Monday, November 30, 2015

The Music of Pronunciation (and language) Teaching

Like many pronunciation and "speaking" specialists, I have long believed that in some way systematic use of music should be "in play" at all times in class. I suspect most in the field feel the same. Up until recently there has not appeared to be much of an academically credible way to justify that or investigate the potential connection to language teaching more empirically.

A recent 2015 study, Music Congruity Effects on Product Memory, Perception, and Choice, by North, Sheridan and Areni, published in the Journal of Retailing (DOI, below), suggests some interesting possibilities. Quoting the ScienceDirect.com summary, the study basically demonstrated that:
  • Ethnic music (e.g., Chinese, Indian) increased the recall of menu items from the same country.
  • Ethnic music increased the likelihood of choosing menu items from the same country.
  • Classical music increased willingness to pay for products related to social identity.
  • Country music increased willingness to pay for utilitarian products.
    Clker.com
So, what may that mean for our work, or explain what we have seen in our classrooms?
  • (Recall) For example, we might predict that using English music of some kind with prominent vowels, consonants, intonation and rhythm patterns would enhance memory for them.
  • (Perception) Having listened to "English" music should enable being able to better perceive or recognize appropriate pronunciation models or patterns of English. I suspect that most language teachers believe that intuitively, have seen the indirect effects in how students' engagement with the music of the culture "works". 
  • (Milieu) I, like many, have used classical music for "selling" and relaxing and creating ambiance for decades. There is research from several fields supporting that. Only recently have I been attempting to tie it into specific phonological structures or sounds, especially the expressive, emotional and relational side of work in intonation. 
  • (Function) I frequently use country-like music or rap for working on functional areas, warm ups, rhythm patterns, and specific vowel contrasts.
I am currently experimenting more with different rhythmic, stylistic and genre-based varieties of music. (Specifically, the new, v4.0 version of the haptic pronunciation teaching system, EHIEP - Essential Haptic-integrated English Pronunciation.) Over the years I have used music, from general background or mood setting to highly rhythmic tunes tied directly to the patterns being practiced. I just knew it worked . . .

The "Music congruity" study begins to show in yet another way just how music affects both associative memory and perception, conveying in very real terms broad connections to culture and context. More importantly, however, it gives us more justification for creating a much richer and more "memorable" classroom experience.

If you use music, use more. If not, why not? 

In press (2015) doi:10.1016/j.jretai.2015.06.001

1 comment:

Pearl Fredericksen said...

Yes, good to see an article on how music helps with language learning. My husband and I were just talking about that the other day. I used to get him to come and help me teach some songs in my classes. Most of the students loved it. When having fun, it frees up the brain to relax and thus learn more easily. Also a great natural way to learn sentence level stress, as well as rhyme. Sometimes I got the students to march around the room to the music (sort of "haptic" eh?). It really helped with stress placement. Too bad some students thought of it as worthless childs' play...

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