Thursday, December 29, 2011

Haptic Video and a haptics video

The terms "haptic" and "haptics" are used inconsistently today in various fields but the distinction is important for HICP work. The general definition of "haptic" is " . . .relating to the sense of touch." HICP methodology falls within that definition. Technically, we should refer to our work as something like "kinaesthetic-haptic," but we have been using "haptic" as a shorthand of sorts to include both movement and touch. "Haptics," on the other hand, is the "science of applying touch to human-computer interaction." (See this somewhat glitzy video of some haptics devices.)

As noted many times in blogposts, however, the ultimate GOAL of HICP development is to create a system that is readily integrated with "Wii-like" virtual reality technology. In a very real sense, it is approaching that. Here is an important caveat, however. As it is now the "felt sense" of saying a word, focusing on the vowel resonance, while performing a pedagogical movement pattern, culminating usually in both hands touching on the stressed syllable in most cases, is a very powerful,  proven holistic anchor. It is not entirely obvious that the virtual reality embodiment of the system will be as effective (or how?), although it would contribute a range of possibilities of voice recognition options such as modelling and offering various types of corrective feedback.

The two current versions, one done face-to-face by a "live" instructor and EHIEP haptic video system (EHVS), both have the same haptic requirements on the part of the learner of following either the instructor in the classroom or the instructor on the video. The haptic video system is a substantial step toward the virtual reality embodiment design. In other words,  HICP work is currently "haptic" in application but "haptics" in outlook and destination. It is just a matter of keeping in touch . . . and time. 

Why do "HICP-EHIEP?"

I realize that that working title for the English application may be a little hard to embrace. (Hiccuping apes, in general, do not have an easy time of it!) Here is an elaborated version of what is now in the right column.  HICP-EHIEP:
  • Is a different way to learn pronunciation, based in part on Arthur Lessac’s notion of “Training the body first” 
  • Looks somewhat like a combination of aerobics, sign language and Taichi 
  • Provides a basic foundation for continued, self-directed pronunciation learning and classroom instruction 
  • Is designed for use by relatively untrained teachers but appropriate for all teachers (and learners) of all levels 
  • Focuses on pronunciation used in conversation (not all words in English)
  • Is a highly “brain-and-body-friendly” system that promotes efficient learning of integrated tasks in general
  • Can be delivered entirely through (haptic) video and (optional) web-based consultation

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Some assembly and multiple intelligences required . . .

Clip art: Clker
The season brings its challenges . . . like interpreting made-in-China instructions for assembling grand children's toys for Santa. I was struck by the parallel with HICP work, especially from one perspective: I was required to use multiple "intelligences" which are generally outside or on the edge of my preferred set. A good exercise is to rank Gardner's 7 (or 8) intelligences as they apply to you, personally. It becomes immediately clear just how fluid and context-dependent our cognitive preferences are.

What I find most striking is that the highly kinaesthetic-spatial-intrapersonal character of key HICP procedures and techniques appears to contrast markedly with what I generally identify as my own preferences, namely linguistic-interpersonal-musical. How could that be the case? Although there are, of course, clear footprints of my "intelligences"--such as they are--throughout the system, the central concepts, namely, haptic learning and anchoring, are key. It is merely a question of how I like to learn versus what is the most efficient way to get others to.

Teaching outside or at least on the "fringe" of your preferred intelligence/comfort zone is unimaginably liberating--and essential. May your time outside of your "instructional zone" over the holidays be blessed, liberating--and, of course, moving! Be back next year! Bill

Friday, December 23, 2011

The revenge of the canonical and "why the haptic in HICP?"

Clip art: Clker
On a pronunciation-related discussion board, Gary Carkin, Chair of the Spech-Pronunciation-Listening Interest Section in TESOL--and drama instructor, makes a very interesting point. (See the link to Gary's website on the sidebar.) The topic related to how to teach "attitude" along with intonation:

 " . . . Getting students to express that intent through their intonation and stress, slowly ingrains a habit. It takes a lot of repetition and is a slow process, but at least it is likely to stay with them more than when the problem is simply explained to them because they are feeling what they need to express (through character) and how that feeling will be successfully expressed . . . " 

One aspect of pronunciation teaching where explanation, good explanation, is critical is in working with the canonical in conversational discourse, that is the regular or expected locations in conversation where words are stressed and attitudes are relatively transparent. (See these examples of canonical poetry, that is basically more traditional poetry with regular rhythm patterning.) That generally indicates new or foregrounded information in English. Students' ability to even begin to interpret instances where sentence stress does not fall where anticipated depends, first of all, on having what Carkin terms a "feeling" for the canonical. 

One of the most serious shortcomings of much classroom work on focus and attitude today is the tendency to attend to explanation and the exceptions before the canonical is sufficiently established, creating a chaotic mix for the learner and no real basis on which to quickly identify the non-canonical, and, pulling back to the overall intent of the conversation momentarily, take a guess at what is up. That requires two things in tandem: First, as Carkin notes " . . . repetition" (exactly how much and when is the key question here) and an understanding of why it lands there. The latter can only be done in the context of a conversation, not in isolated sentences. Second, the feeling has to be anchored well. 

A clear (proactive, cognitive) framework for learners, along with haptic anchoring at least makes the process more efficient for those who do not learn as well inductively. (For those gifted "inducters" who can, drama is the only way to get it!)  With that balance "in hand," repetition, listening, drama--even habits(!), become more potent and engaging. So, ignore the canonical at your peril . . . most everything depends upon it. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Monkey see and monkey do: efficient multi-tasking in pronunciation work

Clip art: Clker
Here is one of those research reports that inevitably evokes the same somewhat exasperated reaction from me (and I expect from most of you, as well). Ready?  It has been discovered that we--well some of our purported "cousins," at least-- are wired to multitask! Think of it . . . you can, for example, now watch TV and read a book at the same time or run on a treadmill without worry that you are going against your very nature or doing irreparable harm to your equipment.

