Monday, March 23, 2015

The posture of (haptic pronunciation) teaching and learning

Especially if you are new to language learning--or a robot, here is fascinating study by Morse, Benitez, Belpaeme, Cangelosi, and Smith of Indiana university, "Posture Affects How Robots and Infants Map Words to Objects," summarized by ScienceDaily (See full citation below).

Basically what the research demonstrates is the role of body attitude (or orientation) in space in name and concept learning. From the summary:

"Using both robots and infants, researchers examined the role bodily position played in the brain's ability to "map" names to objects. They found that consistency of the body's posture and spatial relationship to an object as an object's name was shown and spoken aloud were critical to successfully connecting the name to the object."

And a quote from the lead author as to the implications of this line of research: 

"These experiments may provide a new way to investigate the way cognition is connected to the body, as well as new evidence that mental entities, such as thoughts, words and representations of objects, which seem to have no spatial or bodily components, first take shape through spatial relationship of the body within the surrounding world," . . .

In haptic pronunciation teaching (Essential Haptic-integrated English Pronunciation, EHIEP) we basically associate the sounds, words and patterns of language (English in this case) with specially designed gestures across the visual field, what we call 'pedagogical movement patterns' (PMPs).  We realized almost a decade ago that, at least for some learners (those that are more visually eidetic), the precision with which those models are presented and practiced initially is critical.

Studies in any number of "physical" disciplines, such as athletic training, rehabilitation psychotherapy have long established that principle, that where the new learning occurs in the visual field--and in the body--is integral to efficiency and effectiveness of learning. 

Of course the relevance of those studies goes far beyond learning pronunciation. Depending on your agenda and method, the "context of learning" extends out from the body to the concepts to the words, to the social milieu--even to the room. 

Sit up and take notice! (And join us at the TESOL Convention in Toronto this week on the 28th!)

Full citation:
Indiana University. "Robot model for infant learning shows bodily posture may affect memory and learning." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 March 2015. .

Thursday, March 19, 2015

(New) Haptic Pronunciation Teaching at TESOL 2015 - Introductory Package!

Even if you aren't coming to Toronto next week, you can still "get haptic!" The Haptic Pronunciation Teaching Workshop (Saturday 9:30~11:15, room 206A) at the TESOL Convention in Toronto will introduce several new features of the AHEPS system, including the new "PronHaptic (recycled tennis) Ball" versions of most of the protocols. We've put together a special, limited-time introductory package offer.

It takes (tennis) balls to teach (Haptic) Pronunciation!

For five years or so we have been using tennis balls for one of our haptic pronunciation teaching protocols (techniques). A couple of months ago, while looking online to renew our recycled tennis ball supply, I stumbled onto a website that had this intriguing set of (haptic) "qualities" for tennis balls that might equally apply to our work, with analogical-metaphorical lenses on, of course. Among them:  

"Soft, thick felt, designed for beginnersconsistent, delivers a great gaming experience, very responsive, highly visible, can handle a beating while not playing too fast or bouncing too high . . . "

Within a few days, I made the decision to try using recycled "PronHaptic (tennis) Balls" in almost  ALL of our initial presentations of haptic pronunciation teaching techniques. The preliminary  results from the classroom have been stunning.

Basically, it works this way. The ball is held in the right hand or the hand that is touched (or squeezed) on the stressed syllable or a word or phrase (as the other hand moves from across the visual field to land on that spot). It appears to strongly increase concentration and energy expended on the stressed syllable and give the instructor a new, more visual perspective on monitoring what students are doing and how they are doing it. Holding the tennis ball, students generally speak louder, more confidently and move more consistently.

There are probably any number of reasons for those effects, including consigning touch to a hand on a ball rather than a hand on another hand, or a shoulder, or a forearm or the abs. We'll figure that out. My guess is that the uniquely "haptic", felt-sense qualities of the tennis balls contribute greatly to holding attention and linking the sound to the syllable. (That is, in essence, what our haptic modality does for us!)

We have tried many other kinds of balls, including stress balls, baseballs, golf balls, sponge balls, oranges, etc., but none seem to have the consistent impact of yellow (not white or red) tennis balls. Used ones are fine as long as they are reasonably clean and have adequate colour left.

