Saturday, April 30, 2011

The body "hexis"

Not entirely sure what Bourdieu meant by "body hexis" yet, but I like it! And will unpack more of it in subsequent posts: " . . . Language is a body technique and specifically linguistic, especially phonetic, competence is a dimension of the body hexis in which one’s whole relation to the social world is expressed..”
Pierre Bourdieu (1977). The economics of linguistic exchanges.  Social Sciences Information, 16(6), p. 660. (and thanks to Carolyn Kristjansson for passing that quote on to me!)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Boleslavsky on the actor

This from Boleslavsky's 1933 book, "The actor is usually word shy and inarticulate.Often he does not know what he does or how he does it, that makes him an actor. Even when he knows it, it is difficult for him to say it or write it. He can only express it in action. His language is a language of movement, of gesture, of voice, of the creation and projection of character by things done or left undone." Ever read a better description of the mindset of an accomplished (multiple modality) language learner?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Synesthesia and cross-modal interaction

Several posts have focused on the importance of engaging all senses and modalities for optimal efficiency in pronunciation work. Research in synesthesia points to the importance of the multiple paths of interconnectedness between brain centers. For our work, that cuts both ways. If all modalities are actively "online" in attending to the sound process targeted, the potential impact on memory and recall multiplies accordingly. Conversely, if some available modalities (such as body awareness, touch, or visual) are otherwise engaged or distracted, the effect goes the other direction. Pronunciation is, in that sense, a uniquely multi-modal problem for the learner. The expression, "Give me your undivided attention." takes on new meaning from that perspective!

Gesture in pronunciation teaching

The paper linked above, by Adam Brown, does a nice job of identifying the typical gestures used in (even moderately kinesthetic) pronunciation teaching. In principle, all the haptically-anchored movements used in HIPoeces fit within Brown's framework. Although the gestures listed are not presented as part of a coherent system, it still an interesting resource, a good place to begin.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Multi-tasking puts multiple-modality learning on ice!

Research in training athletes revealed long ago just how critical it is that learners are able focus on only "one task at a time," so to speak. For the figure skater, for example, that means that all of the components and skills of the performance routine must be developed to a level where there will be no conscious attention required to them during the "show." The same goes for learning and training periods: no "fractured" or partitioned attention allowed.

The parallel to pronunciation teaching is apt: learning a new sound or sound process is also by its very nature a multiple-modality problem which should be a thoroughly "whole body" experience, involving all modalities simultaneously. If it isn't, there is a very good chance that, just as in figure skating, it risks not engaging enough of the mind and brain for the target to be learned efficiently--if at all. Krashen (1972) and others were right that "monitoring" can be quite destructive to fluency and learning, but it goes considerably further.

So much of contemporary pronunciation instruction is at best "dis-integrated," and even more likely to be relatively dis-embodied, as well. That is especially the case with methods that over-rely on listening, explanation, uni-sensory repetition and non-systematic "learning-in-real communication" -- accompanied by the inevitable, random, multi-tasking and compromised, temporary, partial attention.

That "figures," doesn't it? They are just out of touch . . .

Friday, April 22, 2011

Why we shouldn't forget: How multi-modal or multi-sensory techniques work . . . really!

Common sense tells us that if we engage our visual, auditory, kinesthetic and tactile neural hardware simultaneously, we should be able to learn more effectively. The study linked above by Kelly & Avraamides demonstrates something of how that works. In effect, the information from all modalities tends to be "stored" in a common location in the brain. (It is also stored in other neural sites as well.) The implication for our work is that fixed locations in the visual field that are strongly associated with a sound or sound process, having been learned by (a) simultaneously locking the eyes and/or prioprioceptic nervous system on that point (b) where the hands have just arrived and are (d) momentarily touching, as the sound is (e) articulated, and the sound (f) is (to some degree) "heard" through the ears--should be readily recalled from any of those five directions. Pedagogically, that simply means efficiency. In other words, learners of any cognitive style, functioning in any skill area, should be better able to recall and begin using what they have anchored, what they have haptically integrated, later.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Initial hand position in goal-directed movement

In a very relevant study, Khoshnoodi, M., Motiei-langroudi, R.,Omrani, M., Ghaderi-pakdell, F., and Abbassian, A. (2006) demonstrate the importance for kinesthetic memory of a consistent "point of departure" of a movement through the visual field. The initial hand position seems to be more critical than the precise landing on the destination. What that means for HIPOECES work is that effective encoding and anchoring of sound structures such as vowels, consonants, stress, intonation and related phenomena by various types of "strokes" through the visual field, which generally terminate in or accompanied by some type of touch, may be as dependent on where the strokes begin as where they end. At the very least, careful attention to the entire course of movement of these directed, pedagogical gestures can potentially add substantial "punch" to the process. (One obvious way to do that is through the use of eye tracking analogous to that developed by OEI practitioners.) This insight should "move" us to further study!
Khoshnoodi, M., Motiei-langroudi, R.,Omrani, M., Ghaderi-pakdell, F., and Abbassian, A. (2006). Kinesthetic memory in distance reproduction task: importance of initial hand position information. Experimental Brain Research, Vol. 170 Issue 3, p312-319. DOI: 10.1007/s00221-005-0217-5

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Arthur Lessac - Requiescat in pace

Just received the following from Planaria Rice, "Arthur Lessac has just passed away. He was 101 and had just returned from Rijeka, Croatia.  The University of Rijeka is setting up a new dramatic arts, music department, etc, and wanted Arthur to train their professors in his methods. He developed heart failure shortly after returning--but what a triumphant way to go!!!!!  Here is a tribute to him from Rijeka." Lessac was both visionary and master teacher, a rare combination. He will be greatly missed, but the "body" of his work goes on! As he put it so succinctly,"Train the Body first!"

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Essential, Haptically-Integrated English Pronunciation (EHIEP) 'ape' Teaching Workshop

Here is a short description of the new training workshop that we are about to roll out this summer. 
(Cost per participant will depend on how many participants.)
  • This one-day workshop presents a basic method and set of techniques for teaching English pronunciation to ESL students. Features of the workshop include: It is designed for instructors with little or no previous training in pronunciation teaching, (and is especially appropriate for nonnative English speaking instructors.)
  • The techniques introduced are designed for use with beginning and intermediate-level students, but can be easily adapted for use with learners of all levels.
  • Participants are trained in using the Oxford American English dictionary (and are provided with a free copy as well!) for teaching pronunciation and vocabulary development.
  • Participants are given extensive practice in conducting the techniques and procedures to take back and use in their classrooms.
  • At the conclusion of the workshop, participants are provided with a DVD containing all the techniques from the workshop which they can use in their classrooms. (Students and Instructor together are taught by “aping” the video, following along and practicing basic procedures.) All initial instruction can be done by using the video. After that, instructors use the techniques in teaching throughout the curriculum.
  • The “integrated” techniques are designed to be used in all ESL classes, speaking, listening, reading or writing.
  •  In preparation, participants are sent preparatory workshop materials and instructions, along with required reading to be completed before arriving at the workshop.
  • The most innovative feature of the method presented is the extensive use of haptic-based (movement and touch) teaching techniques. The method has been shown to be highly effective in assisting students in integrating new pronunciation into their spontaneous speaking.
  • Participants may sign up (for a small fee) for follow up webcam consultations or webcam-based lessons for their class, led by a qualified EHIEP instructor.