It is an important study, reportedly one of the first to establish that empirically. The trick apparently is just how closely related the two tasks are. If they are sufficiently distinct, either in terms of intra-modality contrast (like two pictures) or inter-modality (like singing and knitting), go to it! Any number of previous posts have looked at the interplay among visual and auditory and haptic modalities, coming to much the same conclusion: that we can, under the right circumstances attend quite well to both haptic and auditory (and in controlled contexts, visual) simultaneously.

HICP/EHIEP is based on the idea of continuous, simultaneous engagement of multiple modalities (what we often refer to with the acronym "CHI"--for continuous haptic integration, haptic having the primary function of anchoring and integrating.) In other words, doing pedagogical movement patterning and seeing (tracking those movements of the hands across the visual field) and speaking at the same time should be a piece of cake. If not, we may just  have too much time on our hands--or not enough. Certainly nothing to HICP at!

Time management and disciplined pronunciation practice

Clip art: Clker
Following up on the previous post on discipline, linked is a nice, concise guide to time management for systems administrators. (Well . . . this is also a pitch for Limoncelli's book!) It is,  basically, the framework I use both for myself and students. Note the order of the tips provided:

(a) Create an interruption schield,
(b) turn chaos into routine,
(c) record all requests (put them on paper, not just in your head),
(d) create daily, prioritized task list, and
(e) document what you hate doing.

Consistent, successful pronunciation improvement for most students requires all five but the last is especially important. That ensures that the difficult and messy problems of life or articulation get addressed, not avoided--and don't continually intrude to distract during pronunciation work. "Documenting" and assigning a priority and due date to them has the almost magical effect of at least buying you time! Practice time outside of class should, ideally, be scheduled in class especially for the constitutionally undisciplined who require external controls to stay in the game (roughly 70% according to research.) Haven't got time to schedule a jog or pronunciation work in class? You're running on borrowed time . . . 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Just do it! . . . exactly as you are told! (Corporeal discipline in WAG and HICP)

Clip art: Clker
Here is a fascinating paper by Barker-Ruchti and Tinnin at the University of Basel looking at the place and effects of discipline in women's athletic gymnastics. (If your "Foucault" is not up to speed, spare yourself the read!) What it foregrounds is the set of sport and societal forces that demand absolute body-conformity in that or any other high level athletic performance. The nature of that disciplining of the body, and the attendant "mind and attention control" is very much of interest in haptic-integrated instruction as well. As sports and diet trainers all know so well, often developing a consistent physical exercise regimen (See earlier "40 day" post.) produces good "mental" discipline as well.

The EHIEP set of protocols forms such a framework. They must be done consistently, carefully following the prescribed patterns and homework assignment . . . work. (Typically about 3 hours per week.) In other words, the corporeal nature of the pedagogical system itself assists learners in being more disciplined in general with their practice and study. Just another case of the corporeal "tail" attempting to WAG the DOG-matic,  hyper-cognitive Western mind.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Why multimedia teaching of aerobics (and pronunciation, I'm sure!) is more effective!

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There are times when you read an abstract and you like the conclusion so much that you are actually afraid to read the article! The work reported by Li and Sun (2008) appears to suggest that the virtual reality or video-based version of EHIEP (Essential Haptic-integrated English Pronunciation) could be much more effective than face-to-face. Wow! There are some issues of language in the abstract so I may be misinterpreting the conclusions . . . But judge for yourself:

"The results indicated: (1) the multi-media teaching for sports aerobics, which takes the students' study as the center, pays great attention to the learning environment design is helpful in making the student to establish the correct technical movement concept, and then raise the utilization rate of effective time in class, and increase the teaching information capacity the grades, (2) the sports aerobics received in the experiment group are better than those of the students in the opposite one, and (3) the multi-media teaching has its unique superiority in theoretical knowledge and the technical skill instruction aspects of sports aerobics compared to conventional teaching methods."

And there you have it . . . 

Monday, December 19, 2011

IN-"gendering" confidence before HICP work?

So, how's this for a conclusion to a study by Estes of the University of Warwick and Felker of the University of Georgia, summarized by Science Daily:

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 "Our research suggests that by making a woman feel better about herself, she'll become better at spatial tasks -- which in the real world means tasks such as parking the car or reading a map.So a little bit of confidence-boosting may go a long way when it comes to reversing the car into a tight parking spot."

In our work more women than men do have difficulty with the visual field framework  . . . of course in the field there seem to be about 5X as many women, at least in North America! Who'd a thought that all we'd need is some self-image work and a little extravagant praise to bridge the "spatial gap?" Try that first chance you get! If you are a non-male, I know you can do it! If you doubt me, try this app (one of my favorites, by the way) for a couple of days!

Three points: reinforcement for less reinforcement

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Shooting a 3-point shot successfully from 22 feet out in basketball is certainly a "haptic" event, requiring both exquisite (depending on your appreciation of the game) movement and touch. It is a rush of the first order for most, even professionals.Turns out, however, that making one does not predict whether you'll make another--to the contrary. According to this research by Loewenstein and Neiman at the Hebrew University, summarized by Science Daily (Hat tip to Charles Adamson), you have a better chance at making one if you missed on the previous try. In other words, reinforcement is not always the best guide. We learn as much from our mistakes or at least in that context we tend not overgeneralize as much.

That principle, of course, is at the very heart of behaviorist learning theory. Three points from a HICP perspective: (1) repetition does not insure success--anchor it quickly and move on, (2) context is critical--the phonotactic environment of a sound in a word or phrase is all important, not just the felt sense of the sound itself, and (3) the affective or emotional charge that often accompanies our attempts to "just make it fun and enjoyable"--or even communicative--can work against the learner, creating an event that involves so much visual and experiential "clutter" that the essence of the great move is nearly inaccessible later, inapplicable elsewhere. Shoot . . . that makes it a new ball game . . .

