantime, feel free to comment on any of those. 

And, if you are serious about getting even better results with a wider range of learner "styles" this year, just begin by candidly sketching out for yourself how/if your system avoids those pitfalls (or persistent SLLP ups!) -- and have a very good 2015!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

New off-the-charts English Vowels-- for haptic pronunciation teaching

Displayed below are the new AHEPS (Acton Haptic English Pronunciation System) v3.0 vowel charts for General North American English (GNAE). Those are available in several formats (download, hardcopy, plastic-coated posters of 3 sizes, black and white or in custom colours.) 

GNAE vowels are covered in Modules 2 and 3 of AHEPS v3.0. 

Haptic pronunciation teaching posters can also be provided for other Englishes, English dialects or other languages on request/special order. Basic cost for a colour set of 24x36 posters seen below begins at about $100 (for GNAE), plus shipping. 36x48 and larger sizes also available. For additional information, contact

Downloads of individual posters jpegs from GETONIC: $2.99 each.  Just click on link to buy/download, or you can, of course, download those jpeg files below! With each GENTONIC order, a complimentary PDF copy of the latest Instructor Notes will be sent as well.  

          Complete chart! ($2.99)

      Rough vowels! ($2.99)

Double smooth vowels! ($2.99)

The above format is the standard AHEPS student perspective. The mirror-image, instructor perspective (aligned with the IPA vowel chart) is also available upon request. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Captain Kirk's 6 principles of leadership applied to teaching pronunciation teaching!

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In a recent conference presentation, a noted methodologist asserted that "Teacher educators (generally) don't teach ESL/pronunciation (themselves)--and (consequently much of) what they do teach their teacher trainees about it hasn't been tried out in the classroom!"

She has a point.

But I'd even take that a step further and say that if a theorist or methodologist or textbook writer is not currently teaching pronunciation in a real classroom, then her words, theories, observations about what teacher educators do--and recent editions of her textbooks--should all be dismissed as well!

Should that dire predicament describe your current pronunciation teaching praxis (or lack there of) then you need to follow our (unauthorized) adaptation of the leadership principles of Captain James T. Kirk (of Star Trek) as they apply to pronunciation teacher trainers*:

1. Never stop learning (even if it means periodically taking up some kind of new pronunciation-related  skill development, such as another language or musical instrument).
2. Have advisors of many different worldviews (from different theoretical perspectives and related disciplines, such as body imaging).
3. Be part of the away team (Stay in the classroom, yourself, even if means just occasional one-on-one pronunciation tutoring).
4. Play poker, not chess (focus on hand to hand, minute by minute pedagogical experience, not just strategy and meta-communication).
5. Intuition is the key to knowing without knowing how you know (and central to embodied pronunciation teaching and avoiding burn out).
6. Destroy the Enterprise (but first try being just annoyingly heretical, before resorting to calls for revolution).

Even better: "Boldly go where no man has gone before" (but many are now!) and sign on board with haptic pronunciation teaching (No noncombatants permitted!) 

*Revised excerpt from AHEPS v3.0 (Instructor’s) Notes (by Bill Acton), Introduction, pp. 4~6. (For free copy, contact:

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Darwin award nominees for English pronunciation teaching

Clipart: Clker
You have probably seen a note someplace on the recent research "finding" that men tend to do the idiotic much more frequently than women. That was based, in part, on an analysis of annual "Darwin Award" winners over the years. For those not familiar with those "awards," they are (tongue in cheek) given to someone who " . . . supposedly contributed to human evolution by self-selecting themselves out of the gene pool via death or sterilization by their own actions."

Anyone  devoted to the procedures noted below probably does us all a favour by quickly going out of business as a pronunciation teacher. Here are a few samples, my favourites, of what we might term the "near idiotic" in pronunciation teaching. (Most are from websites or pronunciation textbooks--or workshops I've attended over the years!)  If you have any other examples, please post them below!

  • "Move your tongue slightly up and back,  and curl up the edges to make a groove . . . "
  • "Now check your partner's pronunciation as she reads that passage."
  • "As long as you are intelligible, you'll get (or keep) the job."
  • "Work together with your spouse or significant other on your pronunciation."
  • "Think, Men, think!" (The Harold Hill method from the "Music Man")
  • "Go out and talk with native speakers and practice your 'r's and 'l's!"
  • "Listen carefully to yourself while you are speaking!"
  • "Stick your tongue out and whip it back in, scraping the scum off it to do a "th" sound!"
  • "Fill your mouth with marbles or hard candy and read this."
  • "Write that down." (with no instructions as to how or how to follow up or practice)
  • "Look it up in the dictionary" (with no instructions as to how or how to follow up or practice)
  • "If you just have good conversation in English often enough your pronunciation will improve enough on its own."
  • "Convince those around you to accept your accent."
  • "Once you are a teenager, it is almost too late to improve your pronunciation much."
  • "Native speaker-like accent in 4 weeks!"
  • "Just watch my lips."

