Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Emotion, Handedness and HICP

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As noted in earlier posts, EHIEP "touch-i-namis" (wave-like gestures associated with sounds or sound processes which terminate in both hands touching) go from left to right when working with intonation. Research on emotion and handedness suggests that the left hand is more associated with relaxed states and is probably better suited for depicting the flowing shape of the intonation contour and the right hand is by nature more information or aggression-based--especially if the motion is contained within the general visual field. 

In other words, use of the hands in our work, for whatever reason, including hemispheric cross-connectedness (left to right, and vice versa) can be enhanced by matching emotion with handedness. For example, another pedagogical movement pattern (one used only for fun demonstrations only, by the way), one with some potentially very "aggressive" emotions involved (the Rhythmic Feet Fight Club) terminates with a strong punch with the right hand to the opponent's abs--on the prominent word/syllable in a rhythm or output group.  A useful technique to keep "handy." 

Art, Music, Physical Education--and Pronunciation

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Here is a document showing essential K-5 outcomes in Art, Music, and Physical Education. Careful examination (with your "analogy-detector" activated) reveals any number of ways in which pronunciation instruction shares features and fundamental pedagogical strategies with those three disciplines, including being seen by many as peripheral to core instruction.

In fact, many of the current shortcomings of contemporary pronunciation teaching relate quite directly to its not being sufficiently artistic (tied to expressiveness), musical (attending to prosodic features such as intonation and rhythm) and "physical" (cf. HICP, of course!)  Likewise, when the education culture sees art, music and physical education as first in line during budget cutting, it should come as little surprise that pronunciation instruction falls in the same category. Although there are any number of reasons within the recent development of the field from communicative language teaching forward for the declining interest in pronunciation teaching, the trend represents a more general evolving, post-modern societal attitude toward form, body and person.

Pronunciation teaching as we know it, as a more or less discrete, "skill-based" specialization that is of sufficient value to the field such that it should be reestablished in teacher training programs in these times of fiscal and form-based restraint may well be beyond resuscitation.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Drawing emotional gesture and intonation

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Here is an interesting description of what is termed, "gesture drawing" which seems quite analogous to what are termed "touch-i-namis" in EHIEP (wave-like gestures through the visual field terminating in hands touching): " . . . creating a gesture drawing . . . , you should draw, not what the thing looks like, but what it is doing. You need to 'sense' the thing that you are drawing. Is it fluid and soft, or spiky and hard? Is it coiled like a spring, or off-center and asymmetric, or is it solid and balanced?"

Notice the phrases "sense . . . what it is doing." In our work, that is generally experienced or interpreted as expressiveness, the dynamic nature of the targeted sound. The learner is guided to produce with as much resonance as possible--and later recall--what the sound(s) is doing, its felt sense, not what it looks like or sounds like.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

To resonate or not to resonate . . .

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All  effective voice training systems are based on the concept of using body resonance for anchoring, that is the "feeling" of sounds, not simply what come back through the ears from what we speak (which is of relatively little use for the most part.) Here is the engaging website of "The Voice Guy." It does an especially good job of explaining body resonance and how to develop it in three areas: (a) general  resonance in the head and throat, (b)  chest-focus resonance and, (c) the highly concentrated "Y-buzz" (see earlier posts on Lessac's model.)

The richer and more sensual the learner's experience of the sounds being learner or "adjusted," the better. And when that felt sense is linked with haptic anchoring, as in HICP/EHIEP work, it is almost too much like fun . . .

Friday, June 24, 2011

Aesthetic (haptic) touch

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For many, the idea of attending to touch is considerably outside of their conceptual box and comfort zone. Linked above is a nice piece from a sculptor, Rosalyn Driscoll, that helps to inform our understanding of the way in which the creative use of touch can be experienced. One dimension of her art is that the audience actually touches the pieces or projects and in that manner comes to interpret and appreciate it. The felt sense of that process--and HICP work, I might add-- ought to to be an attitude or mindset of curiosity, sensitivity and appreciation. When it is, being able to later recall and integrate what was in focus is much more than just a nice "aesthetic touch"--it is the essence of sound learning. Our students as well ought to be "touched" by our EHIEP instruction and theirs. 

Friday, June 17, 2011

Keeping listening in the picture . . . or out of it!

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Several posts have addressed the question of the relationship between learning modalities in general learning and pronunciation teaching. What this important 2010 study by Lavie and Macdonald of the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at UCL, reported by Science Daily, demonstrates is that in some contexts visual input appears to trump auditory input. In other words, being engaged visually in a task may limit ability to hear critical information.

