Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Haptic Pronunciation Teaching and Applied Phonology Course, August 1st~26th in Vancouver, BC!

If you are in the Vancouver area in August, join us at Trinity Western University for the Ling 611 Applied Phonology course (3 graduate credits), part of the MATESOL or just the Haptic Pronunciation Teaching component of that course. (Housing available.)

Ling 611 meets on campus 9~12:00, Tuesday through Friday. August 2nd ~ 18th. Monday's are "reading days". Fridays, students in teams submit a brief research report on the week's work. During the 4th week of the course, students do an individual research paper in consultation with the instructors and take final certification test in haptic pronunciation teaching. 

HaPT-E Certification Course
General syllabus:
  • Week 1 - Learning and teaching pronunciation
  • Week 2 - Teaching listening and pronunciation
  • Week 3 - Teaching speaking and pronunciation
The  topics of the 3 hours of each morning are roughly as follows:
  • Hour 1 - Haptic pronunciation teaching
  • Hour 2 - Phonetic analysis of learner data
  • Hour 3 - Theory and methodology
Options: (If interested, contact me at TWU:
  • Take the graduate course for credit (about $2400) or as an auditor (less than half price). You have to apply for that and have some prerequisite background in either case. 
  • Do just the Haptic Pronunciation part. That means 12 hours of class, plus about 12 hours of  homework, which includes 2 tests. If you pass the tests, you get a certificate in HPT. (Cost of that will be about $500, which includes materials and certificate. You'll also be free to sit in on the other two hours of Ling 611 if you have time.) Limited number of places available for that option. 
Keep in touch!


Sunday, May 1, 2016

(New) Haptic Pronunciation Teaching Certificate - in 24 hours!

Sign up now!

Improve your pronunciation teaching in less than 3 months
 by taking the new 
Haptic Pronunciation Teaching - English (HaPT-E) Course

Haptic pronunciation teaching has been shown to be one of the best ways to provide good modeling, feedback and correction of pronunciation, plus enhance learning of vocabulary. HaPT-E uses specially designed pedagogical gesture with touch to make teaching more effective and efficient. 
  • The course is designed especially for the non-native English speaking teacher. 
  • To take the course you need no background in pronunciation teaching or linguistics. 
  • Each module of the complete, 10-module course takes about 2 hours. 
  • Recommended course length is 2 hours per week for 12 weeks, 
  • Includes all materials (Course book and Instructor notes), 6 months free access to course videos ( and automatic updates. (Regular price for unlimited video access is $8CAD per month)
  • Includes all materials you need to do haptic pronunciation in your classroom, too!
HaPT-E course is $150CAD

Cost for the course, plus certificate is $250CAD, which includes personalized feedback on two video/written tests and final SKYPE report with Bill Acton (for limited time only).

Course content is provided online from If you also need hard media (DVD) format, those can be purchased for an additional $75CAD, free shipping.

*You can also pay by check, cash, bank transfer or barter! (For those options, email us:

Certification is provided by or can be offered in partnership with your institution. (Contact for further details.)

For more about haptic pronunciation teaching, go to or check out:

Acton, W., Baker, A., Burri, M., Teaman, B. (2013). Preliminaries to haptic-integrated pronunciation instruction. In J. Levis, K. LeVelle (Eds.). Proceedings of the 4th Pronunciation in Second Language Learning and Teaching Conference, Aug. 2012. (pp. 234-244). Ames, IA: Iowa State University.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

New (haptic) Rhythm Fight Club at BCTEAL 2016: Why haptic works better . . .

Photo credit:
Next Saturday, at Simon Fraser University, at 11:45 at the BCTEAL conference, Shine Hong and I will be doing a 45 minute mini-workshop on the new version of the Haptic Rhythm Fight Club. The HRFC, introduced in 2013, has "evolved" considerably since.

Murphy (2013;38) describes the typical use of "boxing-like" gestures in pronunciation teaching as follows: ". . . while using nonthreatening boxing moves, gently sparring with partners to coordinate simulated jabs with stressed syllables of prominent words."

On the face of it, the HRFC looks like that. In its early development, before 2013 it was in many respects. The current version is substantially different, however, for at least three reasons.
  • First, the boxing gestures are intended primarily for personal use, not in sparring with a partner--although we still do that occasionally in demonstrations just for fun, as we will next week. 
  • Second, The HRFC gestural patterns are highly controlled, moving within narrow "channels" in the air in front of the learners, such that the energy of the "punches" is focused, never out of control. 
  • Third, something must be held in the hand that creates the tactile anchoring very distinctly, that can be squeezed on the stressed syllable word or words spoken during the boxing gesture. That can be a ball of some kind, a wadded up piece of paper, a glove, etc. 
As noted in any number of previous posts here, in general, the indiscriminate use of gesture in pronunciation or language teaching is pretty much a wash (can have both strong positive and negative affects). Although it can be quite motivating and "fun", for learners, in many cultures it is at best a turn off, at worst personally very invasive. In addition, research in kinesic and haptic learning has long established the fact that just because a gesture or movement accompanies a spoken phrase or visual focus does not mean that the location of the stressed element will automatically be recalled later. In fact, a "wild" gesture may do more to disguise the location of that key focus by drawing attention instead to anything else that is happening simultaneously. More is required.