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Thinking (and learning) on your feet: an in-spider's view

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I was inspired by this Science Daily summary of research by Wcislo at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama showing that "nymphs in the genus Mysmena" family extend their brains into their legs. As odd as that may sound at first, when you think about it, although technically our brains are in our heads--with some notable exceptions such as some movie stars and professional athletes, of course--we often think in those terms. Even our metaphors such as "think on your feet," etc., suggest that we function with many levels of consciousness.

Here is a website for a very slick consulting company,, that uses that moniker for its public speaking for professionals training program. It is worth book marking that page just for the outline of the skills involved in effective presentations!

Many cultures view "thought" as originating throughout the body. You have certainly seen the shiatsu charts of body parts maps on the feet, etc., or similar maps of related pressure vectors in various body manipulation systems. In HICP work we do teach at least one process "on our feet:" rhythm, part of the reason for that being the assumption that body rhythm is driven most effectively and dynamically by the lower body . . . just take it from Monika .  .  . 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Voice recognition and assessment for the iPhone and Android

It is not haptic but it is kind of cool. We could use SpeakingPal in some contexts for pre- and post- work. It would be easy to figure out some kinaesthetic pedagogical movement patterns to accompany it, however. Try it . . . for free even. (I'll explain why later, but . . .just don't buy it!) 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Post-focal compression (vs shortening): slugging it out--or in!

Clip art: Clker
One of the earlier EHIEP protocols, termed the "Rhythm Fight Club," was designed to compress unstressed syllables, creating both more of a contrast between stressed and unstressed elements, and also aiming at the "felt sense" of conversational speech rhythm--and just to have fun. (No need to do  that one unless you have boxing gloves handy!) Newer versions w/tennis ball have worked toward more compression on post-focal syllables, rather than pre-focal or entertainment value.

In pre-focal there is a natural build up in pitch and volume that is less evident after the focused syllable. The idea is to concentrate on compression, not softening or simply lowering volume, from the learner's perspective--as most methods recommend. Conceptually, the space between the syllables is what is being compressed; in reality, everything is, of course. (Check this note from University College London Phonetic Lab.)

Of all the protocols, this one often has the most dramatic and immediate effect. (What you see in the video is the final "product," not the pedagogical sequence that leads up to it, but you can probably figure out a version of that yourself.) So . . ."take the gloves off" sometime and go a few rounds with your class, especially if they are predominantly native speakers of  "syllable-timed" L1s. It is great for "de-compressing" as well! 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Passion or anger? (pitch-accent vs stress-accent)

Clip art: Clker
Clip art: Clker
Watched a fascinating video today where the speaker (a native speaker of English) who was attempting a motivational presentation had an extremely limited pitch range in his voice and appeared, for the most part, to be using primarily volume for stress accent, rather than "pitch accent," the combination of pitch and volume, common in most dialects of English. Combined with his rapid rate of delivery it was, at times, difficult, even for me, to tell when he was transitioning between thoughts or quoted and unquoted speech. I can only imagine the problem for a nonnative speaker in the audience.

At the end of the video, there was a fascinating interchange between two attendees: one sensed that the speaker was "passionate:" the other, that he seemed "angry." The former was familiar with the general content of the lecture: the latter, was not, adding that the overall effect was a very "pushy," demanding presentation. The scene reminded me of working with some Korean businessmen who, initially, would come off the same way.

But most intriguing was the body motion of the speaker who, rather than moving forward and back with upper torso motion or gesture, moved rhythmically--almost hypnotically--back and forth, from side to side, behind the podium. Often the stressed word would occur at the end of the "sway," either left or right, paralinguistically conveying something of the same message of flat tonality. (We can fix that haptically, of course.) For most in the room, the "pitch" fell decidedly flat as well! 

"Matrix-style" learning with neurofeedback

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Although this 2009 study by Watanabe and Shibata of Boston University (summarized by Science Daily) relates to enhancement of only visual/perceptual learning, the potential application to the HICP visual field "Matrix," depicted at the left, analogous to the standard  IPA vowel chart, is obvious--and exciting! (The researchers do mention the possibility of extending the neurofeedback model to other modalities as well.)

Haptic engagement and anchoring of sound is not all that dissimilar, in principle, from the fMri-based neuro-therapeutic feedback being provided for subjects in the study. Quoting the summary: "At present, the decoded neurofeedback method might be used for various types of learning, including memory, motor and rehabilitation." That is good stuff. Neo and Anderton would be so proud . . . 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Cognitive pronunciation work and mastication-induced arousal

Photo credit: UPI Photo/Ezio Petersen
Ah . . . at last we may have discovered a way to make excessive conscious, cognitive and metacognitive talk about pronunciation in the classroom less distracting and pointless: chew gum. In a much-hyped summary in the media, it is reported that St. Lawrence University researcher, Onyper, had discovered that such masticatory action before a test (chewing gum), " . . . gave the subjects multiple advantages, but only when chewed for five minutes before testing, not for the duration of the test. Benefits persisted for the first 15 to 20 minutes of testing only." Mastication-induced arousal was "credited" with the boost. The summary goes on to note that, "Many studies have shown that any type of physical activity can produce a performance boost . . . "

So there you have it, friends--although 15 or 20 minutes of talk ABOUT pronunciation still sounds deadly to me--getting students' cognitive and masticatory processes up and running in that manner before class may not "gum up the works" at all--on the contrary. (One of the HICP consonant protocols does, after all, involve some biting of the sides of the tongue with back mandibulars!) Just a little something there for you to chew on . . .

Sunday, December 11, 2011

John Well's blog

In one of the early posts, I linked to one of my favorite blogs, that of John Wells. If you are of "sound" mind, his is required reading. Not only is he one of the world's leading authorities in the field of phonetics, he is an engaging writer and blogger. In the searchable archives, going back to 2006,  you can find links and discussion to virtually any issue of interest. And, besides, it is invariably a delightful and intelligent read. 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Pedagogical movement patterns and emotional avatars

Clip art: Clker
Imagine having Neytiri from the movie Avatar show up to sub for you in your HICP class on the day that the lesson plan calls for intonation and discourse markers of emotion work. Sound pretty far out? Maybe not. In the 2002 University of Berkeley dissertation by Barrientos, a model is developed for providing avatars with a relatively simple but adequate (for avatars) gesture + emotion repertoire. In fact, I am beginning to think that avatars could probably do a better job of teaching some pedagogical movement patterns than could a live instructor at the head of the class, for several reasons.