Full citation:
BMJ-British Medical Journal. (2014, December 11). Study supports the theory that men are idiots. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 16, 2014 from

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Out of sight--but well-filed and managed (English) pronunciation change

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A key feature of haptic pronunciation teaching is homework and practice management. In other words, once a new or improved sound or word has been introduced and anchored in class or someplace, it must be worked on by the learner consistently and systematically. (We typically tell students that it takes a couple of weeks to accomplish that.)

Research by Storm and Stone of UCSD, summarized by Science Daily (See full citation below) suggests that the process can be improved significantly by the learner employing an optimal filing system, one that allows "offloading" work done but with clear pathways back for future reference. What they found was that as long as subjects had confidence that the material learned remained accessible, their ability to go on learn new material was significantly better. If not, performance was equal to that of the control group.

Just for fun, ask your students to show you their pronunciation notes sometime . . .

There are on the market several language learning-specific apps for learning vocabulary, etc., but our experience is that most any word processor with companion filing system will work. As long as students are trained in how to practice, how much and when--and how to file it--the "savings" should be substantial! Nothing complicated, just hierarchically organized folders with "memorable" names!

A forthcoming blogpost will detail some of the alternatives that we have found productive. In the meantime, keep in touch--and clean up all that useless clutter on your hard drive!

Full citation:
Association for Psychological Science. (2014, December 10). Saving old information can boost memory for new information. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 14, 2014 from

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Why using gesture in (pronunciation) teaching (sometimes) doesn't work well--or at all

Reviewed a manuscript recently that reported on a study exploring the use of gesture in pronunciation teaching, based on a method that seemed to require learners to repeatedly mirror
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instructor movements. The case made was not convincing, for at least a couple of reasons.

Research on mirror neuron function (even in monkeys, according the Association for Psychological Science - see full citation below!) has important implications for use of gesture in teaching, especially pronunciation. Normally, our mirror neurons mimic observed movement, giving us something of the sensation that we are actually doing what we are seeing, or perhaps moving along in synchrony with a person in our visual field. (Watch the audience at a dance recital, most discretely "moving along with" the dancers.) That should, in principle, make using gesture a potentially powerful vehicle for instruction. For most it probably is; for some, it isn't.

There are any number of reasons why gesture may not be that effective or why some learners and instructors simply do not feel comfortable with much "co-gesticulation." After decades of wondering exactly why gestural techniques were not more generally adopted (and adapted) in pronunciation instruction--when it was so natural and easy for me, personally--I got an answer from a student: the REVEG and ADAEBIP effects.

Rui was what I would term extremely "visually eidetic," meaning that she had a near photographic memory, such that if she learned a gesture in one position in the visual field and an instructor used that motion even very slightly off the original pattern, she could not process it or at least became very frustrated. Likewise, even looking in a mirror at herself performing gestures was maddening, since she, too, could not consistently move her hands in precisely the same track.

That encounter was a game changer. Within 6 months the EHIEP methodology had been changed substantially.

Since then we have encountered any number of learners who appear to have had varying degrees of "REVEG" (Rui's extreme visual-eidetic "gift") or "ADAEBIP" (aversion to doing anything potentially embarrassing with your body in public!) What that means is that for them, whatever the underlying cause, being required to mimic with any degree of accuracy someone's gesture can be maddening, near-traumatic or impossible.

The solution, at least in part, has been "haptic"-- to use touch to anchor the patterns to the relatively same locations in the visual field--along with anchoring the stressed syllable of a targeted word or phrase at the same time with touch. In addition, instead of the sometimes "wild and crazy" or "over the top," spontaneous gesturing used by some instructors, the idea is now to use highly controlled, systematic, "tasteful" and regular movements for pointing out, noticing and anchoring, and homework.

In fact, one of the advantages of using video models in EHIEP (as in AHEPS, v3.0) is that at least the patterns students are trained on are consistent. In that way, when a pattern (what we call a "pedagogical movement pattern) is used later in working on "targets of opportunity," such as modelling and correction, learners tend to be more accepting of the instructor's slight deviations from the "standard" locations.

In general, haptic anchoring of patterns (PMPs) tends to keep positions of prescribed gestures within range even for the more REVEG among us. Extreme accuracy in actually producing the PMPs in practice and anchoring is really not that critical for the individual learner.

So, if gesture work is still not in within your perceptual or comfort zone, we may have a (haptic) work-around for you. Keep in touch.

Association for Psychological Science. (2011, August 2). Monkey see, monkey do? The role of mirror neurons in human behavior. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 10, 2014 from

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Seeing before believing: key to (haptic) pronunciation teaching

We call it "haptic pronunciation teaching." That is actually shorthand for something like:
simultaneous haptic-integration of visual-auditory-kinesthetic-tactile modalities in anchoring pronunciation

Almost every functional system for teaching pronunciation includes graphics or videos of some kind, even if it just a black and while line drawing of the mouth. Some substitute extensive written or verbal explanation for visual models. Our basic approach has been to use touch to link the senses, but often without too much concern for the precise order in which learner attention is directed through the various sources of information on the sound.

