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:
Clker
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:
Clker
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 ScienceDaily.com) 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!

Credit: Hapticallyspeaking.com
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 info@actonhaptic.com.) 

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:
Clker
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:
Clker
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.) 
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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? 
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I didn't think so . . .  

Friday, June 20, 2014

Up standing (haptic) pronunciation teaching!

Early on we realized that at least for orientation and training where the primary goal of instruction is improved oral production of English, having adult or young adult students standing up for haptic pronunciation work is at least better, probably essential in most cases. If the focus is vocabulary development or when working with children, explicit training in the pedagogical movement patterns may not be critical. (See earlier posts on "kinesthetic/kinaesthetic listening," for example.)

Once the pedagogical movement patterns are introduced, whether using the AH-EPS haptic videos or done by the instructor "in person," using them for subsequent modelling, feedback and correction can be very effective.

Clip art:
Clker
A new study by Knight and Baer of Washington University,  as reported in Science Daily,* adds support to such "up standing" practice. In essence, during a problem solving task, teams of subjects were assigned to teams such that they, " . . . worked in rooms that either had chairs arranged around a table or with no chairs at all." Not surprisingly--from our perspective at least-- " . . . team members were less protective of their ideas; this reduced territoriality and led to more information sharing . . . (they) also seemed more efficient and purposeful."

A good opportunity to experience the "vertical" side of haptic pronunciation teaching, of course, would be the upcoming August workshop!

*I have had several inquires as to why I cite Science Daily summaries, rather than the research publication itself. Three reasons: First, many of the studies are inaccessible if you are not at an institution that subscribes to the journal. I will not ask a reader to simply trust my interpretation of research at face value without being able to get to it independently. Second, many newly published articles cost at least the equivalent of 7 Starbucks Vente Carmel Frappuccinos--where I draw the line. Third, the SD summaries are not always deadly accurate but are generally very readable, often entertaining and understandable to the non-technical reader. As always, Science Daily, caveat emptor!









Monday, June 16, 2014

9 ways to add more confidence to your pronunciation teaching!

There have been several earlier posts focusing from different perspectives on the role of confidence in pronunciation learning and teaching. Most of the research cited involved some type of physical action or physical response that functioned to make the speaker immediately more confident. You may start off with something of a gender gap, but here are some possibilities:


Any other suggestions to add to the list?



Wednesday, June 11, 2014

One-day, Haptic Pronunciation Teaching Workshop in Vancouver! - CANCELLED!

Due to scheduling conflicts, we have cancelled the workshop. (For those who registered earlier, you should have received your refund by now. If not, please let me know asap!) There is a good chance that the workshop will, instead, be offered as 2, 3-hour webinars. An announcement on that should be out sometime next month!
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Here is the description of the workshop:

How long does it take your body to learn how to teach pronunciation more haptically? About 8 hours! The first of the new one-day, Acton Haptic English Pronunciation System (AH-EPS), training sessions for instructors will take place on August 9th in Vancouver, BC.

Morning (9~12)
A. Haptic learning preliminaries
B. Vowels and word stress
C. Rhythm and phrase grouping
D. Intonation
Afternoon (1~6)
E. Fluency and linking
F. Expressiveness
G. Consonants
H. Haptic-integrated teaching method

$100 fee includes Seminar workbook (as PDF download) and web access to model videos of techniques presented.  Venue: Sandman Signature Hotel, Langley, BC. Depending on number of registrants, hardcopies of handouts and lunch may be included as well. Training and practice videos, AH-EPS Student work and Instructor Guide available after the Workshop at discount prices.

For more information or if you'd like to host one in your neighbourhood, too: info@actonhaptic.com




Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Visual "Socailization" and visual pronunciation teaching methods

In a recent interview, Robert Thomson, chief executive officer of News Corp, commented on the far reaching impact of "visual socialization" on today's media and news organizations. One observation was that we are only beginning to understand the new,  overwhelming dominance of visual learning, what that means to both social connectedness and education. To get a feel for what visual connectedness and "Socail media" may be like, watch this "Socail Cave" video by Tiazzoldi or even check it out on Pinerest.
Photo credit: Moses Lam

Well . . . yes, there may be a bit of  random "dys-graphia" involved there, but the two pieces together do underscore Thomson's point, the all consuming influence of visual media. I may just adopt that acronym: SOCAIL? (So, Over-the-top  visual-Cognitive pronunciation teaching really Ain't It, Lads?) 

It is easy to underestimate the impact on our work. There are several methods or companies that appear to be more explicitly visual, such as "EyeSpeakEnglish.com." How well the new "visually socialized" generations of learners (VSLs) can learn pronunciation, can connect up sound and movement to their primary learning modality, visual imagery, is, of course, the question. In general, research and practice up to this point suggests that visual dominance simply overrides not only auditory but tactile as well. (See--literally--dozens of previous blog posts here on that topic!) 

My guess is that many highly visual pronunciation teaching methods (that do not involve strong compensatory auditory and movement components by design) are anachronisms, at best, created before the the emergence of new media and VSLs, overcompensating for earlier attraction of "colourful" or engaging visual images on those who had not experienced them previously. 