Controlled gestures, on the other hand, with discrete touch on the focal syllable do much to deal with such "distraction" and make the classroom and personal practice of gesture use more acceptable to a wider range of personality styles and preferences. That has certainly been our experience in the last 4 years.

If you are in town, join us Saturday, either in the workshop or at the TWU MATESOL table in the exhibition area.

Keep in touch!

Friday, April 22, 2016

20 Ideas for TESOL 2017 haptic pronunciation teaching proposals!

Time for doing proposals for TESOL 2017! The deadline is June 1st. If you are interested in being on a team that does a workshop, poster session, demonstration or paper, please let us know. We almost always work with teams of 2 or more and invite those who are not trained hapticians but want to be to sign on to a proposal. With the new v4.0 Haptic pronunciation teacher training program (out soon) you can be quite up to speed by next March!

Hopefully, we'll also have a booth this coming year for the first time to promote v4.0. (With that comes a couple of Exhibitor's sessions on the program as well.) Here are some of the proposal ideas we have been discussing of have presented or published on earlier. A formal proposal could, of course, be a combination of topics with a haptic "core"!
HaPT-E v4.0 -Serious Fun!
  1. Pre-convention institute or workshop on haptic pronunciation teaching
  2. Spontaneous and incidental correction (using haptic techniques)
  3. Haptic teacher training certification course
  4. Haptic phonetics (working on that one already)
  5. Haptic techniques for vocabulary development
  6. Haptic homework (working on that one already)
  7. (Ch)oral reading (haptic-anchored) 
  8. Changing fossilized pronunciation (haptically)
  9. Haptic consonant workshop (working on that one already)
  10. Contrastive (haptic) analyses (e.g., Chinese, Korean or major dialects)
  11. Fluency training (Rhythm Fight club)
  12. Haptic accent reduction techniques
  13. Haptic-anchored attending skills
  14. Haptic techniques for basic literacy training
  15. Haptic discourse strategies/markers
  16. Haptic phonics
  17. Brain Research on haptic learning
  18. Expressive (haptic) pronunciation teaching
  19. Haptic linking techniques
  20. Haptic techniques for vowel reduction, unstressed and secondary stressed vowels 
  21. Haptic-anchoring of online pronunciation instruction

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Gesture the cause of pronunciation problems?

That's right! You should try it! Here's why . . .

 Referring to ways in which learners' L1s differs from their L2s is generally not a priority in pronunciation teaching--or in general language instruction. In some contexts, however, especially EFL-like courses where phonetics or translation serve as the point of departure, the structure of the L1 may be among the early topics addressed. For a number of reasons, nonetheless, many contemporary methodologists avoid it. A quick, informal poll among colleagues recently came up with a nice range of opinion:

"Why confuse things?"
"Best avoided."
"Not that confident, myself."
"May cause even more interference."     

That last comment is interesting. Clearly, if not done carefully or well, that could be the case. So, how might you "do that well?" (If you have some suggestions in that regard, in addition to the one I am about to recommend, please post a comment w/it!)

In haptic pronunciation teaching, we often and very effectively lead learners across "gestural bridges" between L1 and L2 phonological elements, such as individual sounds (vowels and consonants), rhythm patterns and tone movement (intonation). We do that by having learners mirror us or a video  as they perform "pedagogical movement patterns" (PMPs),  gestures synchronized speaking, that represent both the L1 and L2 sounds or sound patterns--and often the relative distance between them--in the visual space in front of the learner. 

Recently published research by Carlson, Jacobs, Perry and Church in Gesture, The effect of gestured instruction on the learning of physical causality problems, suggests why the "contrastive haptic PMP approach" may work. (Now granted, the analogy between video instruction on how gears work and the relationship between how an L1 sound is physically articulated and that of its L2 near-equivalent--that may cause serious interference or negative transfer--may be something of a stretch! But stick with me here!)

In the study, subjects either viewed a video where the instructor (a) explained the process without gesturing or (b) the "speech plus gesture" protocol.  Their conclusion: 

"Results showed that . . .  instruction was . . .  significantly more effective when gesture was added. These findings shed light on the role of gesture input in adult learning and carry implications for how gesture may be utilized in asynchronous instruction with adults."