A fascinating new study on sensory sequencing in dance instruction by Blitz from Bielefeld University reported in Science Daily (see complete reference below) suggests that our real time sequencing in training in the use of pedagogical movement patterns (gesture, plus touch) is probably much more critical than we have assumed. That is especially relevant to how we (hapticians) maintain attention in the process. In other words, in the classroom, in what order do we introduce and train learners to the parameters of sounds and sound processes? That is, of course, equally relevant to all teaching!

NOTE: Please accept for the moment the parallel between dance instruction and our haptic work, that is training learners to experience, through gesture/touch and placement in the visual field, L2 or L1 sounds associated with targeted words. Also, allow me to side step the question of whether dancers are, by nature probably a bit "hyper-kinesthetic!"  

The study discovered that first viewing a dance sequence without verbal explanation or instruction--and then hearing or reading instructions after that was significantly more effective than the converse in long term memory for the sequence. Both visual and "cognitive" sources were present but the order was the critical variable. The subjects were apparently free to repeat both the visual and verbal inputs a limited number of times, but not to "mix" the ordering of them.

In other words, insight into what had been experienced was far more effective than was verbal cognitive schema in setting up and productively exploiting the visual experience or model to come. For us, the pedagogical implications are relatively clear, something like: (1) Observation (video clip) then (2) brief verbal explanation, then (3) experiential training in doing the gestural pattern, then (4) practice, along with (5) focused explanation of the context of the targeted sound.

How might that perspective impact your (pronunciation) teaching?

AMPISys, Inc.

See what I mean?

Full reference: Bielefeld University. "Best sensory experience for learning a dance sequence." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 November 2014. .

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Research supporting haptic pronunciation teaching

Was recently asked for a summary of research supporting haptic pronunciation teaching. I am working on an article that will present the case. Here is the current working outline with research studies indicated. Other than a number of studies "proving" that pronunciation teaching, in general, seems to "work," the theory and research that specifically supports haptic work is somewhat indirect--but pretty compelling when you see the complete picture.

 It runs something like this. For complete references for those studies listed below and others, go to this page:

General theory on embodiment
  • Embodiment is critical to 2LA (Holme, 2012)
  • The body as an instrument for change of voice and persona (Lessac, 1984 and 1997)
  • Haptic cinema (Marks, 2012)
  • Gesture and language are tightly interrelated (Kendon, 2004)
  • Mirror neurons and learning movement (Simpson, 2008)
  • Gesture observed enhances learning (Wagner et al., 2013)
  • Gesture use enhances speaking  (Beliah, 2013)
Gesture in second language learning
  • Gesture supports second language learning in several ways (McCafferty, 2006)
  • Gesture enhances second language learning (Macedonia et al, 2012)
  • Gesture  is closely related to prosodics (rhythm, stress and intonation) in L1 and L2 acquisition (McCafferty, 2004)
  • Gesture and grammar (Churchill et al., 2013)
  • Touch serves to bond the senses together (Fredembach, et al, 2009).
  • Touch influences/manages memory for events (Propper, et al., 2013)
  • Touch is remembered through movement, sound and visual images (Charite, 2011)
  • Intensity of touch determined by intentions/set up (Gray, 2013)
  • Tactile Metaphors (Lacy et al., 2012)
  • Binding of movement, sound and touch (Legarde, J. and Kelso, J., 2006)
  • The nature of haptics (Harris, 2013)
  • Haptic technology (Kuchenbecker, 2012)
  • Sense of touch technology (Umeå universitet, 2012)
Gesture and haptics in teaching
  • Haptics in education (Minogue et al., 2006)
  • Gesture widely used in phonetics and L2 pronunciation teaching (Wrembel, et al., 2011)
  • Gesture use in second language teaching (Hudson, 2011)
Experiential models and reports
  • Acton (2014) 
  • Acton (2001)
  • Acton (1994)
  • Acton (1984)
  • Acton, W., et al., (2013)
  • Teaman, B., et al., (2013)

Monday, November 17, 2014

The music of pronunciation teaching?

Do you play background music in class, especially when working on pronunciation? I have for years used highly regular, rhythmic music during haptic training--for several purposes. Primarily, however, the idea has been to help coordinate learner bodies with sound patterns, not at all different in spirit from techniques such "Jazz Chants." I did experiment briefly with background (classical) music during my "Suggestopediac" period back in the 80s.

Now comes research using jazz to enhance the ultimate test of fine motor control: putting. In a summary of the research by Baghurst et al.  by Science Daily (since I can't access the original research in the Journal of Athletic Enhancement--one of my favourites) entitled: "The Influence of Musical Genres on Putting Accuracy in Golf: An Exploratory Study," listening to jazz significantly improved putting. 