In meantime, if you haven't already, get some recycled tennis balls and have students use the protocol linked above (The Rhythm Fight Club--substituting a yellow tennis ball for the cute chickadee, of course) with new pronunciation or vocabulary or idioms.

Game. Set. Match.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Why cognitively lazy women (and their smart phones) may make better language learners!

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Women are (in my experience, intuitively speaking) generally:

Most now realize that the attitude in education of "It is not so important what facts students have in their heads, but rather if they can find the right answer on the web!" does, indeed, have it's downside--particularly when there is an urgent need to impress somebody at a party--without Siri being part of the conversation.

We also know at least intuitively (rather than analytically, based on hard research) that successful language learners tend to be better at "looking up" words (either from other people or "books" of some kind, online or dead-tree) and are better at remembering them--which probably doesn't mean just memorization.

New study by Barr, Pennycook, Stolz, and Fugelsang of University of Waterloo, summarized by ScienceDaily, found that intuitive, as opposed to analytical thinkers, tend to use their smart phone web browsers more to arrive at answers, as opposed to "thinking" it out themselves. (Full citation below--To paraphrase Will Rogers, I only know what I read on

Here's the bad news: According to the researchers, reliance on the smart phone may well make the more intuitive user "lazy" cognitively: "They may look up information that they actually know or could easily learn, but are unwilling to make the effort to actually think about it".

They did not find any correlation between use of smart phones for entertainment or social media and intelligence or cognitive "decline," however. (Clearly, a "no-brainer" . . . )

Here's the good news:. As we use more and more hand-held technology in language teaching and learning (especially pronunciation work), it should just get easier and easier--at least for some of us! And simply from an analytical perspective, or is it just intuitive, nothing in "print" says that smarter language learners are necessarily better ones?

The reported correlations between learning language in school and general academic success really don't count here, for a number of reasons, including gender bias. Again, in my experience, the less "intelligent" (boys) have to be even more ambitious and work harder at it. They cannot afford to kick back and take it easier.

Probably should have done more web search to explore this, of course, but being the wannabe analytic that I am, just figured it wasn't all that necessary.

Full citation:
University of Waterloo. (2015, March 5). Reliance on smartphones linked to lazy thinking. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 11, 2015 from

Monday, March 9, 2015

Language teaching insights from other fields? (a new book from TESOL Press)

Credit: TESOL Press,
Although only a few chapters qualify as directly applicable to haptic pronunciation teaching, Language teaching insights from other fields, (from TESOL Press) edited by Stillwell, certainly captures the spirit of the HICPR blog in demonstrating the great commonality in principles of teaching and learning across disciplines.

Most importantly, however, I think it makes another point, albeit indirectly,  that research studies and practice paradigms from other fields should be seen as potentially valid and credible evidence to support teaching practice in this field.

That was, understandably, more in vogue a couple of decades ago, before more empirical studies (in the area of pronunciation, for example) began to appear. Like all developing fields, we borrowed heavily from models of  related disciplines--until our "native" research base and identity emerged. A sign of the recent maturation of the field is appearance of  the new Journal of Second Language Pronunciation.

Lately the pendulum has also begun to swing back in the other direction, however, a trend evident in the social sciences in general: the territorial, professional, "pedagogically correct" (PC) imperative: (For at least some theorists today) only research done in the classroom or the laboratory of language teaching by language professionals/researchers can be considered as adequate or sufficient support for classroom practice.

This book provides some welcome perspective on that issue.


Dance your way to better classroom management (and pronunciation teaching)?

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Here is a moving study--especially if you are a dancer or dance fan (of which I count myself a member) --summarized by ScienceDaily, conducted by Hujala, Laulainen and Kokkonen of the University of Eastern Finland: "Manager's dance: reflecting management interaction through creative movement," published in the International Journal of Work Organisation and Emotion

The researchers' methodology and conclusion, excerpted from the abstract on (To buy this piece would cost $41 CAD, or about 8 Vente Carmel Frappuccinos, so we'll just have to go with what we have here!)

"Four managers and three researchers participated in two creative dance sessions with a dance pedagogue. The sessions were videotaped, and the visual material and reflections of participants were used in the interpretation. The use of creative movement 'revealed' unconscious dimensions of behaviour and the relevance of feelings in management interaction. In addition, the therapeutic outcomes appeared to be an essential part of the study for the participants."

