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)
  • 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):
Clip art:
"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.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Stop using excessive repetition in pronunciation teaching! (Especially if your student almost gets it right the first time!)

 "Words, words, words." (Hamlet)

There is probably no topic more controversial in pronunciation teaching than the role of repetition in learning and change. Key in "repetition in pronunciation teaching" into Google and you get about 1,000,000 hits. Educated opinion ranges from "use only sparingly and strategically, if at all" to highly sophisticated routines with multiple repetitions.

Applicability of repetition of language forms varies greatly, in differing forms and with learner populations. The operating principle may, in fact, be--to paraphrase an old pop song--neither "too much repetition-- or not quite enough."

The former injunction, to use repetition sparingly in at least some contexts, is seemingly supported by a 2014 study by Reagh and Yassa of the University of California-Irvine (summarized by Science Daily) in which repeated viewing of pictures seemed to " . . . increase factual recall but actually hindered subjects' ability to reject similar "imposter" pictures. This suggests that the details of those memories may have been shaken loose by repetition." Their model, Competitive Trace Theory, also is said to postulate that " . . . details of a memory become more subjective the more they're recalled and can compete with bits of other similar memories."

Now granted, that study focused only on repeated viewing of pictures, rather than oral (or haptic) repetition. What that does at least in part explain, however, is why repetition may not only be ineffective at times but possibly counterproductive, downgrading even further the memory of the target sound, word or phrase. In cases where there is a competing or "dangerously similar" L1 or L2 sound, word or phrase in the neighbourhood, either phonologically or semantically, the effect may be significant.

Recall that Asher's 1970's pre-Total Physical Response research was, in part, based on the concept that the fewer the number of repetitions when a word is learned for the first time, the better the chances of it being remembered.)

There are any number of approaches to effective repetition in pronunciation teaching, depending on what is being learned and when. If just articulation of a specific sound is the purpose, multiple, rapid repetition may be in order. If, on the other hand, the pronunciation of new or "repaired" vocabulary is the goal, then the effect alluded to by Reagh and Yassa may be in operation: the "uniqueness" of the target being hammered off or dulled.

In EHIEP work we generally try to limit the number of repetitions of words or short phrases to 3x, and even then requiring as much intense "full body" engagement as possible, accompanied by haptic anchoring--movement and touch on a stressed syllable.

Coming soon!
AHEPS v3.0 Bee & Butterfly
(Artist: Anna Shaw)
Repetition, like all aspects of instructional design must be intentional, meaningful and developmentally appropriate. Working 1x1, as in tutoring, that is more manageable. At the class level or during independent study, however, it is another question entirely.

Just ask Zig Zigler“Repetition is the mother of learning, the father of action, which makes it the architect of accomplishment.” 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

From accurate to fluent pronunciation: AHEPS v3.0 "Bee and Butterfly!"

There are a number of changes and additions in v3.0, including:
  • New Modules 2, 3 and 4, available in 4 versions: General North American English, Canadian, British and Australian English
  • EHIEP charts of the basic vowel systems of 10 learner L1s, included for haptic transitioning to English (including, Chinese, Korean, Spanish, Arabic, Japanese, German, French, Thai, Punjabi and Vietnamese), plus 3 US dialects
  • Haptic pronunciation homework system
  • Classroom haptic pronunciation "correction" strategies
  • A new module on teaching unstressed vowels
  • A new module for teaching linking
  • Integrating haptic pronunciation with vocabulary teaching
  • Integrating haptic pronunciation with public speaking
  • Additional consonant modules 
v3.0 is set up so that it can be used either as a whole system--10 modules each taking about a week to complete--or one module at a time. A module typically includes a basic 30-minute haptic training video that can be done in or out of class, and then up to 2 hours of optional, video-based practice to be done in or out of class as well. Ideally, after the 30-minute introductory video, the instructor then just uses the new strategies from that point on in class in modelling, providing feedback on pronunciation and vocabulary. 
  • 4 "Bee," accuracy-focus modules (using vowels and word stress)
  • 4 "Bee and Butterfly" modules that involve both accuracy and fluency (using phrasal grouping, linking and tone units)
  • 2 "Butterfly" modules that transition to fluency (using expressiveness and conversational speed work)
If you are using v1.0 or v2.0 you will automatically be sent the upgrades to v3.0. If you are not using either yet, now would be a good time to get v2.0 at reduced prices--and still get free upgrade when v3.0 is available! (discounts on v2.0 are available by contacting 

By January, 2014, v3.0 should also be accessible by subscription. 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Stop assigning pronunciation homework! (Unless it is systematic and you follow up on it!)