First: consistent, precision of movement pattern, both in terms of size, position in the visual field and speed. Second: With slight facial adjustment and vocal expression, the avatar can present most basic emotions with the pattern with words--free of personal agenda, high-fashion outfit of the day or other distraction, allowing learner to focus on and either repeat or mirror the PMP and the emotion conveyed--not the gesticulating bozo up front. (There is a great deal of research in the psychotherapeutic literature on the interaction between therapist and client in face-to-face "instruction.")

Even when doing EHIEP work "live," ourselves, we have learned through review of haptic and psychotherapeutic research and classroom experience that the key to efficient HICP instruction is to assume a slightly robotic "persona" at times. (Note the EHIEP-bot logo in the upper right hand corner of the blog.) Any extraneous visual distraction can (literally) kill haptic anchoring. So watch yourself! (Preferably on video many times.) Your students are . . .

Friday, December 9, 2011

"Colorful words" about emotional interference (with pronunciation learning)

Clip art: Clker
Several recent posts have alluded to the importance of cognitive-affective balance in learning and memory. In this 2011 Science Daily summary of research by Hummer, Kronenberger, Mosier, Mathews, and Wang of Indiana University, reporting the effect of playing violent video games on control of emotion, it was demonstrated (not surprisingly) that the brains of subjects at least temporarily were "reset" to have significantly lower executive function over emotional responsiveness.

Interestingly, the instrument employed, an emotional interference test, used varying intensity and hue of color on key words in the visual field related to the game structures--along with fMRI technology--to study that effect. (I have got to get ahold of the word/color set of protocols, similar to that in another related study on depression!)

Of course, we can't simply alter activity of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex or dorsal anterior cingulate mechanically or electronically . . . (See, however, earlier posts on Neurotherapy.), but there are any number of body-based and attentional focus techniques, like the color protocols in the study, that can to some extent keep the learner more "in the game," so to speak and enhance memory and access processes. What is important is that we are beginning to "see" (through fMRI examination) how that happens in daily life and in the classroom. It is more and more potentially within our control . . .

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Teaching and learning stress (and HICP remedies)

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Although I have absolutely no hard evidence to support it, I have suspected for decades (and written about several times) that there is a relationship between fossilized pronunciation and Type A behavior or  personality types. Not that Type A's are more resistent to pronunciation change or are contagious as instructors, but that those who are tend to be Type A types. Just a correlation there--no causal link implied!

What is interesting is that when you look at the research literature and popular pitches from those who sell stress reduction for Type A, you see a clear contrast to the highly verbal, cognitive FRIENDS prescription of the previous post-- the "Your body is your friend!-- slogan aside. Here is a typical commercial website that does have sort of a fun free test to see if you are Type-A enough to need their services! But note the nature of the standard list of technique types: Music, exercise, expressive writing, hobbies (especially HANDy-crafts!), stay connected (Read that one any way you like!), yoga--and buy their tools. You can skip the last one!

It would be easy enough to show how each of those "non-cognitive" approaches is formally mirrored in HICP methodology. Your current pronunciation teaching system . . .what type is it, eh (A)?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

FRIENDS of pronunciation teaching

Attending a MA thesis defence that involves examination of the well-known, but highly controversial,  FRIENDS anxiety management program for kids. The acronym FRIENDS stands for: "FEELINGS,  REMEMBER to relax, I CAN do it! (I can try my best!),  EXPLORE solutions and coping step plans, NOW reward yourself! (You've done your best!),  DON'T forget to practice! and SMILE! Stay calm for life." One of the basic mantras is: Your body is  your friend!

That is a nice, memorable mnemonic. The question, of course, from our perspective is, in essence, what specific haptic-based techniques are associated with each step in the process and how are they related and scaffolded. It is actually an interesting glimpse at the relationship between basic  learner meta-cognitive frameworks so widely promoted today (by cognitive phonologists, for example)  and potential method protocols, which can vary almost infinitely.  Try connecting up your current teaching framework to  FRIENDS. Anxiety-provoking? If so, try something more HICP-FRIENDLY . . . 

Pronunciation teaching and learning thresholds

Clip art: Clker
One of the "mysteries" of pronunciation work is the often seemingly abrupt changes that we see in the interlanguage of some learners. There are any number of reasons why that is the case, not the least of which is that we are generally not observing a learner 24-7. The concept of learning thresholds as summarized in Cousin (2006) helps to explain why. According to threshold theory there are seven or eight parameters that characterize such transitions:

(a) transformation,
(b) irreversible change,
(c) integration,
(d) bounded conceptual space--within a restricted field of study or experience,
(e) presence of "troublesome knowledge"-- elements that cannot be easily, logically resolved and synthesized,
(f) being set in a "liminal" space in development -- exists in a recognized transitional phase in the learning process, and
(g) recursiveness -- there are apparent, temporary moves back and forth across the threshold.

We could do a post on any one of those (and I will follow up later on three of them) but let's just consider the  idea of "troublesome knowledge." Pronunciation instruction is filled with all kinds, such as drills, explanations, random associations of sound to bizarre contexts which must be discarded or ignored during real-time speaking. Threshold theory sees those phenomena as potentially both positive and negative. What is critical is how it is managed or accommodated by the instructional program. On that count, in the field we have a "troublesome LACK of knowledge" as to the dynamics of pronunciation change. I could do a clinic on it . . . 

Monday, December 5, 2011

New L2 identity and new pronunciation in 40 days!

Photo credit: Mens Health
40 is something of a magic number when it comes to persistence (For example, staying afloat that long in an ark!) Turns out there may be something to it. Reported on the Mens Health website is a summary of a study by Rutgers researcher, Philips, of subjects who took on a personal development project that required considerable discipline and commitment. One finding was that,

 “If a person performs a behavior regularly and for long enough [40 days in this study], the behavior becomes part of the person’s self-identity or self-concept . . . For example, if I made a goal to start running and succeeded, I’d begin to see myself as a runner."