The antidote? (And I could provide anecdotes ad infinitum, of course.) Haptic. Keep in touch. 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Great Haptic Pronunciation Teaching Proposals for TESOL 2015!

Photo credit: Clker
Toronto in March?
Here is a list of "haptic" proposals with summaries that are being submitted for TESOL this year (March 2015 in Toronto.) Very impressive, eh!
A. Haptic (English) Pronunciation Teaching Workshop
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.
B. Haptic (movement plus touch) Pronunciation Techniques for English Consonant Repair
This workshop presents haptic-based (movement plus touch) techniques for improving pronunciation of select English consonants. Included are: th/th, f/v, l/n, r, s/z, sh/zh, y, w, n/ng, t/d, voiced final consonants, consonant clusters and initial consonant aspiration. It is appropriate for relatively inexperienced instructors of middle-school age learners and older.
C. Accented, Confident Asian Female Professional L2 Identity: Rhythm Fight Club
In this workshop, after examining current theory on L2 identity related to Asian professional women and embodiment theory, participants work through a series of haptic-based (movement and touch) exercises, including a set of speaking/rhythm-based exercises, which provides a powerful anchor for shifting into more confident and accented professional English.
D. Conducting on-the-spot Corrections of Rhythm, Stress and Intonation: Haptic Baton
This practice-orientation session focuses on a haptic (movement + touch) technique for correcting and modelling pronunciation during any classroom activity—using a pencil, like an orchestra conductor. The key is to include a set of “haptic anchors,” where the baton touches the other hand on stressed syllables of problematic words.
E. Anchoring Academic Word list “families” with Haptic-integrated Pronunciation Techniques
Haptic-integrated (movement and touch) pronunciation techniques are recognized as a valuable, engaging tool for helping learners practice and remember target vocabulary. This workshop focuses on the EAP application of that process to more efficiently learn terms from Coxhead’s Academic Word List, a core component of academic discourse. 
F. Pragmatics in Teaching Oral Skills: Haptic-Enhanced Attending Skills Training
Being able to better facilitate development of pragmatic competence with ELLs is a priority of most programs. This workshop gives participants experience in combining attending skills training with haptic (movement + touch) - based pronunciation teaching techniques to enhance use of conversational strategies and responses appropriate to a variety of socio-cultural contexts.
G. Haptic instruction and L2 fluency development
This paper presents the findings of an empirical, classroom-based research project that investigated the impact of haptic (movement and touch) pronunciation instruction on second language learners’ fluency and comprehensibility. Implications for L2 pronunciation research and pedagogy, including practical tips for enhancing learner fluency, will be discussed.
H. Teaching linking with touch and Tai Chi
In this workshop participants are trained in a set of haptic (movement + touch) techniques for helping learners better understand linking in oral speech and produce basic linking of vowels and consonants between words in English. The workshop is based on the Acton Haptic Essential English Pronunciation System.
I.  “Learning vowel sounds through haptic (movement and touch) anchoring”
This session is for English Language teachers who want to explore haptic (touch + movement) approaches to teaching the pronunciation of English vowels. Participants will experience the Matrix, the Vowel Clock, and the Unstressed Vowel Thumb War and learn how these techniques can be integrated into their own teaching contexts.
J. "Haptic phonetics for pronunciation teaching"
In this practice-oriented session, a haptic-based (movement plus touch) phonetic system is presented for use in teaching English pronunciation. Each sound pattern is represented by the sound coming from the articulatory muscles and vibrators,  position(s) in the visual field in front of the learner, and a specifically designed gesture.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Why use of gesture often does not work in pronunciation teaching--and when it does!


Clip art by
One of the strengths of haptic pronunciation instruction is that the use of touch on stressed syllables, accompanying gesture, makes kinaesthetic learning more systematic and effective. For a number of reasons, simply kinaesthetic or gesture-based techniques that do not attend to touch may or may not work in any classroom.

Clker
A. Part of the problem is the natural selection involved in those who love teaching pronunciation; part of the problem, what we use gesture for or what it is synchronized with. Many "natural" pronunciation teachers are what I'd call "hyper-gesticulators," highly expressive themselves and, in part because of their ability to connect verbally and nonverbally with students, they are able to get students to do some pretty strange out-of-the-box stuff. They can be very successful in their classroom, themselves, but their method often may not transfer all that well to "newbees" and the less "gesticulate." (I am presently putting together a book proposal that will examine in depth strongly paralinguistic and gesture-based methods of several like-minded, clinical practitioners.)

B. And the fact that in English, as in most languages in varying ways, gesture and physical movement can serve as a motivator or "exuberator." In other words, physical action, by itself, helps motivate learners and loosen them up to instruction, etc. (Some instructors tend to lean of cheerleading to a fault in motivating students.) Hence the problem for systematic work w/gesture: what can motivate on the one hand (no pun intended there!) can, on the other hand, seriously undermine focus and attention to specific sound-movement targets in instruction.