What the conclusion misses, but is unpacked in the article, is the potential importance of the nature of the concept being taught in the first place, as it says in the title: physical causality, meaning that the contact and motion of one  gear as it affected the state and movement of the other gear. In other words, the impact of the gestural protocol was so pronounced, in part, because it was portraying and embodying a physical process.

Studies of the connection of gesture to more abstract, far less embodied concepts such as interpretation of emotion or intent are much less consistent, understandably. Pronunciation of a language is, on the other hand, an essentially physical, somatic process. Hence, using gesture (and touch) to anchor it makes perfect sense. 

Just thought I'd point that out . .

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Haptic Pronunciation Teaching - v3.5 TESOL 2016 Special!

Even if you can't make it to Baltimore next week for the TESOL Convention for one of the demos, you can still get the AHEPS "TESOL special" version 3.5 for a limited time (until this September!)

Keep in touch!
Basic cost: $100 CAD for (copying authorized), 12 months unlimited streaming and (the BIG bonus) . . . a half hour SKYPE Chat w/me after you have tried some haptic with your students.  (DVD set is also available for $60 CAD, free shipping). For immediate purchase, go here! For hard copies and special orders, contact:

p.s. If you don't want to talk w/me, I'll knock of my "2 cents worth" from the price!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Haptic Fight Club Demonstrations at TESOL 2016 in Baltimore!
If you'll be at the TESOL Convention in Baltimore week after next, join us for two VERY brief but "hard hitting" demonstrations of the "Haptic Rhythm Fight Club" pronunciation movement pattern (PMP) technique from AHEPS v3.5 (Acton Haptic English Pronunciation System.) Here are the times and venues:

  • April 6th 2:00 pm - 2:45 pm in Holiday 3 at the Hilton Baltimore. Only 6 minutes of that will be the Fight Club but it will be fun. Promise! The session is a promo by TESOL for the book that our chapter is in (See full title below and pick up a copy at the conference.) If you do, I'll give you access to M7 of v3.5 for a month! Speaking of v3.5, that will go "live" on April 2nd!!! 
  • Wednesday, April 6th, 8:30pm-9:30pm. Blake Room at the Hilton Baltimore. That one is put on by the Speech Pronunciation Listening Interest Group (SPLIS) and should be fun, too. If you come to that one, I'll give you one free round of the Fight Club (assuming that you sign the injury waiver, of course!) 
See you in Baltimore!

Burri, M., Baker, A. and Acton, W. (2016). Anchoring Academic Vocabulary with a "Hard Hitting" Haptic Pronunciation Teaching Technique, in Jones, T. (Ed.) Pronunciation in the classroom: the overlooked essential. New York: TESOL

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Rethinking gesture use in technology and (pronunciation) teaching

Personal digital communication technology is revolutionizing our understanding of the critical role played by touch in accessing "data" and thinking. As students rely more and more in school and out on handheld devices, the designers and promoters of those interfaces are far out ahead of educators in systematically exploiting the "haptic" (movement plus touch) possibilities, what Sinclair and deFreitas term "tangible gesture". Not all gesture involves tactile engagement, of course, but that which does in cutting edge haptic technology has much to teach us about the effective use of gesture, especially in pronunciation teaching.

A recent paper by Sinclair and de Freitas focusing on "tangible gesture" provides a helpful framework for understanding better the value of systematic haptic gesture work. Quoting the abstract:

" . . . This re-thinking of gesture returns to the principle of indexicality found in Peirce’s material semiotics, and develops this principle through the work of Gilles Châtelet and Gilles Deleuze around hand-eye relationships. Drawing on the work of Jürgen Streek, we propose and discuss the notion of the tangible gesture, in the context of mathematical explorations of young children with a multitouch iPad environment designed to promote counting on and with the fingers."

Allow me to translate that: As research in haptic learning has long established, what touch does is create a more efficient, integrative bridge to meaning that gesture alone may not accomplish. In effect the point of touch by the hand can drastically narrow the focus of attention and enhance the bonding together of the concept or symbol and object or process underway.

More practically speaking, a gesture involving strategic touch in pronunciation teaching on a stressed syllable, for example, should be substantially more effective in promoting the acquisition or access to memory of the targeted sound, word or phrase than the same gesture done without the haptic anchor.  

Tangible gesture. Nice concept. More on it shortly. Keep in touch.

Sinclair, N. and de Freitas, E. (2015). The haptic nature of gesture: Rethinking gesture with new multitouch digital technologies. Gesture 14:3, 351-374.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Move me, I'm in; show me, I learn.

Always nice to stumble onto yet another piece of empirical research that helps explain why something you do in teaching probably works. Having been using gesture more or less systematically in pronunciation teaching for over 40 years, it was obvious that the ability to mimic gesture was closely related to ability to interpret and learn from pedagogical gesture in class.