What a coincidence! EHIEP basic training  (exclusive of the introductory session) is also 6 weeks long, 42 days--a total of about 24 hours (including both in class training and homework.) No wonder students begin to hear themselves differently who manage to  stick with the practice regimen to the end. As they say, "Life (and apparently new L2 identity) begins @40!"

Pronunciation syllabus "line of march"

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Recall that HICP (and EHIEP) assumes that pronunciation classes as separate entities are at best unnecessary, that the work should be integrated into speaking, listening or conversation teaching. Somewhat paradoxically, it has a relatively fixed order of presentation and practice that is generally applicable for ANY learner group. Most importantly, what is also being learned is a set of learner skills and strategies to enhance pronunciation learning--and a toolkit of pedagogical tools for classroom presentation, feedback and correction. In some ways it is a return to the idea of a more uniform syllabus ordering in pronunciation instruction in terms of efficient, initial teaching, followed up with extensive, integrated classroom application.

There are several good pronunciation texts out today that can be used in conjunction w/EHIEP, or to complement it, depending on the context.  For adult pre-academic types, I still like Clear Speech by Gilbert. One reason is that the syllabus, or at least the table of contents (linked above) is not too far off from that of EHIEP: Syllables, Rhythm, Vowels, Word and Sentence stress, Consonants, Intonation and Thought groups. Clear Speech is set up so that it is not necessary to go through the book in that order--but it isn't a bad idea; it is still fine to skip around. (So it says in the introduction to most pronunciation books today, in fact.)  

Here is the basic EHIEP order of instruction: Warm up, Vowels and word stress, Syllables and sentence stress, Intonation, Rhythm, Integrated thought groups. (Consonants are dealt with as necessary, throughout the syllabus.) This fixed "line of march" is probably the most controversial--and critical--feature of the EHIEP system. The underlying rationale for that will be the subject of an upcoming post. For the time being, just warm up a bit more to HICP instruction and follow us. 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Thinking about pronunciation (with our hands)

Clip art: Clker
Linked above is the website of Antle of Simon Fraser University. The end of her URL says it all: "/Physicality/ThinkingWithHands." There is obviously much we can learn from researchers in the area of arts and technology. This new article, listed on the website is particularly interesting. "Antle, A.N. Exploring how children use their hands to think: An embodied interactional analysis, Behaviour and Information Technology, accepted." Not surprisingly, one of the most striking findings is the contrast between the type (and quality of) thought engaged when physically manipulating objects as opposed to that evident during similar mouse-based or visual protocols.

The effect of using the hands in HICP in pedagogical movement patterns across the visual field, especially on listening comprehension and problem solving related to interpreting the expressive dimension of English speech, is well worth exploring systematically. "Off handedly," I could relate any number of anecdotal observations in that regard, but for the time being . . . let's just keep it handy and think about it!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Moving from kinaesthetic to haptic anchoring of pronunciation

Clip art: Clker
For about 30 years I had been working with movement in the visual field using gestures such as waving a hand in the shape of the mountain to suggest a rise-fall intonation contour--before "discovering" haptic research. Once I began anchoring contours haptically, generally with hands touching in various ways on stressed words or syllables, students were consistently better able to practice, produce and comprehend intonation. This study by Jay, Stevens, Hubbold and Glencross perhaps suggests why: haptic anchoring (touch) of nodes or boundaries in the visual field was shown to significantly enhance subjects' ability to later navigate the nodes and positions of the field.

In HICP work, not only do learners better recall the anchored, improved sound in a word, they also should naturally associate other words or expressions with that node/sound as well.  (That effect, too, is anticipated by research reported in earlier blogposts.) That is not to say that typical classroom random gestures are not "touching" . . . just that adding touch makes them much more effective and manageable--and moving! 

Introducing Haptic-integrated pronunciation work

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Here's an interesting note on a website that develops haptic technology:

 "As with any UI element, haptics must be designed thoughtfully in order to achieve the desired experience. Users expect the sight, sound and feel of their experience to be consistent, rational and integrated. The combination of haptics with audio and visual UI can be breathtakingly effective if all these components work together, but can be confusing if poorly designed. To help guide the developer through the process, we’ve created a series of design recommendations for the most commonly implemented gestures."(Italics, mine.)

Those four terms in italics, "consistent, rational, integrated--and breathtakingly effective" provide a good set of criteria for assessing haptic pronunciation work--especially the latter! The second, rational, is worth more discussion. Providing a simple, direct, verbal explanation for learners as to why they should be excited about EHIEP is a challenge. Leading off with a warm up and demonstration where students join in, on the other hand, almost invariably convinces them that it is "designed thoughtfully" and worth engaging with. To quote my favorite athletic shoe logo: Just do it!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Sensory grounding and integration in HICP

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In this MIT research summary, a range of therapeutic, haptic applications are reviewed. Of those, two are particularly relevant here: grounding and integration. HICP/EHIEP work generally procedes in two phases, a set of three techniques (protocols) that basically establish the felt sense of English vowels, consonants and rhythm, and then a second set of three which serve to integrate new or modified words in speech.

HICP isn't therapy, but not infrequently learners report that just "getting their (rhythmic and sensory) feet (of English anchored firmly) on the ground" in this system appears to contribute to resolution of other personal, identity-related issues--in addition to pronunciation. Can't get your pronunciation teaching off the ground and integrated in the classroom? Senseless!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

(Haptic) Peer-assisted pronunciation learning

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Here is a 2011 presentation by Kapelus of George Brown University on Inter-professional Peer-assisted learning (IPAL). Note the "Reasons for Using Peer-Assisted Learning":

(a) Offer education to students on their own cognitive level.
(b) Create a comfortable and safe educational environment.
(c) Socialize students and provide role models.
(d) Offer students an alternative motivation as well as another method of studying.
(e) Enhance intrinsic motivation in student.