We know from experience that some highly visual learners may find learning pronunciation especially difficult. This helps to explain why. From whatever source, even stunning visual aids or computer displays, "visual interference" with learning new sounds may be significant. The implication for EHIEP instruction is that haptic and auditory input, key components of  multiple modality instruction--along with a modest amount of video on the side, perhaps, is the best overall learning format. Get the picture . . .or the sound . . . take your pick!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Getting in touch with your inner fuzzy for pronunciation work--with touch!

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In working with haptic techniques, one frequent observation will often be that even students in the foulest of moods seem more amenable to engaging with the procedures than were they being asked to respond to visual or simple auditory prompts. This 2011 study by King, NUS Business School, Singapore, and Chris Janiszewski, University of Florida, Gainesville. may explain why that could be the case: those in less positive mood tend to prefer tactile sources of comfort (such as in the photo accompanying the article of a small girl hugging a teddy bear.), whereas the more positive tend to select visual stimulation for comfort or stimulation.

What is of interest there for us is that successful haptic work should be less dependent on getting students in optimal affective states before the lesson begins. In other words (to paraphrase Arthur Lessac): hug (the body) first, dazzle ( it) later. Going back to an earlier post on learning potency, comparing "drill" to the "thrill," it may be that the experience of a "thrilling" pronunciation learning event feels closer to a great massage than it does to awe at the sight of a great picture.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Whole person and whole body learning

For decades, the concept of "whole person" involvement in language learning has been a given. The HICP perspective in pronunciation instruction, and that of many body-friendly methodologies in this and related fields, is that the full body, as represented in multiple-modality-based procedures, must be engaged as well.

The well-known Egoscue method for body alignment and functionality has for some time provided not only a great way to keep your body loose and aligned, but also an excellent heuristic and metaphor for our work. (The Egoscue website is also linked in the right column of blog.)

Especially for the instructor, conscious control of the body as both a model for students and an a basis for optimal delivery of speech and general interpersonal nonverbal communication as presented in body movement, is an essential skill set. The Egoscue method, through a highly integrated set of exercises, creates a fascinating, integrated body balance and alignment and sense of well being. In that framework, especially awareness of  the rhythm of English seems to be greatly enhanced.

Pronunciation work can be a pain in the neck . . . but not if you have done your Egoscue that morning before class!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The felt sense of a new or "replacement" vowel: Y-buzz and beyond

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The first phase of EHIEP training is involved with haptically anchoring the vowels of English. Even if the learner "has" a vowel already in his or her repertoire, it is essential that a new and more focused, conscious awareness of the somatic qualities of the vowel be established to facilitate later change and monitoring of spontaneous speaking.

That concept is based on Lessac's notion of the "Y-buzz" sensation. Here is a 2007 study by Barrichelo and Behlau that looked at the perceptual salience of that highly resonant sound/sensation, as opposed to "normal" production by subjects of the acoustically similar [i] sound (as in the word, "me,' for example.) The unique, therapeutically created Y-buzz vowel felt sense is the model for our work. The learner's ability to produce the Y-buzz is almost entirely body-based, not auditory. In that way, the learner can produce it without having to "go through" the possibly "defective" [i] vowel in his or her current interlanguage phonology. (See earlier post on "changing the channel.")

Need to put a little more "buzz" in your teaching?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

May I have your "undivided" attention? (For pronunciation instruction)

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In this interesting 2003 MA thesis by Hamblin, the effect of divided attention on simultaneous speaking and movement fluency were studied from a number of perspectives. One relevant finding was that (for right handers) left hand movement tasks were significantly more disruptive to speaking fluency and language generation than were right-hand tasks. One explanation was that such multitasking (simply) demands more attention on the part of the non-dominant hand's related neural hardware--which normally does not exert as much control over ongoing speech and language production.

In HICP work, that effect is exploited to advantage by systematically using the movement of both hands, but especially the left hand, in part to demand and maintain as near total concentration of the learner on the target sound, word or phrase. (See earlier post on the potential effects of left-handedness on HICP teaching and learning: minimal, at best.) Because the EHIEP protocols (techniques) do not at least initially demand generation of new language, but only require repetition of provided targets, it is relatively easy to progressively keep learners (near) fully engaged and on task.