There were, of course, some learners who seemed naturally to have great "kinaesthetic intelligence"; others clearly didn't. Consequently, so much of our work has been aimed at developing gesture-enhanced or gesture-synchronized techniques that the less "kinaesthetic" could learn quickly and use.

A 2015 study by Wu and Coulsen of UC-San Diego, Iconic Gestures Facilitate Discourse Comprehension in Individuals With Superior Immediate Memory for Body Configurations provides an interesting clue. As part of their research into the relationship between "kinaesthetic working memory" (KWM) and perception of  (iconic) gesture, the instrument they used to determine KWM involved having subjects basically attempt to mimic gestures of a model, independent of verbal language. Those with stronger KWM by that measure were better at interpreting gestures used in somewhat fragmented conversation--which required contribution of the meaning of the gestures for the core sense of the conversation to get across.

The question, of course, is whether or not KWM can be enhanced by training or even engaged more in teaching and learning. Study after study in the areas of athletic training and rehabilitation confirm that it can.  KWM is, likewise, the basis of haptic pronunciation teaching. And how is such training accomplished? By highly controlled, systematic repetitive practice of relevant body movements involved, not simply by demonstrating the movements to learners or using them naturally in teaching--which is what most enthusiastic (pronunciation) instructors do anyway.

What that means, especially for language teaching, is that the benefit of simply using gestures in teaching may be minimal at best for any number of reasons. In general, techniques such as stretching rubber bands, tapping on desks or playing choral conductor with intonation appear to be good for presenting concepts but not for actually helping learners practice and improve their pronunciation. (For those with high natural KWM it may, of course, be a different story.)

Systematic work with KWM is, I think, the key to at least efficient learning and teaching of pronunciation. If you are still not moved to act on that concept, check in with your local aerobics or Alexander Technique instructor for a tune up. (Research suggests at least 4 weeks needed to establish new kinaesthetic patterning.) Or join us hapticians. See info in the right column and elsewhere on the blog on how to do that!

Full citation: Wu, Y. and Coulsen, S. (2015) Iconic Gestures Facilitate Discourse Comprehension in Individuals With Superior Immediate Memory for Body ConfigurationsPsychological Science vol. 26 no. 11 1717-1727,

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Incidental Correction of Pronunciation

MA Thesis defense here (Trinity Western University) today by Rebeka delaMorandiere: Incidental Correction of Pronunciation: Beliefs and Classroom Practice. The thesis itself will be accessible later this spring. Very good work.


In English language teaching, pronunciation is making something of a “comeback”. Since the late 1970s, in part as a response to structural methods, pronunciation has generally been downplayed. Today, it is being integrated back into communicative and task-based teaching, with the recommendation that it be addressed according to an “intelligibility”, rather than “native speaker”, model. With these developments have arisen new questions about error-correction.

In the past, it was expected that errors be immediately corrected, whereas today, errors tend to be corrected when they interfere with intelligibility, providing teachable moments for learning. With a focus on intelligibility, incidental correction occurs based on observed student needs during meaning-focused tasks; this kind of error correction is well known as a subset of “focus on form” instruction (Long, 1991). It is suggested that feedback is effective if it is salient, systematic and engaging for the student. Despite several recent studies suggesting effective techniques for correcting pronunciation (Saito and Lyster, 2012; Saito, 2015; and Lee and Lyster, 2015), studies focusing on incidental correction of pronunciation in an integrated, task-based program are lacking (cf. Foote et al., 2013).

A qualitative study was conducted at an English for academic purposes institution in Vancouver, British Columbia. About six hours of instruction were observed, 54 students were surveyed, and five instructors were interviewed regarding their beliefs about pronunciation-related incidental corrective feedback in the classroom.

Overall, results suggest that incidental correction of pronunciation targeted segmental errors (e.g., consonants and vowels), mainly in student-fronted contexts such as presentations or read-aloud activities. Incidental correction focusing on suprasegmentals (e.g., focus words and connected speech), though minimal, was evident in discussion activities. The survey revealed that students prefer pronunciation correction that involves negotiation rather than direct recasts, i.e., students prefer to be prompted for the correct answer rather than being provided with it. Students, especially in the higher proficiency level classes, tended to be wary of correction that might interrupt their “thoughts”. Surprisingly, without directly being elicited, the predominant theme that arose from the instructor interviews was the need for comfort and trust in the classroom, with instructors believing that correction is necessary and important, but not if it will increase student stress and anxiety.

Based on these findings, a preliminary framework for incidental corrective feedback of pronunciation is outlined, including suggestions for when and how feedback could have occurred in the observed classes. In conclusion, the contemporary definition of “incidental” is revisited, suggesting directions for further research and practice in incidental pronunciation correction.

There is even a "touch" of haptic pronunciation intervention as well!