One of the potential benefits of HICP instruction is that it offers a wide range of opportunities for students to work together, monitoring and providing feedback to each other on their pronunciation. For example, in signalling a different or improved pronunciation of a word or phrase, pedagogical movement patterns (PMPs) are used by students and instructor which, in effect, focus more on movement and touch than on only the (auditory) dimension of the sound (that coming in through the ears!)

Such PMP-based feedback generally "works for students on all levels," is safe--is not threatening or intimidating, provides models quickly and efficiently--nonverbally for the most part, is certainly "another method of studying"--one that facilitates integration effectively, and is highly motivating (in part because of the pervasive physical engagement.) In fact, HICP is without peer!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The "face" of HICP teaching

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Several earlier posts have looked at the question of the relative emotional loading of various points or quadrants in the visual field. (See the recent vowel color and intonation posts, for example.) This 1992 study of the effect of corresponding left or right brain lesions by Fedio of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke suggested another interesting perspective on why that might be: the right hemisphere area (connected to the left eye) is primarily responsible for determining and monitoring emotional state. The left hemisphere area, by contrast, is tasked with dealing with "the rest" of the incoming and outgoing data, so to speak.

That would explain, in part, why the right visual field (for most right handers) tends to be more emotionally reactive and visually "vivid." In effect, perception in the right visual field is less "filtered," according to the study. Consequently,  in your dominant eye you may typically "feel" a color or sound or image or experience  more intensely. (Observed Experiential Integration Therapy, which HICP owes much to, is based, to some extent on that notion of hemispheric specialization as well.)

In HICP, the model words and phrases used in the basic exercises (or protocols) and pedagogical movement patterns are designed to fit as much as possible within that general left/right specialization. Although I don't have a good icon that represents that perspective,  the drama mask with the black frowning face on the left and right the smiling face on the right is close. (Ideally the right face should be a lighter, bright colored; the left, a heavier, dark color.) Honest . . . that "two-faced" framework works . . . 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Affective haptics

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In the earlier post on the upcoming 2012 Haptics Symposium, I mentioned the Workshop on Affective Haptics. Here is the note from the summary of the workshop:

"Affective Haptics is the emerging area of research which focuses on the design of devices and systems that can elicit, enhance, or influence the emotional state of a human by means of sense of touch. Human emotions can be easily evoked by different cues, and the sense of touch is one of the most emotionally charged channels. Affective Haptics is a wide interdisciplinary area, strongly related to such fields as multi‐modal interfaces, affective computing, neuroscience, psychology, mediated communications, telepresence, robotics, etc."

HICP work draws from most of those areas, even the last. Note the EHIEP logo, which draws something of its character from the robot-like control of the upper body required for mosts protocols. Keep in touch. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Conducting "tense" intonation work

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Always nice to discover a piece of research that seems to confirm the validity of something you have been doing. The linked research explored the perceived vocal tension associated with certain gestures used by choral conductors, specifically,

(a) palm up
(b) palm down
(c) pointing gesture
(d) flat gliding motion to the side
(e) a clenched fist.

The pedagogical movement patterns of the hands across the visual field representing intonation contours include all those gestures except the last (which is used in one of the rhythm-oriented PMPs.)  In fact, most of what we now use for intonation PMPs (there are basically 5 or 6 of them) came from observations I did about 15 years ago on the gestures used by pronunciation teachers during intonation lessons. What was most striking in the 2004 Fuelberth study was that the relative tension generated by those conducting gestures seemed to correlate well with their functions in HICP as either focus conveying (a stressed syllable of varying intensity) or a lead up to (or follow off from) a stressed element.  We do, of course, also refer to "tense" and "lax" vowels in some phonetic systems.

It is a case where a little "tension" works well in anchoring the felt sense of both discourse prominence and expressiveness. All together now . . . 

2012 Haptics Symposium in Vancouver, March 4-7, 2012

I'll be submitting a proposal to do a demonstration (with a couple of you at least) at the 2012 Haptics Symposium. It looks like a great program, especially the workshop on Affective Haptics. I am also doing a talk at the University of Victoria on the evening of the 5th but hope to be there the rest of the time. Planning on some kind of initial get together in Vancouver to officially kick off the "Haptic-integrated Clinical Pronunciation Research" group,  as well. Join us!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Walkabout talk: The TalkaboutWalkabout

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While in Japan, while teaching speaking classes of 50+, I developed an effective (primarily kinaesthetic) technique called the "TalkaboutWalkabout," inspired by the movie, Crocodile Dundee. (It has been cited in several methods texts.) Basically, students prepared a couple of good 3-minute stories that they could tell to fellow students using an attending skills format (See earlier posts.) as homework. In the two-hour class the next day, after some initial warm up, students walked around the perimeter of the room continuously for the next 90 minutes or outside in a larger fixed loop around campus, telling their stories and listening to the story of another student--switching partners every 8 minutes (about 10 times). In effect, each student told each of two stories four times and heard eight others.

Back then I was not working with explicit haptic anchoring but it was remarkable how the pace of the walking came to regulate the rhythm of speaking, and how relaxed and fluent the conversations became. By the end, students were invariably struck by how "good" they felt about speaking English. The "felt sense" of the walkabout that they had "discovered" became our model or metaphor for how good discussions should "feel" as well.

There are, of course, any number of possible explanations for why that technique may work, several have been introduced here earlier, including jogging, but this quote from a holistic medicine website, connecting up to the function of the (somewhat mythical) Australian walkabout of Dundee,  presents an interesting perspective on some of what is involved: " . . . a journey of healing and rediscovering the link between mind, body, and spirit." The effect in your class might not be quite that heavy duty or "anchored," but I can guarantee that it will at least provide a great deal to "talk about!" 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Stressful pronunciation teaching ok? You must be dreaming . . .