Quoting one of the authors of the study (Boolani):
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"Other research has shown that country music improves batting, rap music improves jump shots and running is improved by any up-temp music. But the benefit of music in fine motor control situations was relatively unknown. Hopefully, this is the first step in answering this question."

We are unquestionably "fine motor" practitioners. This has got to work for us, too.

Unfortunately, although I always use music (mostly rock, pop and country) when running, I'm simply not a jazz aficionado. I am, however,  definitely up for trying jazz in haptic pronunciation work. Any recommendations? Could use both up-tempo and understated, instrumental selections. 

Science Daily citation:
Clarkson University. "Want to improve your putt? Try listening to jazz."  ScienceDaily, 12 November 2014.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Haptic-pronunciation-assisted vocabulary teaching

New book chapter in the TESOL "New Ways" series by Michael Burri (Wollongong University) on using haptic pronunciation anchoring in teaching vocabulary. (Burri is probably the second-best haptician I have ever worked with!) His doctoral study on pronunciation teacher cognition includes for the first time examination of teacher response to haptic pronunciation teaching.

We have just begun to work systematically with using the haptic pronunciation protocols for enhancing memory and recall of vocabulary. All 10 of the basic techniques of AHEPS v3.0 could be used for that. The one that Burri uses in that chapter, based on the AHEPS Rough/short vowel pedagogical movement pattern, is especially effective, putting a strong haptic anchor (touch of both hands) on the vowel in the stressed syllable of a word or phrase.
Credit: TESOL

Keep in touch!

Full citation:
Burri, M. (2014). Haptic-assisted vocabulary and pronunciation teaching technique. In A. Coxhead (Ed.), New ways in teaching vocabulary (2nd ed.). (pp.189-191). Alexandria, VA: Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

20 contexts for haptic pronunciation teaching

I am often asked in what contexts or classrooms haptic pronunciation teaching works. Assuming enthusiastic, full-body buy-in by the instructor and student, here is a new list of contexts and
Credit: Anna Shaw
where features of the AHEPS - haptic pronunciation system are being or have been used so far.

Keep in touch!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Workshop on stressing and de-stressing unstressed vowels: the haptic “thumb-flick” technique

On the 22nd of November at the local BCTEAL regional conference, I'll be doing a new haptic workshop on unstressed vowels, with Aihua Liu of Harbin Institute of Technology and Jean Jeon, a graduate student her at Trinity Western University. You can see an introduction to the technique here.

Clip art:
This participatory, experiential session presents a haptic (gesture + touch) procedure for helping learners produce and better “hear” unstressed vowels in English. In essence, as words are articulated, learners touch hands at specific points in the visual field on stressed vowels and “flick their thumbs” on the unstressed vowels.

Working with unstressed vowels in English is often neglected. The problem is often “solved” by avoiding the issue entirely or by emphasizing suprasegmentals (rhythm, stress and intonation) which, research suggests, do indeed help to determine the prominence of unstressed syllables to some extent. In addition, there may be some limited, indirect attention to unstressed vowels in oral practice of reduced forms, especially in fixed phrases (e.g., “salt ‘n pepper) and idioms.

Research has recently demonstrated that disproportionate attention to suprasegmentals (rhythm, stress and intonation) without a balanced, production-oriented treatment of key segmentals (vowels and consonants) may be very counter-productive, undermining intelligibility substantially. That is especially the case with learners whose L1 is Vietnamese, for example.

This technique helps to address that issue by facilitating more appropriate, controlled focus on the vowel quality in unstressed syllables.  It involves the use of two types of pedagogical gestures, one that adds additional attention to the stressed vowel of the word and a second that helps learners to better approximate the target sound and maintain the basic syllabic structure of the word.

The session is experiential and highly participatory. Participants are provided materials and links to videos demonstrating the technique.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Haptic Pronunciation Teaching - AHEPS v3.0 - is LIVE!

Delighted to announce that Acton Haptic English Pronunciation System (AHEPS) v3.0 "Bees and Butterflies" (Serious fun) - The best, fastest, most moving and touching way to improve English pronunciation - is now available!

The best, fastest, most moving
and touching way
to improve English pronunciation
Best deal is one of the introductory packages:

Complete v3.0 package: Includes Guide Book (hardcopy and PDF--with permission to make up to 30 copies), Instructor Notes (hardcopy and PDF), Instructor DVD, Student Practice DVD, 6 months of unlimited streaming of all videos and 2, 30-mniute SKYPE consultation ($300, plus shipping)

Complete v3.0 package - Lite: Includes Guide Book (PDF download-with permission to make up to 30 copies), Instructor Notes (PDF), 6 months of streaming of all videos and 30-minute SKYPE consultation ($150)

The complete listing of packages, modules and individual parts is available here!