Clip art: Clker
Time to check your homework . . . How's this for a formula for success: Instruction (in class, f2f or online) + out-of-class-work + student ability and initiative. You with me so far? The key factor is often said to be the last one, which entails motivation and a number of other more personal variables, including being organized and disciplined. 

It is always good to have "just blame the student" (or his or her genes) on the list of legitimate excuses for lack of progress. It is, of course, the insidious flip side of metacognitive practice: train the learner how to manage his or her learning in and out of class--and then he or she is on his or her own. 

How does your homework or out of class practice regimen work? How do you know? Do you care? 

As reported is several other blogposts, the research on homework is extensive (in the field of Education and others) and all over the map. Every disciple speaks to that process is some fashion, even car manufacturing

Many intensive language programs (20+ hours per week) program in systematic practice on site or online that involve monitoring and assessment. Good for them. I'm only interested here in instruction where pronunciation is not the sole focus of the class but is integrated into other skill and content teaching. (Haptic-INTEGRATED)

Just as an example, a guideline, here is the general EHIEP approach:

Systematic homework practice is "the bottom line" of Essential Haptic-integrated English Pronunciation (EHIEP) teaching system. Basically, when a word or phrase containing a problematic sound or sound process (e.g., rhythm, stress, juncture or intonation) is targeted it should be assigned to a list of some kind and briefly practiced by the learning outside of class about six times over the course of two weeks. (To understand what targeting and "haptic practice" is about in this method, check out the general description on the website.) The practice times and work done should also be noted in some kind of journal or "pronunciation log" for continuous review by the instructor. 

We should do a book on this--or at least develop a good comment thread on the topic below! There is a new appendix in AHEPS, v3.0 (rolling out this fall) on homework protocols. 

Keep in touch--and do your homework.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Stop practicing pronunciation! (If your students can explore it!)

This is a follow up on, "Stop correcting pronunciation! (If your students can afford it!)," based on a post by Tabaczynski. Question: Does (more) practice make perfect, or at least make one better than the competition? A couple recent summaries of meta-analyses by Science Digest add support to Tabaczynksi's argument, suggesting . . . well . . . maybe not so much.

Macnamara, Hambrick and Oswald (2014) note that: 

"Practice accounted for about 26% of individual differences in performance for games, about 21% of individual differences in music, and about 18% of individual differences in sports. But it only accounted for about 4% of individual differences in education and less than 1% of individual differences in performance in professions."

Stafford and Dewar (2013) add that: 

"Game play data revealed that those players who seemed to learn more quickly had either spaced out their practice or had more variable early performance -- suggesting they were exploring how the game works -- before going on to perform better."

Clip art:
Haptic pronunciation teaching methodology certainly aims to be more embodied, incorporating frameworks and techniques from gaming, music and sports. It is also pretty consistent with Tabaczynski's "(schematic) buckets and spaced (practice and scaffolded) retrieval" proposal.

Think I'll stop right there . . .

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Stop correcting pronunciation! (If your students can afford it!)

Clip art: Library
 of Congress
Good post by Tabaczynski, Counselling Paradigm in Language Teaching that seems very in line with where the field, in general, is headed. Here is his bottom line:

"I would suggest that instead of correcting we simply provide feedback. Students, I would argue, need feedback rather than correction. . . . the idea is that the development of language is non-linear, dynamic, and emergent, a product of the interaction of several systems . . .  I suggest that the task of teaching is providing external scaffolding systems of ‘buckets’ to collect information and manage spaced out retrieval practice."

Just as an aside, what does "correct" mean anyway?  According to Merriam Webster's, a range of things, such as:
  • to make or set right 
  • to alter or adjust so as to bring to some standard or required condition 
  • to punish (as a child) with a view to reforming or improving
  • to point out usually for amendment the errors or faults of
Got to be a better way (or at least metaphor) than that! Simple question, however: How might such a "spaced out buckets" approach work for you and your students? 

It would, of course,  be one thing were your students to be working on their English near full time in an academic preparation program (EAP.) That is especially the case when most students have good financial resources behind them or have the academic training or guidance to manage their learning and work with "strategies"--or even have time to think about them (as are most of Tabaczynski's students and thousands in the developed world like them.)

But how about if you have only minimal time and training to assist with pronunciation or attention to form in general, your students are not really very--or at all--"meta," they can not even afford textbooks, and they are in a class of 50 that meets only an hour or two a week? Might you still not be (justifiably) tempted to "kick the bucket" in favour of more direct, traditional "pointing out" or "punishing with a view to improving?"