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I have worked with several "fossilized" individuals over the years who experienced what they referred to as being "traumatized" by what might loosely be called "pronunciation instruction." Perhaps it was a teacher or fellow student or associate who ridiculed the student's accent, or something analogous. I have always been intrigued by the fact that such experiences affect some but not others. Likewise, some students are able to "take away" and integrate material presented under the most stressful of conditions.

2011 research by van der Helm, Yao, Dutt, Rao, Saletin, and Walker of University of California-Berkeley, summarized by Science Daily, which studied the function of dreams in diffusing the emotional loading of traumatic events, suggests something of why that may be the case. One of the findings was that "normal" REM sleep greatly facilitates that integration and diffusion. (In the case of certain PTSD victims, a blood pressure medication actually restored some REM enabling function.) Without it, things go very differently.

Not that learners be placed in dream states to change pronunciation (although I have tried a bit of that), but that integrating pronunciation effectively requires being able to create optimal REM-like, stress-resolving attention. That is the (achievable) dream of HICP work as well. 

Pronunciation discrimination: Say it right now . . . hear it later (and vice versa)

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There have been a few studies which suggest that pronunciation training improves aural discrimination and aural comprehension, including this one from 2001 by Ghorban and others. Most research in the last three decades in this area, for a number of reasons,  has focused on the opposite effect, that of comprehension on pronunciation or intelligibility.

One of the primary goals of HICP work is to prepare learners to be more effective "kinaesthetic" listeners who can continue improving their pronunciation beyond the classroom, essentially by being able to quickly capture the felt sense of models that they hear--and play it back haptically using the basic protocols--so that they can also either "record" it in memory or discard it.

That kinaesthetic monitoring and listening are generally seen as the final benchmarks of EHIEP training. At will, learners can "feel" phrases or sentences in their bodies, whether listening to themselves or someone else. Kinaesthetic monitoring generally does not interfere with conversation, allowing one to detect errors in performance and deal with them later, rather than right at that instant. Kinaesthetic listening works the same way, like an independent flash drive, that allows later recall and redo. Got a good feel for what we're saying here? If so, it'll sound even better later. 

Correcting pronunciation: from mime to meme

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One of the best analogies for the felt sense of using haptic techniques in correcting pronunciation is pantomime, or miming. Some of the best video examples on Youtube are those of "robot dance." Unfortunately, I have yet to find a good one that does not have X-rated comments appended to it . . . So we'll have to settle for the text-based document from the drama club at UA-Monticello. It describes several of the basic mime moves that are used in training. Three or four of them focus on "box" structures that actually quite close to both the felt sense and the pedagogical movement patterns of HICP. The "meme" side of the process, to quote Wikipedia, " . . . acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols or practices, which can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals or other imitable phenomena."

Following on the earlier post, by both instructor and student having developed a good felt sense of the sounds represented through PMPs, the feedback is "transmitted" more efficiently. What exactly do you meme in class? Could it use some correction? Try starting with mime . . .  Better seen; better heard. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Doing is believing

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This study from Lee and Noppeney of the Max Planck Institute, summarized by Science Daily, demonstrated that if you can do something (in this case, play piano) you have a better chance of being able to see if it is done correctly or with correct timing.

And how does this apply to HICP work?  Relatively simple . . .  By practicing HICP pedagogical movement patterns (e.g., saying a vowel-sound, for example, one completes a movement across the visual field, ending in a touch of the other hand), the learner becomes better able to "uptake" guidance or visual corrective input from the instructor or other students in the form of PMPs as well. Most HICP error correction, as well as initial presentation, is done haptically, providing a clean, visual model and the requiring haptic "repetition" or mirroring of the the adjusted form. Or to paraphrase the old saw: Monkey do; monkey see-- and integrate it more efficiently into spontaneous speaking. 

Oral interpretation of literature for (haptic anchoring and) fluency

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In Lessac's 12-step system in The Use and Training of the Human Voice dramatic oral interpretation/ practice is a key benchmark, a critical bridge to fluency in everyday life or on stage. He uses passages from several genres (novels, drama, poetry, songs, etc.) As opposed to the generally lifeless, uninspiring dialogues found in student pronunciation textbooks, "real" literature expresses emotion--and life--in any number of "memorable" ways.

Likewise, by the time the learner is equipped to prepare a good piece of language using the EHIEP protocols in the order prescribed in the method (Prominence/stress, vowels, consonants, focus groups,  intonation, conversational rhythm, and fluency)--typically within about six weeks, the transition to and integration in spontaneous speech should be well underway. This article by Todd and Goodson summarizes how a similar process, based on the long tradition of "Readers Theatre," works with middle school students. It'll work with anybody . . . just requires a little dramatic, embodied extrapolation!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

(Haptic) instruction in "super-sized" speaking/pronunciation classes

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The EHIEP system is designed for use in classes of all sizes, but especially for large classes taught by relatively inexperienced instructors. It involves extensive oral performance/engagement. Spend some time reviewing the literature on how to teach in such contexts and what you find is (as in the English Club) a good description of the problems, practice strategies and activities. What is not there is guidance on how to initially present sounds and sound processes and how to provide feedback/correction.

This is analogous to what we see in pronunciation teaching research: (apparently) any method (assuming methods are allowed) in a storm (and big classes can be that!) is generally ok. In terms of oral production-focus (vs comprehension-based) techniques, the typical set of procedures suggested are (A) demonstration, (B) explanation  and (C) choral repetition. That's it, if that. (If you want to contribute some further recommendations, feel fee to add comments.)  Beginning with A, B and C is a start, to be sure, But if things are not going well by C, what's next? More of all three, especially C?

With HICP as a basis you can (literally) see what and  how every student in a class of 100 (or more) is doing. The principle is this: With good initial haptic-anchoring training (easily done in large groups), if a learner moves correctly, more appropriate pronunciation will almost inevitably follow. Likewise, corrections focus primarily on the pedagogical movement pattern, not how the sound "sounds." Teaching with (big) class?  To quote Lessac yet again . . . Train the body first!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The color and felt sense of English vowels

The "Color Vowel Chart," apparently based on Finger (1985), is a clever mnemonic framework for giving students a memorable key-word and color for vowel sounds. Those CVC color choices are based on the vowel in the color word, etc.