For further information check out this description of v3.0 or email:

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The best, fastest, most moving and touching way to improve English pronunciation! (AHEPS v3.0 Previews)

These videos are still a work in progress but will give you a pretty good idea of what each module of Acton Haptic English Pronunciation System v3.0 - Bees and Butterflies (Serious fun!) is about. (AHEPS is, of course, just about the ONLY moving and touching pronunciation system around!)
AHEPS v3.0 Bees and Butterflies
(Serious fun - really!) 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Meta-pronunciation: Just do it!

Nice post by Wilson and Conyers on Edutopia blog looking at teaching metacognitive skills to kids. (Some of the links off the post are good as well.) So how does that relate to haptic pronunciation teaching (HPT)? Pretty directly as a matter of fact. They give 5 general principles:

1. "Explicitly teach students about this essential learning skill by defining the term metacognition." (Basically, managing or "driving" your brain in their terms!)
HPT principle: Learn to control attention during haptic work and manage homework and practice effectively. (See previous posts on "mindfulness.")

2. "Ask students to describe the benefits and supply examples of driving their brains well."
HPT principle: Explicitly work with students on their strategies for "brain control" during pronunciation work and other subjects and follow up with some kind of written, reflective journaling to assist them in using their time efficiently.

3. "Whenever possible, let students choose what they want to read and topics they want to learn more about."
HPT principle: Students must quickly begin finding more words and phrases on which to practice, as well as writing them down consistently during class work.

4. "Look for opportunities to discuss and apply metacognition across core subjects . . ."
HPT principle: The HPT strategies, called pedagogical movement patterns, should be used in all classes for correction, modelling and feedback.

5. "Model metacognition by talking through problems."
AHEPS v2.0
HPT principle: One key feature of HPT is that the new or changed sound pattern must be anchored immediately to an exemplar, a word or phrase:
(a) That word or phrase should be annotated at least by identifying the vowel number on the stressed syllable,
(b) probably while looking at the graphic representation of the word (as it is written in type-form.) In some cases,
(c) the phonetic representation should accompany that. Finally,
(d) instructor and student together should practice the exemplar together (ideally 3 times) with rich vocal resonance out loud, accompanied by a pedagogical movement pattern (one of 10 or 12 in the system.)

Friday, October 17, 2014

Haptic pronunciation teaching workshop at TESOL 2015 in Toronto!

For the 8th year in row, a haptic pronunciation teaching workshop has been accepted for presentation at the TESOL conference in Toronto, March 25th ~ 28th, 2015. Below is the program summary and excerpts from the proposal. We'll also have a "gathering of hapticians" at the conference, as usual. Join us! 

Program summary

This workshop introduces a set of six haptic (movement + touch)-based techniques for presenting and correcting English L2 pronunciation, applicable for intermediate English language learners and above. Guided by research on kinaesthetic approaches to L2 pronunciation instruction, the presenters train participants to use the instructional techniques in their classrooms.
Participants learn a multiple-modality system, designed to be used throughout the curriculum—not just in stand-alone pronunciation classes. The workshop is predominantly experiential, where a set of six haptic techniques are introduced and practiced in break-out micro-teaching sessions. The sections of the workshop are:

A. Principles of haptic integration
B. Haptic anchoring vowels and word stress
C. Haptic anchoring phrasal stress and rhythm
D. Haptic anchoring of basic intonation contours
E. Haptic anchoring of general fluency

This haptic-based system for pronunciation instruction was formed under the premise that, while our general understanding of L2 phonological development has increased substantially, most methodologists would concur that preparing a new EFL/ESL instructor adequately for pronunciation work remains a challenge. The reason for this, in part, is that there is currently no easily accessible, comprehensive model that integrates pronunciation instruction in general speaking and listening instruction. 

The perspective of this workshop is that systematic use of body movement, especially using haptic anchoring (touch tied to pedagogical movement and gesture) is essential to that synthesis. The techniques presented are designed to be integrated into either general or specific pronunciation instruction whenever use of a problematic sound pattern occurs.

The theoretical basis of this approach is derived principally from four sources: (a) the voice and stage movement work of Lessac (Lesssac,1967), (b) Embodiment theory (Holme, 2012) as applied to TESOL, (c) current neuro-physiological research on the role of movement and touch in learning in general (Minogue & Jones, 2006) and of sound systems in particular (Acton, 2012), and (d) kinaesthetic approaches to L2 pronunciation instruction (e.g., Acton 1984).

By the conclusion of the workshop, participants will be able to use the haptic pronunciation integration techniques in their classrooms.
AHEPS v3.0 "Bees and Butterflies"
(Serious fun!)
The best, fastest, most moving
 and touching way to teach,
learn and correct English pronunciation!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Hot Haptic pronunciation teaching topics for upcoming conference proposals!