My point. Today, where learners can afford it--especially with computer-assisted and better trained instructor support-- things look promising. For those who can't or whose programs won't, as Tabaczynski argues persuasively, with the current additional cognitive overlay of underlying behaviourists' reinforcement, extinction metaphors and methods, they may well be even worse off . . .

The answer, you ask? Next post, I'll address one (moving and touching) solution to this emerging "rags or riches" conundrum in the field. Perhaps we also need a new mantra: Pedagogical Justice for incorrect Pronunciation!

Keep in touch!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Conducing feelings and emotions with vowels!

How's this for an opening line of a new Science Daily summary of 2014 research by Rummer and Grice entitled, Mood is linked to vowel type: The role of articulatory movements: "Ground-breaking experiments have been conduced (sic) to uncover the links between language and emotions." (Love that possible typo, "conduced," by the way--maybe something of a portmanteau between conduct and conduce perhaps? That actually unpacks the study quite well! To "conduce" means to "lead to a particular result." Science can be like that, eh!

Basically what they discovered was that if you have subjects do something like bite on a pencil (so that they come up with a smile, of sorts) or just keep repeating the high front vowel /i/ that has that
Clip art:
articulatory setting while they watch a cartoon, they tend to see things as more amusing. If, on the other hand,  you have them stick the end of that pencil in their mouth so that they develop an extreme pucker, or keep repeating the vowel /o/, they tend to see things as less amusing

So? It has been known for decades that vowels do have phonaesthetic qualities. (See several previous blog posts.) The question has always been . . . but why? The conclusion: Because of what the facial muscles are doing while the vowel is articulated, especially as it relates to non-lexical (non word) emotional utterances. Could be, but they should have also tossed in some controls, some other vowels, too, such as having subjects use a mid, front unrounded vowel such as /ae/, as in "Bad!"-- or a high front rounded vowel, such as /ü/, as "Uber," the web-based taxi service, or a high back unrounded vowel. 

As much as I like the haptic pencil technique, which I use myself occasionally (using coffee stirs, however) for anchoring lip position with those vowels and others, there is obviously more going on here, such as the phonaesthetic qualities of the visual field. Also consider the fact that the researchers appear to be ethnically German, perhaps seriously compromising their ability to even perceive "amusing" in the first place, conducing them into that interpretation of the results. 
Nonetheless, an interesting and possibly useful study for us, more than mere "lip" service, to be sure. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Prompt (haptic) pronunciation prompting: Why does that work?

This post is an edited repost of a piece I posted on a list-serve recently, "The dark side of real-time, spontaneous pronunciation correction & feedback." Haptic anchoring of pronunciation change, where we have learners move and speak along with us, would probably be technically termed a type of "prompting" (Lyster and Saito, 2010). The question posed in the post is: How can you know when or why feedback works, based on research studies where what students knew or had been taught before the feedback event is not adequately specified? (In AH-EPS haptic pronunciation work, which emphasizes in-class spontaneous feedback, that connection is fundamental.) 
Have been working through the various studies and meta-analyses of corrective feedback in pronunciation teaching, (e.g., Lyster and Saito, 2010) looking for one feature: What did the students know about the feature in focus before the intervention and when did they learn about it? In other words, if learners have been introduced to the vowels system in some way, we probably will assume that in class correction or feedback on a specific vowel (or even out of class self correction) has a better chance of working. 
In all of the studies I have reviewed so far that investigate the range of feedback mechanisms, both in lab settings and in classrooms, I can find almost nothing that adequately characterizes the assumed cognitive schemata or understanding of the learners relative to that phonological feature prior to receiving some kind of feedback. It is occasionally referenced in passing, for example, that students, “had been introduced to X earlier, etc.,” but never in any systematic analysis.  The irony of contemporary theory giving such credence, prima facie, to “behaviours” without reference to what learners may be bringing to the party, must be enough to make the ghosts of Skinner, Lado and friends smile.

Haptic pronunciation work is based on prior, systematic introduction of specific features of the sound system before classroom intervention.  (Some of that is very much “Gilbertesque” in nature.) 

Do you know of an accessible study of classroom correction/feedback where the description of the formal pedagogical approach in place prior to the classroom “event” (or just what students are assumed to have known about the target) is sufficiently detailed and explicit so that the connection between formal (or even informal) presentation/knowledge – intervention--and effect or change is at least traceable? 
I didn't think so . . .