C. And more. There is a great deal of research on the neurophysiological basis and clinical application of  "emotional control." See, for example, this summary from the website Psychologyinaction.org.  The bottom line, for our work, is that both lack of emotional and physical engagement--as well as uncontrolled, over-exuberance physically and emotionally--can be about equally counterproductive. Our experience in the classroom in 4 years of field testing certainly confirms that. Often a very outgoing, verbal and physically expressive learner may still have substantial difficulty both in mirroring the pedagogical movement patterns and achieving satisfactory improvement in pronunciation or accent.

D. In addition, one of the reasons for the sometimes inconsistent results in using gesture in teaching in general, especially for the more eidetic-visual learner or instructor (those with near photographic memories), is that if the position of the gesture varies even slightly upon repeated application, it can be very frustrating for them, nearly impossible to interpret to respond to.

The solution, or at least one haptic pronunciation teaching approach (EHIEP/AH-EPS), is to carefully control or manage movement and gesture work so that even the most reticent will join in and the emotionally overreactive will be throttled back, at least temporarily. (See also a new research summary by ScienceDaily of work by McGlone of Liverpool John Moores University in England and colleagues on the connection of "soft touch" to emotion.) How can you do that?

For a (moderately) good time, one that involves extensive use of touch as well as gesture, go to www.actonhaptic.com!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

New pronunciation teaching videos by Adrian Underhill!

Credit: Youtube.com
Macmillan has just released the first of Adrian Underhill's new pronunciation teaching video series. Here is the announcement from his blog, AdrianPronChart.wordpress.com. Adrian has always been one very tuned in to the visual/physical side of pronunciation teaching. His Pronunciation Chart is excellent. Aspects of that framework were instrumental in the design of the Essential Haptic-integrated English Pronunciation (EHIEP) framework.

The complete video series, planned to be 35, 3-minute videos should be a good complement to the Acton Haptic English Pronunciation System (AH-EPS) haptic video program. Knowing Underhill, it will, I'm sure, provide a thorough and entertaining presentation for both teachers and learners. (Once a little more of it is available, I'll review it in depth and link it to our work.)

What he typically does well is provide understanding of key elements of (British) pronunciation for learners and instructors, a wide range of applicable techniques--especially kinaesthetic--and practice opportunities/guidelines following from that. If that is what you are looking for, you probably cannot find a better video-based source. (If you are still more dead-tree-bound, Gilbert's work is my recommendation as a good place to begin.)

By contrast, for a number of reasons, AH-EPS:

  • Does not do as much explicit explanation and metacognitive management
  • Is haptic-based rather than kinaesthetic
  • Presents a more restricted set of formal features to work with
  • Uses a vowel chart that is the mirror image of the AdrianPronChart
  • Focuses on doing some limited teaching for the instructor, in class
  • Sets up impromptu, spontaneous modelling and correction of pronunciation
  • Is designed primarily for instructors with little or no background in pronunciation teaching

A most welcome addition. Check it out.





Friday, May 16, 2014

(Haptic) pair-a-linguistic pronunciation teaching

Clip art: Clker
Saw a recent discussion thread that (incorrectly) identified gesture as a paralinguistic feature of speech. That term, paralanguage, typically refers to pitch, loudness, rate and fluency. Gesture or body movement may be synchronized with speech in a way that it can reflect some aspect of paralanguage, as in when arm gesticulating is coordinated with the stress or rhythm pattern, such that a baton-like gesture comes down on key points for emphasis in a lecture, etc.

Actually, I like that idea, combing or pairing (haptic-anchored) gesture with paralanguage. In EHIEP work we do something of that with pitch, rate and fluency, using special gestures terminating in touch, what we refer to as pedagogical movement patterns (PMPs), that function to control those three features of speech in various ways (typically done in either modelling or error correction or expressive oral reading of fixed texts). To see a demonstration of each go to the Demo page on the AH-EPS website:

pitch - the Expressiveness PMP
rate - the Rhythm Fight Club PMP
fluency - the Tai Chi Fluency PMP

We have yet to figure out an effective PMP for loudness. If you can think of one . . . give us a shout!

Keep in touch.


Monday, May 12, 2014

NEW! AHEPS v2.0 Haptic Pronunciation Training videos available for download!

For the first time, individual AHEPS haptic training videos are now downloadable. Each of the AHEPS modules focuses on one techniques, what we term pedagogical movement patterns (PMPs). Each module involves basically 6 procedures: (a) a warm up, (b) review of previous module, (c) a demonstration of the PMP/technique, (d) a 5-minute training video, (e) a 2-minute practice video, and a short conversation to practice with. 

If you'd like to work on just a specific PMP, all you need to do is go the the New AHEPS training videos page, check the (free) demonstration video, look over the description page for that PMP, and then download training video:

Acton Haptic English
Pronunciation System
(AHEPS)
  • Matrix (use of gesture in the visual field) training 
  • Warm up training 
  • Single (Rough/short) vowels training  
  • Double (Smooth/long) vowels training    
  • Syllable Butterfly training
  • Basic Intonation training
  • Advanced Intonation training
  • Tai Chi Fluency training
  • Rhythm Fight Club training
  • Baton Speaking Integration training
Training videos for consonants will be added gradually over the next three months. 

v3.0 (Fall 2014 or Spring 2015) will probably be both download and subscription-based.