Monday, July 23, 2012

The "PITS!" (Pronunciation and accent improvement therapies)

Clip art: Clker

Clip art: Clker
Since we do refer to what we do as "clinical" pronunciation, I am often asked if it is a kind of therapy. To the extent that instruction of any kind is therapy or therapeutic, maybe so, but it is generally hard to tell. "Therapy," according to Dictionary.com is: "the treatment of disease, maladjustments or disorders, as by some remedial, rehabilitating, or curative process: speech therapy." Since we are not dealing with anything resembling a disease or disorder, maybe not, but the term "maladjustment" might still get us in.  (Speech therapists, by the way, do do "clinical" by the way! Next professional life, I want to be one of them.) The point of the "clinical" term in HICP is to focus on what actually goes on in real time between instructor and learner, how targets are presented, explored and anchored, both in the classroom and outside of it. For the most part, in program promotions and even most research studies on pronunciation teaching effectiveness in this field, you will rarely see much if any explicit description of teaching methodology in action--sometimes for proprietary, "trade secret" reasons, of course. Here are a couple of examples where the term "therapy" is used, assuming that the potential client knows what it means in the phrase "Accent reduction therapy." Not a hint is provided as to how, anyplace else on the websites or in accompanying literature. We are simply to believe that they know best. Maybe so, but after decades of encounters with many of them, at least occasionally, I have to conclude that the reason for the absence of mention of method is that either they are hiding something or they are hiding nothing . . .

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