Friday, November 30, 2012

The "music" of pronunciation teaching: Just "duet!"

Clip art: Clker
Clip art: Clker
It would be difficult to find anyone who does not support the use of music in language teaching, for any number of reasons. For the most part the rationales are common sense and intuitive--and backed by generations of validating classroom and extra-classroom experience. But here is a study by Lindenberger and colleagues at the Max Planck Institute (reported by Science Daily) that goes the other direction, examining the synchronous brain activity that is evident in "making music together," in this case two guitarists playing a duet, connected up to fMRI technology (including the usual bathing caps with dozens of wires attached!)

There are similar studies of "duets" of conversationalists, lovers, mothers and infants and others, which show coordination or mirroring of minds and brains. Likewise, studies of empathy show analogous "sync-ing" in between participants. (In EHIEP work, there is extensive mirroring, complementary background music and use of music in supporting rhythmic practice.) Can you imagine a more effective occasion for anchoring of new or changed pronunciation than when instructor and learner are locked in (neurophysiologically and pedagogically appropriate) synchronized dance from across the room--making music together? That is music to more than the ears--and not a bad place to begin in understanding when instruction enables uptake and when it doesn't. Take note . . . and your mp3 player. 

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