Here is what ScienceDaily pulled from the study (boldface, mine):

"They suggest that creative movement harnessing the whole body may give rise to new knowledge about management interactions. Most intriguingly, they suggest that a person's dance moves might reveal unconscious and unnoticed thoughts about their life and their position in the workplace and so highlight the aesthetic and embodied dimensions of management."

We often characterize what we do in haptic pronunciation teaching as a kind of dance, where instructor and learner move together as they work on new or "correctable" sounds, as if in synchronized dance across the room from each other. We have not, however, formally looked at the class management side of what is going on, that is exerting control over the "whole bodies" of learners as we do that.

The methodology seems pretty straightforward (from what we can get from the abstract). Might be a bit uncomfortable for some, to sit and watch videos of themselves teaching, talking about their feelings during synchronized "haptic dance" and how they managed it, but to paraphrase Garth Brooks, to avoid the "pain" might be to miss the "dance!"

Keep in touch.

Full citation:
Inderscience. (2014, March 6). Hey, boss! Lose yourself to dance, know yourself better. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 9, 2015 from

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Signs of spontaneous change in pronunciation teaching: more than just "weist darauf hin" . . .

Photo credit: Sunburst
Marsha Chan has a "handy" system (including demonstration video) for using the hands to support English pronunciation teaching. Have used aspects of it and similar techniques for decades. Still do, in fact. Adam Brown describes somewhat similar techniques in teaching phonetics.

Chan's repertoire of hand gestures used for both initial teaching and providing feedback is, in many ways, emblematic of behaviourist approaches to language teaching: the instructor signals to the learner, points out what to correct. The idea is that the learner then takes note or "uptakes" the correction and goes ahead to integrate that new form into spontaneous speaking or at least spontaneous listening.

Had a German English teaching colleague a couple of decades ago who fervently believed that to "weist darauf hin" (point out) was his only pedagogical responsibility when it came to assisting students with pronunciation change. It was their problem from there on . . . He, too,  had a neat gesture system. It was, indeed, only a "gesture," however.

We "hapticians" (haptic pronunciation teaching enthusiasts) who work with EHIEP (Essential haptic-integrated English Pronunciation) or the haptic video system, AHEPS (Acton Haptic English Pronunciation System) have been focusing for some time now on spontaneous correction of pronunciation in class. The basic concept is that (a) students have been earlier introduced to not just a sign that lets them know what they may need to work on, but rather (b) how to figure out the source of the problem, themselves, and (c) what to do once they do.

For example, say a student uses the wrong vowel in a word. The interaction may go something like this:

A. Instructor: What is the number of the vowel in that word? (Morley, 1992)
B. Learner: (Considers for a second and then takes her best guess: "Ah . . . vowel #4)
C. Instructor either confirms or provides the correct vowel number.
Students had earlier been introduced to the vowel system and a set of haptic techniques for anchoring the sound (with gesture and touch). 
D. Learner and instructor then practice the word briefly 3 or 4 times together with a (haptic) pedagogical movement pattern, i.e., "Do that word with me!" (We do not use the dictum: Repeat after me.)
E. Learner writes down the problematic word/phrase immediately and then later
F. She puts it on her current practice word list that is systematically practiced for about 2 weeks, 3x each week.

If you are new to haptic pronunciation teaching, now might be a good time to "sign on!" A good place to start would be at the Haptic Pronunciation Teaching Workshop on Saturday, March 28th, 9:30 a.m., at the TESOL Convention in Toronto!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The sweet spot: Motivation and self-discipline in (pronunciation) teaching

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The term, self-disciplined or its distant cousin "will power," does not seem to show up much in research on second language pronunciation teaching today (cf. Bunrueng, 2014) --or most anywhere for that matter. Ever since elementary school where I was continually bribed with sugar to calm down and pay attention or be rewarded for demonstrating a little of that,  I've been sold on how important it is . . . (self discipline, that is!)

Helping students become more independent, autonomous and better managers of their learning and study is ostensibly a goal of most contemporary, post-modern-method, "pedagogically hip" programs. But how do you do that, especially if they (naturally) lack motivation and self-discipline, and blatant bribery of at least adults with sweets is pretty much out of fashion?