The matrix below, by contrast, shows the EHIEP color schema, based on a number of studies of vowel phonaesthetic qualities, or felt sense, and related neurophysiological properties of the visual field. (See several earlier posts.) In essence, front and higher vowels are lighter; lower and back vowels are darker. The EHIEP vowels are displayed as a mirror image of the standard IPA vowel chart (which the Color Vowel Chart represents in standard format.)

Notice some of the interesting correspondences/contrasts between the two systems:
(a) The colors green and black are in the same positions,
(b) The "central" vowels are very similar in character, although not similarly aligned, and
(c) The diphthongs have some parallels. In CVC, "oy" is turquoise; in EHIEP it is blue to white. In CVC, "aw" is brown; in EHIEP, brown to green. In CVC, "ay" is white; in EHIEP, brown to white.
(d) In both CVC and EHIEP high vowels are lighter than low vowels.
(e) The CVC vowel color for "e" (red) is close to the EHIEP color (mid-front) of orange.
(f) The CVC vowel in "silver" would be white in EHIEP.
(g) The CVC for "blue" would be green or green to purple in EHIEP.
Bright Yellow
Dark Green


For what it is, the CVC works well, but just imagine the impact were it to be a bit more neuro-physiologically tuned in and haptically anchored. Why . . . it'd be "off the charts!"

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Breaking Dawn I and vampire haptic "collisions!"

In case you haven't seen it yet, the first few minutes of BDI have a virtual plethora of gestures ending in touch tied to stressed words in phrases or sentences. I had a hard time following the fascinating, emotionally riveting dialogue, while taking notes! (Understandably, eh!)

Following up on the comments to the previous post, those are NOT examples of what HICP refers to as "haptic anchoring" or how the term "haptic" is used in various fields today. They do involve all the essential elements (movement, stressed syllables, touch, discourse focus, etc.) except one critical, technical feature: fixed, designed points in the visual field where the haptic "collision" occurs.

In an informal sense, the haptic event does certainly help to emphasize or fix in memory the meaning of at point in the narrative, but as noted earlier, the experience is being encoded into memory with all sorts of other visual and emotional information that may or may not be helpful in trying to recall how it was pronounced later. (For an interesting, concise business-like summary of nonverbal communication/body language, see this piece by Alan Chapman.) So if you find yourself getting thoroughly carried away during BDI, it is technically not the haptic anchoring . . .

Monday, November 21, 2011

Choral repetition + haptic anchoring: Doing more with less!

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I have described the work of Olle Kjellin previously. Reports on his "extreme" choral repetition-based pronunciation teaching method by Kjellin and his followers are persuasive in demonstrating that getting students to repeat a phrase up to 100 times " . . . generate[s] a kind of statistical "feel" for the phonological, syntactical, semantic, and pragmatic aspects of the phrase, i.e. to really "learn" it."

 I don't doubt for a minute that that anchors the "feel" or felt sense described--assuming that you can get learners to stay with you in the process. The question is, however, if our target is "just" pronunciation change, with well-executed haptic anchoring can we cut back some on the number of reps? (For some examples of HICP-type "haptic anchoring," see the first comment below.) Although Kjellin has not published hard evidence on the long term effects of "mega-rep" work--other than alluding to having witnesses consistent results throughout his 30 years in the field,

I'll accept his claims on similar grounds to those made here for the efficacy of HICP work: the extensive research on haptic-based learning in several fields, and our experience with EHIEP protocols over the last decade or so (and, of course, my 30+ years in the field, as well!) So, about how many "haptic-choral-repetitions" are necessary? If learners are in "full-body-attention mode," as described in earlier posts, only a few in class and a few more in homework practice sessions should be sufficient to enable some integration into spontaneous speech. Trust me. I've seen it work repeatedly, "hundreds" of times, in fact.

Teaching (haptically) the English mid-back-central-stressed vowel and friend

Here is a video that shows how to get a near-perfect stressed, mid-back-central vowel in English, a sharp blow to the solar plexus--a version of a technique I have used for years. Instead of a karate kick from a colleague, tighten your abs, relax your face and substitute your right, clenched fist--and just let what vowel comes out, come out! The solar plexus and its chakra has a lot going for it. (The chakra has two alternative colors, black and yellow; we use a dark green.)

In basic EHIEP we do not focus on schwa (or unstressed vowels, in general), but only on the stressed form, although the basic sound is considered the "same" from the learner's perspective. Like in the previous post on haptic linking, with good balance between rhythm and stress intensity, unstressed elements are not as problematic and often gravitate over time to a more appropriate sound form anyway. (If you MUST know, there is a haptic technique for schwa, too, of course, but words can't do it justice . . . and it is classified for the time being! ) Try that. Never fails to be a "hit."

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The rhythm of (haptic) English linking (training)

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Here is a 9-minute video of the "standard" approach to teaching English linking by McIntyre--done very well--from the 2003 Clearly Speaking project, headed by Burns and Claire.

Opinion in the field is split as to just how much time should be spent between working on comprehension of linking, as opposed to active training in producing linked speech. On fixed phrases such as "black'n white," etc., teaching production makes sense. Requiring students to practice linking on sentences such as: "They_ate_every_orange_in_Norman's _bucket!"--a common practice in "elocution" training--as a model for them of what good speaking should resemble, is recommended by few that I am aware of. (The 1982 student book still used in some programs, Whaddayasay?, does suggest that, in fact.)

The EHIEP approach, on the contrary, assumes that students have at least been introduced to linking in listening comprehension work, much as done by McIntyre. The effective haptic anchoring of rhythm and rhythm groups in practice and conversation should do three things: (1) encourage the natural phonological process of linking when rhythm and stress are appropriately balanced, (2) create a strong contrast between stress and unstressed elements that de-emphasizes backgrounded material, and (3) promote overall intelligibility so that "missing" linking is not as noticeable. "Whadayagonnadoweh?"