Adding conscious attention to the felt sense of both the movement and the essential touch of each pedagogical movement pattern (PMP) does much to keep the contemporary, multi-tasking-prone, visual- media-addicted learner's brain and attention as "undivided" as haptically possible.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

ACCENT principles of the HIPoeces Matix

HIPoeces uses the visual field for a number of functions. Vowels, stress, consonants, pitch and intonation all involve fixed points where the sound or sound process is haptically anchored (movement with associated touch at some point). The ACCENT principles from graph design provide a good template for deciding how effectively a "move" in the visual field by the hands and arms fulfills the purpose for which it has been created. A (apprehension) Does the PMP (pedagogical movement pattern) "maximize apprehension of the relations between" the other PMPs in the field? (For example, are the individual vowels appropriately positioned in relative space from eachother?) C (clarity) Are the most important "elements visually the most prominent?" (For example, is the pitch change location the most obvious visual component of an intonation-based PMP? C (consistency) Are the symbols used sufficiently close to those used in general pronunciation teaching? E (efficiency)  Are the elements of the graph (matrix) "economically" used? (In this case, do the PMPs involve as little distraction or redundancy in presentation as possible?) N (necessity) Are the elements (of the graph or matrix) the best conceptual schema for presenting and anchoring this concept or sound set? (The system is constantly evolving. At present the requirement is that all work be haptic, not just kinesthetic or auditory/visual. That may change later as well.) T (truthfulness) Are the graph elements accurately positioned and scaled? The PMP are, by definition pedagogically-based, as such many of them are not absolutely true-to-form with the linguistic systems and analyses on which they are based, but from the perspective of the best possible "felt sense" of an English sound for learning, the PMPs generally anchor well and strongly support learner integration of targeted material into spontaneous speech.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Flexibility, Change and Creativity

In the last post I commented on the notion of a test of creativity that might be useful in figuring out which students will be more amenable to experimenting with their non-dominant modalities. Here is an interesting one looking at general creativity, and here is one on openness to or attitude toward change. In this kind of work, a modicum of both are essential. Try them and see how you rate. And here is  a test of flexibility. If you score high on all three, you're hired!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

How to engage the haptic-o-phobes and the kinesthetically challenged

From this 2011 research by Yang (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee), Ringberg (Copenhagen Business School), Mao (University of Central Florida), and Peracchio (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee), it appears that the secret is to check first as to whether the learner is creative enough to love haptic in the first place. If not, forget it. If so, however, it appears that the sufficiently creative are much more open to working in their non-dominant cognitive styles or modalities. HICP that training in non-dominant modalities is critical for the learner, in many cases explicitly avoiding the learner's primary "cluttered" channel(s) or cognitive style.
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So perhaps, we need to do some more creativity training earlier on to engage the dull, unimaginative stragglers, before we ask them to hyper-gesticulate in public . . . or possibly forward them on to a program that better fits their personalities? That should not be too difficult, eh.  

Quod erat demonstrandum: Why pronunciation teaching fails

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University of Wisconsin researcher Alibali is quoted in the linked summary by Science Daily as saying, ""Body movements are one of the resources we bring to cognitive processes." From our perspective, it might be better framed: ""Cognitive processes are one of the resources we bring to learning pronunciation, "multiple modalitily." What a nice example of the obvious "cognitive" bias prevalent in this field today as well-- such that the body is still thought of principally as an "add-on" or afterthought in understanding human functioning and designing instruction. Some estimates are that the body figures in to most popular models of cognitive functioning at well below the 20% level. 

The researchers speculate that it might even be a good idea to consider suppressing body engagement to stimulate other forms of disembodied learning. They need not bother . . . We have ample evidence in contemporary pronunciation teaching as to what happens when that is the common practice.

(Hat tip to Charles Adamson, founder and guiding spirit of the Japan NLP association for this link to the study summarized at He has been the source of several Science Daily summaries that I have also linked here in connection with a relevant post.)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The "touch" of sound quality

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Clip art: Clker
In this summary by Hsu of Live Science  of research relating to touch and decision making, the authors make an interesting observation: " . . . these studies support an idea proposed by Ackerman and his colleagues known as scaffolding, where humans learn to grasp abstract mental concepts by relying upon physical sensations . . ." 

The haptically-anchored pedagogical gestures of EHIEP possess a range of skin-touch sensations, from strong taps or punches to gentle brushing strokes. In addition, those movements may be tightly constrained or broad, sweeping arcs across the visual field. Each pedagogical movement pattern (PMP) is created to be experienced as a unique physical correlate to the sound or sound pattern it represents. Our experience has been that the more learners "rely on the physical sensations," the more rapidly and persistently change in pronunciation takes place. Good decision . . . to rely on haptic grounding in pronunciation work.