Ah . . . not so fast there . . .

In a fascinating piece by Herbert at, entitled, "Where does self-discipline come from?" (Full citation below), reporting on research by Molden at Northwestern university, we find that even just quickly rinsing out your mouth with sugar water occasionally may serve to seriously restart your motivation to get something done. (But you knew that already!)

They are not sure exactly why that works but, apparently, just the hint to the brain of some later "reward" works nearly as well as the real thing. So it is not the blood sugar that immediately gets you going when you wolf down that bear claw and latte, it is the THOUGHT of what it is going to do for you that gets your juices flowing, so to speak!

So what is the obvious takeaway here? (Should you live close to a Tim Hortons or KrispyKreme shop, you are way ahead of me!) If self-discipline is a plus in your work (or your life)--and it certainly is in getting students to take responsibility for their own learning, in doing the heavy lifting of homework and practice in haptic teaching pronunciation, then my occasional, strategic use of chocolate and "Timbits" is fully justified!

Just think about it . . . 


Full citation
Herbert, W. (2015), retrieved from (February 23, 2015)

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Flirting with pronunciation teaching: I like the way you move there!

The scientific study of flirting may have something interesting to say to us in language teaching. In a follow up to a 2010 study, Hall and Xing of University of Kansas (Full citation below, summarized by ScienceDaily) identify "verbal and nonverbal correlates of flirting styles." Their conclusion was " . . . everybody does it differently. Because flirting is low-key and varied, we're often oblivious when people send us signals of romantic attraction." 

Everybody does it differently . . . Really? The 5 styles identified are: (A) physical, (B) traditional, (C) polite, (D) sincere and (E) playful. You can check out your own style by going to Hall's website, taking a questionnaire. Those even translate into styles of pronunciation teaching (or methodological bias), as well--with a bit of unpacking:
  • Styles A, Physical, and B, Traditional, probably fit. 
  • I read C, Polite,  as "cognitive" and empirical (Think and talk first; act second, if at all!)
  • D, Sincere,  as "affective-communicative" (Enough meaningful communication and time can cure most any problem. Or: Care a great deal, but do nothing!) 
  • Style E, Playful,  implies both fun activities in class and innovation (playing with paradigms). 
One reason that pronunciation teaching and flirting appear to have so much in common is that all conceptual frameworks dealing with styles can usually be characterized using the same two dimensions or axises: External (mind) vs Internal (body), and stability vs change. (See earlier post on that and its application to haptic pronunciation work in the visual field.) The five styles can be displayed something like this:

C. Polite
(External, mind-oriented)

B. Traditional
D. Sincere
(Nice, but static, nondescript)
E. Playful
(Change- oriented)

A. Physical
(Internal – body oriented)

Pick any three, the first one being your dominant style and locate yourself somewhere among them. Many of us are B-A-Es or C-E-As. I know a few B-C-Ds, as well, those who only occasionally "flirt" with pronunciation teaching!

 "Haptic A-C-E Style"

Part of what a psychological "style" does is determine your default response to the unexpected. A style can be established by any number of factors.  Our haptic pronunciation teaching style is definitely A-C-E!

How is yours working for you in class, responding to pronunciation problems that may pop up spontaneously? 
    Have begun (flirting with) categorizing pronunciation instructors, textbooks and methods using that framework. (My poor graduate student "guinea pigs" will bear the brunt of some of that exploratory work soon, in fact!) 

    Keep in touch!

    Full citation
    Jeffrey A. Hall, Chong Xing. The Verbal and Nonverbal Correlates of the Five Flirting Styles. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 2014; 39 (1): 41 DOI: 10.1007/s10919-014-0199-8

    Friday, February 13, 2015

    Out-of-touch kinaesthetic (gesture-based) teaching: Mora* or less!

    Very interesting (and revealing) piece of research from Hirata and colleagues at Colgate University, entitled, "Effects of Hand Gestures on Auditory Learning of Second-Language Vowel Length Contrasts". The short-term, 2014 experimental study, in effect, tested the hypothesis that using a wave-like gesture (by both instructor and learner) would at least temporarily enhance learning of vowel length in Japanese. (See full citation, below.)

    Results based on pre-and post- auditory tests (to see if subjects could hear the long-short distinction) turned out to be a mixed bag: "The overall effect of hand gesture on learning of segmental phonology is limited."

