Monday, June 18, 2012

Shhh! Overcoming pronunciation (and haptic) anxiety--one word or phrase at a time.


In a recent workshop, we had an especially anxious (and nearly belligerent) participant. In talking with him it became evident that the haptic-integrated pronunciation work was really not the problem, although something was certainly triggering his strong reaction to the process. Recently, with the aid of fMRI technology, the underlying basis of such responses was for the first time mapped in the brain by Shervin at the University of Michigan. Freud would have been very pleased, indeed, to get empirical validation that subliminal, unconscious messages can, indeed, set off reactions to present events--based on either past experiences or continuing, underlying psychological conflicts. It is not uncommon for learners or instructors to experience anxiety when first asked to consciously move their bodies in public. (In general, the latter are far more restive and problematic than the former!) Embodiment theories provide a number of perspectives on how and why that may happen as well. Such reactions can usually be diffused in a number of ways, from a brief explanation to carefully staged introduction of pedagogical gesture, but occasionally they cannot. When that happens the learner should be allowed to remain in a disengaged, observer role. (See earlier posts on effective modelling in that context as well.) Although we cannot possibly anticipate every action or random expression which might set off such aversion to EHIEP protocols, we must work to create experiences that capture learners and their attention--for about 3 seconds at a time--so as to at least moderate counterproductive reaction. The disaffected instructor in the workshop suggested an alternative which I intend to explore further. (Just need to find a "new" class to try this out on! Any volunteers?) At least temporarily, we'll set aside all the "pointless and confusing" warm ups and introduction to the various (8) sub-systems of English pronunciation that form the basis of the overall, haptic-video-based EHIEP approach, and, with only the briefest of visual (spoken or written) rationale, "simply" use the pedagogical movement patterns to correct mispronunciations or introduce new sound processes, as necessary during normal speaking or conversation instruction. There is some anecdotal evidence that that works. The question is in what contexts and how efficiently, of course--and whether it can be done without at least a quick, simultaneous, accompanying, subliminal, heartfelt haptic "hug." (Shhh!) 

1 comment:

Angelina Van Dyke said...

I have done just this - use the pedagogical movement patterns to correct mispronunciations or introduce new sound processes, as necessary during normal speaking or conversation instruction. The reasons were mostly time-efficiency in the classroom and less cognitive load.

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