Friday, April 18, 2014

Pronunciation "Flow-ency!"

Ran across an interesting note on prerequisites for speaking fluently, posted on the website of the "Effortless English Club""To speak English fluently, of course you must understand instantly and speak without thinking." It then goes on to pitch its program:"After only 5 hours, most of my seminar students show improvement with their English speaking. They speak more quickly and more clearly. How? Mostly by changing their feelings and beliefs– by developing strong confidence in their English speaking ability." After only 5 hours . . . Wow.

Actually, they may be on to something. We could take the idea of "speak[ing] without thinking" in several directions, including the use of mindless drill,  but what is intended (I think) is closer to "flow," as proposed by Csíkszentmihályi, the experience of "completely focused motivation" -- or being in the zone.

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We have all had the experience of at least temporarily speaking very well about something that we believe in so strongly that the words seem to flow from us almost "without thinking." (One of the parameters of holistic lie detection, on the contrary, is evidence of the interviewee "making things up" on the fly.) In our work, a protocol called the "Rhythm Fight Club"is designed to give the learner a feel for what "being centred, confident and on a roll" is like. (Preliminary findings of a research project on the process are again confirming that effect.)

A couple of nights ago, for the first time, I tried to do a 3-minute talk about haptic research and teaching using RFC "Flow-ency" accompanying or driving everything I said. In part because I had rehearsed the talk a number of times--and it is something that I probably have "completely focused motivation" about, it went very well (at least from my perspective, if not that of the audience!) At least a couple of very partisan observers agreed with that assessment!

I have experimented with the "Flow-ency" technique with learners for a number of years. Will now get it operationalized and more "teachable" as an extension of RFC. If you still haven't signed on as a haptician, try that for a couple minutes sometime with a topic that you are truly passionate about. And keep in touch.

2 comments:

Tom Tabaczynski said...

Interesting. I've tried Paul Nation's various fluency programs, including something they call 'quickspeak' where sts speak for 2 or 3 minutes without stopping and then change partner and then do it again. It kind of worked, but only because the students went off into a conversation which gave them a good 10 to 20 minutes of spontaneous speaking. It would be interesting to try this out the way you're suggesting, esp. for those sts who tend to be less animated and perhaps because of this also less fluent.

Bill Acton said...

That brings some perspective to the question. I'd never claim that there aren't any number of effective ways or techniques for enhancing fluency. The "body bias" of the blog is that it is often at least more efficient to approach the issue somatically, in other words,by trying to figure out how to use motion and gesture (and touch, of course) to drive speech. What you often find is that haptic engagement works parallel to the act of speaking, not interfering with cognitive processing of "the story" or requiring excessive conscious monitoring. I still like Krashen's "Monitor" metaphor in setting up the problem and haptic solutions.

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