    In some contexts it seemed to work: " . . .observing the syllabic-rhythm hand gesture (of the instructor) yielded the most balanced improvement between word-initial and word- final vowels and between slow and fast speaking rates." What did not seem to work as well (or at all) was when subjects just " . . . produced the moraic*-rhythm gesture (along) with the instructor." 
    Library of Congress

    An earlier blog post looked at a number reasons why kinaesthetic-only techniques (those that are not haptic) may not work--that is using a gesture, like the "waving hand" in this study. Probably the most important factor is the potentially unsystematic use of the gesture, especially for highly visual and emotionally "conservative" learners.

    That was an important early discovery in our haptic work, which involves anchoring all gestures with touch in various ways on the stressed syllable of a word. Any number of students told us unequivocally that unless (a) the gesture moved through something close to the precise, same track in the visual field and (b) "felt the same" in their bodies each time that it was used by the instructor or themselves, they found the procedure at best irrelevant, at worst very disconcerting.

    The Hirata et al (2014) study not only used "unanchored" gesture, it used the same long or short gesture(s) for signalling length, regardless of the vowel. That is not unlike having students stretch a rubber band on long vowels (Gilbert, 2012), a technique that gets across the concept of vowel length very well but probably does little to transfer that idea into ongoing production in speech.

    With apologies to G.K. Chesterton: (Unanchored) kinaesthetic teaching of pronunciation has not been tried and found wanting here; it has, not surprisingly, been found inconsistent and unsystematic. But a touch of "haptic" might have made a very significant impact. Keep in touch

    *For more on the concept of mora and how it affects syllable length, see the succinct wikipedia note.  

    Hirata, Y., Kelly, S., Huang, J., Manansalaa, M. (2014). Effects of Hand Gestures on Auditory Learning of Second-Language Vowel Length Contrasts, Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research 57: 2090–2101, December 2014.

    Monday, February 9, 2015

    Fit for integrated (haptic) pronunciation teaching?

    A common finding in research on instructor attitudes toward pronunciation is that they feel like they don't know enough about it to do it, e.g., Baker (2014). There is also no lack of published opinion on what you should know to teach pronunciation, depending of course on where and with whom you do it--including an earlier blogpost summarizing recommendations by a group of such authorities.

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    In more kinaesthetic or haptic-based teaching, the concept of fit may go in a somewhat different direction. To teach from that perspective requires at least some body aptitude and an understanding of how body-based training works. (There are any number of cognitive and physical preference instruments available to do that with.) I am always intrigued by the parallels between the two processes or approaches, i.e, pronunciation and fitness training.

    Here is one, acronym-ed, S.H.R.E.D. (from one self-described as an Icon of the fitness world,-- Jillian Michaels, new "face" of Curves, Inc. ), that has a great subtitle: YOU'RE EXPLORING AND EXPLOITING THE POSSIBILITY OF HUMAN MOVEMENT IN WAYS THAT FACILITATE ULTIMATE PHYSICAL CONDITIONING. (Full disclosure: I'm a big fan of the Curves system!)


    That SHRED system (Synergistic, High-intensity,  Resistance, Endurance and Dynamics) is based on the idea of three phases of a learning cycle (There would be typically 5 of those in a 30-minute workout):
    3 minutes of strength training
    2 minutes of cardio training
    1 minute of core training

    Translating that into integrated pronunciation teaching, when a new "target of opportunity" comes up in class,  you get something like this:
    3 minutes of exploration (modelling+training+drill), 
    including minimal, necessary explanation 
    2 minutes of fluency work
    1 minute of integration work

    If it takes about that long, 6 minutes, to work on a new sound issue (probably 1/3 of that for a recurrent problem), does that fit into your method? If not, shred it! (Your method, that is!)

    An upcoming post will illustrate both 6 and 2 minute haptic pronunciation INTRA-dictions such as this one. 

    Baker, A. (2014). Exploring teachers' knowledge of L2 pronunciation techniques: Teacher cognitions, observed classroom practices and student perceptions. TESOL Quarterly, 48(1), 136-163. doi: 10.1002/tesq.99

    Saturday, February 7, 2015

    Why haptic (pronunciation) teaching and learning should be superior!