Here in Vancouver we are getting ready to collaborate as usual in writing haptic proposals for a couple of upcoming conferences. Here is our current list, most of which are new or emerging topics for us:
  • Introducing AH-EPS v3.0 Bees and Butterflies (Serious fun!) 
  • A haptic approach to teaching West Coast, BC pronunciation to others! 
  • Workshop in basics of haptic pronunciation teaching
  • Teaching conversational discourse orientation (the skills involved in matching the prosodics of your speech to that of the person you are talking with) 
  • Embodied Confident speaking practice (The Fight club) for nonnative non-male professionals of Asian ethnicity only
  • 10 warm ups for pronunciation and speaking instruction
  • Stressing unstressed vowels
  • Going from L1 to L2 pronunciation: Using the L1 vowel system as a point of departure
  • Giving voice to voiced medial and final consonants 
  • Moving conversations: the haptic talk-about walkabout (peripatetic attending skills)
There was an earlier post (March, 2014) this spring as we were cranking up for TESOL international proposals that had a few others:
  • Reports from the classroom: Haptic pronunciation teaching (academic sessions)
  • Research project on haptic-assisted fluency (paper)
  • Haptic-assisted Rhythm instruction (Butterfly and Fight club) workshop
  • Haptic phonetics (anchoring L1s in addition of L2s) demonstration
  • Haptic techniques for consonant repair (workshop)
  • (Haptic-enhanced) Embodied confidence (Research paper)
  • Haptically anchoring word stress rules and word stress (workshop)
  • Linking linking with fluency: haptic circles (mini-workshop)
  • Basics of haptic-integrated pronunciation teaching 
  • From intonation to expressiveness: dramatic, haptic bridges for Non-native speakers
  • Haptic and kinaesthetic listening (Research paper)
  • On the spot, impromptu haptic pronunciation modelling, feedback and correction 
  • Haptic anchoring of Academic Word List vocabulary (demonstration or workshop)
  • Sentence diagramming with movement and touch 
  • Songs that touch on pronunciation: haptic anchoring of rhyme and reason (workshop)
  • Teaching pronunciation to young children (workshop)
  • Embodied conversational discourse markers (demonstration)
  • Phonics "a la haptique!" (demonstration or workshop)
  • Haptic Handwriting for L2 English learners (demonstration)
  • Embodied conversational listening: haptic anchoring of attending skills
  • Haptic or kinaesthetic self-monitoring
Several of those or adaptations of them were submitted to three upcoming conferences. See any you like? If a proposal was done, I can probably get that to you. If not, how about you join one of us in submitting one for a conference you are planning to attend? 

Keep in touch!

Monday, September 8, 2014

More than a gesture: When to use gesture in L2 teaching

Should you still need more convincing as to the value and contribution of gesture in L2 learning and instruction, the September 2014 issue of The Modern Language Journal (98) has two excellent,  complementary articles that you should read, one by Dahl and Ludvigsen on the effect of gesture on listening comprehension and a second, by Morett, on gesture as a "cognitive aid" during speaking production and communication. (See full references below.)

The first study examines how observing gesture complements comprehension; the second then demonstrates how actually producing the gesture as you learn and then communicate with a new L2 term in the early stages of the process results in more effective acquisition, retention and recall. 

The learner populations involved are quite different, as are the research methodologies, but the two studies together contribute substantially to our understanding of how and when gesture works. (You'll have to access them through your library online or shell out the usual 5-6 Vente Carmel Frap equivalents for each, of course--but it may be worth it in this case.) There is also an earlier (free, accessible online) 2012 paper by Morett, Gibbs and McWhinney, The Role of Gesture in Second Language Learning: Communication, Acquisition, & Retention, that lays out the theoretical background for the new study as well.

One striking (but not surprising) finding of the Morett study is that using a gesture while speaking and communicating results in better acquisition than just observing the gesture being used by someone else. The other study examines the conditions under which seeing gesture performed functions best. 

AH-EPS v3.0
The bottom line: Systematic incorporation of gesture in (at least initial) L2 learning is again shown to be exceedingly effective. It must be carefully timed and linked to meaning, but the results of both studies are very persuasive. Another good example of that, of course, is AH-EPS v3.0 Bees and Butterflies - Serious fun! (Which rolls out this month, in fact!) 

Full references:
Dahl, T. and Ludvigsen, S. (2014). How I See What You're Saying: The Role of Gestures in Native and Foreign Language Listening Comprehension The Modern Language Journal, 98, 3, (2014), pp. 813–833.
Morett, L. (2014) When Hands Speak Louder Than Words: The Role of Gesture in the Communication, Encoding, and Recall of Words in a Novel Second Language, The Modern Language Journal, 98, 3, (2014), pp. 834–853.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Improve L2 pronunciation-- with or without lifting a finger!

Clip art: Clker
Listen to this! (You may even want to sit down before you do!) New study showing how movement can affect listening by Mooney and colleagues at Duke University, summarized by Science Daily. Here's the summary:

"When we want to listen carefully to someone, the first thing we do is stop talking. The second thing we do is stop moving altogether. The interplay between movement and hearing has a counterpart deep in the brain. A new study used optogenetics to reveal exactly how the motor cortex, which controls movement, can tweak the volume control in the auditory cortex, which interprets sound."