    Wow. How about this "multi-sensory" conclusion from Max-Planck-Gesellschaft researchers Mayer, Yildiz, Macedonia, and von Kriegstein, Visual and motor cortices differentially support the translation of foreign language words (full citation below)--summarized by Science daily (boldface added for emphasis) :

    "The motor system in the brain appears to be especially important: When someone not only hears vocabulary in a foreign language, but expresses it using gestures, they will be more likely to remember it. Also helpful, although to a slightly lesser extent, is learning with images that correspond to the word. Learning methods that involve several senses, and in particular those that use gestures, are therefore superior to those based only on listening or reading."

    The basic "tools" of haptic pronunciation teaching, what we call "pedagogical movement patterns," are defined as follows:

    As a word or phrase is visualized (visual) and spoken with resonant voice, a gesture moving across the visual field is preformed which culminates in hands touching on the stressed syllable of the word or phrase (cognitive/linguistic), as the sound of the word is experienced as articulatory muscle movement in the upper body and by vibrations in the body emanating from the vocal cords and (to some degree) sound waves returning to the ears (auditory). 

    And what bonds that all together? A 2009 study by Fredembach,et al demonstrated just how haptic anchoring--and the PMP should work: in relative terms, the major contribution of touch may generally be exploratory and assembling of multi-sensory experiences. The key is to do as much as possible to ensure that learners keep as many senses in play during "teachable moments" when new word-sound complexes are being encountered and learned. 

    Make sense? Keep in touch!

    Fredembach, B., Boisferon, A. & Gentaz, E. (2009) Learning of arbitrary association between visual and auditory novel stimuli in adults: The “Bond Effect” of haptic exploration. PLoS ONE, 2009, 4(3), 13-20.
    Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. (2015, February 5). Learning with all the senses: Movement, images facilitate vocabulary learning. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 7, 2015 from

    Wednesday, February 4, 2015

    From warm up to wacky: Experiential learning and expressiveness in pronunciation teaching

    This is a follow up to last week's post on a new haptic pronunciation teaching workshop we are doing this month at the BCTEAL Regional Island conference focusing on expressiveness. A recent study by Rangel, et al. looked at the interaction between instructor expressiveness and learner experiential learning style preference. (Hat tip to Mike Burri.) What they found, in effect, was that expressive delivery in training works well, or at least better, when the trainee is more amenable to experiential learning. 

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    What all of us in pronunciation work know is that you must engage learners expressively--or you lose them. Furthermore, getting beyond the basics is futile without something of that experiential "abandon" and receptivity. This is the conundrum: pushing learners beyond their comfort zone so that they can both understand and communicate expressiveness can be lethal. (It is the "Achilles Heel" of many loveable but wacky practitioners!) 

    For that "expressive" instructional style to work requires a complementary openness to a less explicitly cognitive and more intuitive response from students. Here is how experiential learning style  is defined (excerpt from Rangel, Chung, Harris, Carpenter, Chiaburu and Moore, 2015. See full citation below.) 

     ". . . a form of processing that is intuitive, automatic and associated primarily with affect and emotional responses (Novak & Hoffman, 2009; Pacini & Epstein, 1999). 
     . . . the experiential learner typically demonstrates low(er) levels of cognitive engagement in the traditional learning process, and instead requires external, affective cues to effectively activate the experiential system and, thus, information processing. Such cues can be provided by one’s instructor when he or she employs expressive, stimulating delivery techniques." 

    Does that sound like your typical (traditional?) pronunciation class or lesson? The problem, of course, is setting up the classroom experience so that effective experiential learning can happen, so that even the less naturally experientially-oriented learner can still join the party. 

    Haptic pronunciation training is, by definition, highly experiential (as unpacked in any number of previous posts) and (should be) very stimulating, but why is requiring "uptake of" expressiveness, which requires more experientially-directed learners, especially at the conversational discourse-level absolutely essential? 

    The Rangel et al. study points toward the answer: It allows more direct, albeit perhaps temporary, unfiltered access to the intentions and emotions being communicated by the speaker. Meta-communicative analysis can follow, of course, but the research would suggest that reverse is almost surely not the case. 

    So how do you do that? How do you create an environment where experiential, expressive learning is not only tolerated but embraced by students, especially those in highly visual-cognitive career tracks? (Recall the great Nike commercial: Just do it!) 