Now, granted, the study was done on mice who probably have some other stuff going on down there in their motor cortices as well. Nonetheless, the striking insight into the underlying relationship between movement and volume control on our auditory input circuits is enough to give us (an encouraging) "pause . . . " in two senses:

First, learning new pronunciation begins with aural comprehension, being able to "hear" the sound distinctions. We have played with the idea of having learners gesture along with instructor models while listening. The study suggests that may not be as effective as we thought, or at least the conditions that we set up have to be more sensitive to "volume" and ambient static. You can see the implications for aural comprehension work in general as well. 

Second, during early speaking production in haptic pronunciation instruction, being able to temporarily  suppress auditory input (coming in through the ears) is seen as essential. Following Lessac and many others in speech and voice training, what we are after initially is focus on vocal resonance in the upper body and kinaesthetic awareness of the gestural patterns, what we call "pedagogical movement patterns" or PMPs. 

We do that, in part, to dampen (i.e., turn down the volume) on how the learner's production is perceived initially, filtered through the L1 or personal interlanguage versions, trying to focus instead on the core of the sound(s), approximations, not absolute accuracy. Some estimates of our awareness of our own voice suggest that it is less than 25% auditory, that is coming in through the air to our ears, the rest being body-based, or somatic. 

What we hear should be moving, not what we hear with apparently! 

SCID citation: Duke University. "Stop and listen: Study shows how movement affects hearing." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 August 2014 .

Friday, August 22, 2014

Providing pronunciation teaching with signs (and wonders!) and a hand!

More fascinating research on the role of gesture in learning from Goldin-Meadow at the University of Chicago, summarized by Science Daily. The research in part looked at "homesign-ing," that is systems created by children not introduced to the standard signing system of the language or culture. One conclusion of the study:
". . . gesture cannot aid learners simply by providing a second modality. Rather, gesture adds imagery to the categorical distinctions that form the core of both spoken and sign languages."

That research also sheds light on the function of the pedagogical movement patterns (PMPs) of haptic pronunciation teaching work as well. (Several of the gestural patterns closely resemble signs used in American Sign Language, and early development of the system was informed and inspired by ASL, in fact.)

One of the more interesting parallels is the fact that ASL signs of high emotional intensity more often tend to terminate in touch--as do all PMPs. A second is that the PMPs of EHIEP (Essential haptic-integrated English Pronunciation), for the most part, present vivid visual pictures that are learned and recalled easily. If you'd like to learn more, just join us next month in Costa Rica!

Citation: University of Chicago. "Hand gestures improve learning in both signers, speakers." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 August 2014. .

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The right way to teach the "wrong" pronunciation!

 Credit: Clker/
Library of Congress
One of the delights of having been in the field for a few decades is seeing "new" research seemingly confirm old, out-of-fashion practices. Here's a good example, a 2014 study, summarized by Science Daily, by Herzfeld, Vaswani, Marko, and Shadmehr of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. The study focuses on how memory for errors facilitates effective sensory-motor learning.

In essence, they found that the brain seems to have two parallel learning management systems in sensory-motor learning. One is the Experiencer, learning the new skill; the other, something like "the Coach," that uses previous motor patterns in adjusting and perfecting the target skill. And the "surprising" finding: the two systems appear to be much more independent than previously thought, and furthermore, "the memories of errors foster faster learning!"

Wow. Does that mean that drawing attention to a learner's L1-influenced errors in pronunciation may, in fact, be a good thing? Apparently. Exactly how and when that is done is the question, of course. Most experienced speech professionals, especially speech pathologists, are very comfortable with occasional focus on the "error" as a point of departure, but until very recently, use of L1 pronunciation in L2 pronunciation instruction in this field has been, at least, not discussed formally in the literature.

I recently posted a question on a discussion board of pronunciation researchers and methodologists related to L1 use in pronunciation instruction--and got no response, other than some off-list comments to the effect that it is generally not done--probably a holdover from earlier Behaviourist notions of avoiding errors at all costs.

As noted in several earlier posts, in haptic pronunciation work, especially with vowels and intonation, anchoring of L1 structures and pronunciation is often key to quick, effective change. The Herzfield et al. study may help to explain why: haptic work is probably more strongly positioned or experienced on  the sensory-motor side or track of the brain, allowing the L1 to be "used" somewhat more in isolation, causing less potential "interference" there than typical auditory/visual processing and practice.

Now that may be wrong, but (hopefully) helpful, nonetheless!

Citation: Johns Hopkins Medicine. "Memories of errors foster faster learning." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 August 2014. .

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Blocking poor (and improved) pronunciation with Mindfulness

Mindfulness is big. It is described a number of ways, according to Wikipedia:

"Mindfulness is a way of paying attention that originated in Eastern meditation practices."
"Paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally"
"Bringing one’s complete attention to the present experience on a moment-to-moment basis"

In earlier blogposts, I have focused on the possible benefits to our work of M-training. I may have been missing something . . . In a provocative 2013 study by Howard and Stillman of Georgetown University, (summarized by Science Daily) they conclude that:

 " . . . mindfulness may help prevent formation of automatic habits -- which is done through implicit learning -- because a mindful person is aware of what they are doing." 
Clip art: Clker

And in addition:

"The researchers found that people reporting low on the mindfulness scale tended to learn more -- their reaction times were quicker in targeting events that occurred more often within a context of preceding events than those that occurred less often."

The study is, of course, more complex and the tasks involved may not be all that analogous to what we do in pronunciation teaching. Nonetheless, the striking preliminary finding, that conscious, meta-cognitive attention to the ongoing learning process may, in fact, work counter to some types of "implicit," or body-based learning is indeed very germane. So, when it comes to pronunciation work tasks, such as repetition, pattern recognition, drill--and even haptic anchoring-- to paraphrase Nike's classic moniker, perhaps the secret is to: Just do it! 

At least something to be "mindful" of . . .

Saturday, August 9, 2014

The end of (pronunciation) homework!

Clip art:
How essential is homework/practice to the success of your students? Interesting set of four pieces on homework linked off the ASCD website entitled: "The end of homework." The theme of each is as follows: (a) purpose, (b) multi-level and multi-faceted, (c) focus on achievable goals and benchmarks, and (d) getting students to take ownership and "create" their own systematic homework.

 What is the overall "end" of your pronunciation homework assignments? Here is one model.

I came back to the relevance of homework recently when I had lost track of the time and did not have enough left at the end of class to set up the students adequately for homework. On the way out the door, I told them that I'd email them their practice routines for the coming week. Here is the essence of what I sent them: (The italics are for you, not for them. They know the drill!)

1. Before next week, practice your personal word and phrase list at least three times. The words or phrases have been targeted in class or in a 1-on-1 session for additional work. 

Integrating new words into spontaneous speech typically takes a couple of weeks; integrating new sounds, depending on proficiency level can take at least that long or much longer, as in the case of fossilized pronunciation where each word with the target sound must be identified and practiced for a couple of weeks.

2. Each 15-30 minute practice session should run basically as follows: (a) Do a quick vocal warm up, (b) Turn on your recorder, (c) Do each word or phrase ONLY 3 times, using the appropriate haptic-based pedagogical gesture as you say it. STOP recorder.

3. Listen to the recording, focusing just on the third repetition of each word. Note (write down) which of the words or phrases still seem to need work. Record just those again, 3x, and listen back. Just write down what you hear and move on!

4. Add additional words or phrases to your word list. Check dictionary pronunciation before practicing them. Students have been trained in a 6-step dictionary protocol for getting pronunciation from the dictionary. They may have to check pronunciation again before doing the word list practice.

I may check progress next class, sometimes just before class begins formally, or ask student to send me a recording of word list practice as it is done the 3rd time. We decide together which words or phrases to add or delete from their lists--when adequate control of them is evident and they have been practiced at least 5 or 6 times. Students should gradually take over management of the list themselves. 

Have posted many times on homework-related topics. This one really struck "home!"

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Turned off by pronunciation teaching and learning? Good plan!

Clip art:
Have for years, often in jest, pointed an accusing finger at the pre-frontal cortex as at least contributing to the difficulty that adults often have in learning pronunciation. A new study by Trafton of MIT (summarized by looking at the roles of procedural versus declarative brain networks and structures in learning language makes a striking point evident in the title of the article: "Try, try again? Study says no: Trying harder makes it more difficult to learn some aspects of language, neuroscientists find."

The bottom line: Declarative, more conscious networks work well (especially in adults) at learning vocabulary and understanding what is to be learned. Procedural networks are responsible for less conscious, more automatic (physiological) processes--such as many aspects of pronunciation, of course. According to Trafton (and many others) the answer is often to avoid "trying harder" by over use of declarative functions. How might that be done? According to Science Daily, again:

" . . . she is now testing the effects of "turning off" the adult prefrontal cortex using a technique called transcranial magnetic stimulation. Other interventions she plans to study include distracting the prefrontal cortex by forcing it to perform other tasks while language is heard, and treating subjects with drugs that impair activity in that brain region."

Got to get me a TMS machine . . .

Monday, July 28, 2014

Haptically Speaking!

Have been meaning to do a blogpost on a project of Dr David Hurd Professor of Geosciences and Planetarium Director at the Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. His work in support of the visually disabled and haptic learning in general is very impressive. This one, on lunar craters (or the one on Mars), is a classic. Unfortunately, he created the website "Haptically Speaking" before I thought to capture that name!

Very good stuff! If you want to know what it feels like to do haptic work, Lunar Craters is a great place to start. Have often been asked if AHEPS/EHIEP is also not a great fit for the visually impaired or for application to other such learning challenges. I look forward to exploring those questions in the years ahead.