    One image that certainly comes to mind for me is that of a poetry instructor I had as an undergrad. She gradually enabled/required an extraordinary level of expressiveness in reading poems, where we all seemed to be completely at ease, uninhibited and "in" the experience. 

     If you have thoughts on that or references to published methods that do that quickly and well . . . please express them!

    And stay tuned. We'll be trying out a new expressiveness-orientation model in the workshop at the conference. 

    Full citation:
    Bertha Rangel, Wonjoon Chung, T. Brad Harris, Nichelle C. Carpenter, Dan S. Chiaburu and Jenna L. Moore (2015 ) Rules of engagement: the joint influence of trainer expressiveness and trainee experiential learning style on engagement and training transfer. International Journal of Training and Development 19:1 ISSN 1360-3736, doi: 10.1111/ijtd.12045

    Tuesday, February 3, 2015

    Context rehabilitation in (or as a substitute for) pronunciation and accent work

    Part of the system I wrote about in 1984 (Acton 1984) included the almost tongue-in-cheek notion of "context rehabilitation." (See recent, relatively accurate, 2014, outline of that article by Polinedrio and Colon). The idea was to very proactively train students in how to influence the attitudes of their supervisors and co-workers as regards their  improving comprehensibility--while at the same time making substantive, noticeable changes in intelligibility as soon as possible in the program, of course! Some of that came from the early work of Rubin (1975) and others, and work on attending skills, e.g.,  Acton and Cope (1999).  

    A recent, very informative review of research on the effectiveness in pronunciation instruction by Thomson and Derwing (2014) concludes with this interesting and revealing comment:  

    "In immigrant situations, native speakers of the L2 can be helped to become better listeners as well (Derwing et al. 2002; Kang and Rubin 2012) . . .  Communication is a two-way street, thus L2 speakers’ interlocutors sometimes need support in building confidence that they have the skills to interact with L2 accented individuals." 

    Other than the near-comma-splice, love that word "support" in that final statement. It may well be that educational campaigns and law suits to change societal attitudes toward accents will, indeed, in the long run be the most cost-efficient and effective approach to improving intercultural communication--and making much pronunciation instruction less (or ir-)relevant . . .

    For a much fuller exploration of that and related themes, get a copy of a great-looking new (VERY EXPENSIVE - $176 CAD in hardcover and I can't find it in paperback yet) book, Social dynamics in second language accent (2014), edited by Levis and Moyer! (My library doesn't have it yet but most of the chapters seem to be obvious continuations of each author's best stuff.) 

    Keep in touch. 

    Saturday, January 31, 2015

    Touching teaching of expressiveness!

    Photo credit:
    On February 21st, at the 2015 BCTEAL - Island ConferenceProfessor Aihua Liu of Harbin Institute of Technology, a visiting professor here at Trinity Western University, and myself, will be doing a workshop entitled, "A touching and moving approach to teaching expressiveness."

    Here is the program abstract: 

    In this practical, “hands on” workshop, a haptic-integrated (using movement and touch) classroom-tested system for teaching conversational intonation and expressiveness will be demonstrated and practiced by participants. The 8 basic techniques include 5 for intonation and 3 others for adding on changes in pitch, pace, volume and discourse foregrounding.

    And the detailed summary:

    Teaching English intonation can be challenging for any language teacher, due in part to the unique uses of intonation patterns at the discourse level.  Although pronunciation textbooks for students generally present basic intonation patterns with practice activities, that is, of course, only the beginning. It is one thing to be able to imitate or use a simple rising intonation contour on a type of yes/no question or a falling pattern on a simple statement, but it is still quite a leap to expressing a wider range of emotion in speaking.

    The haptic model presented has students initially speak along with a model or instructor when working on a new or unusual stretch of expressive speech. Rather than just speaking the sentences, however, learners gesture along with the model to enhance their ability to not just produce but recall more accurately the “extra” features of pitch, pace, volume and discourse focus (or foregrounding).

    The workshop is based on principles of “Essential haptic-integrated English Pronunciation,” developed by Acton and colleagues. Participants are provided with guidelines for using the framework in classes with teenage and adult learners and given access to video models on the web of the techniques presented.

    Join us, if you can!