Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Meaning through doing

Clip art: Clker
In this fascinating paper by Kilbourn and Isaksson (2007) the case is made for the place of some types or phases of noncognitive learning through haptic exploration. As we consider the wide range of phenomena related to learning of the sound system of a language, it becomes very evident that some aspects are "more" modality specific than others. For example, learning the orthography is obviously a more visual task--although it assumes some degree of felt sense of the vowels and consonants. But for the "rest" of the language, in Kilbourn and Isaksson's framework, even for the preponderance of early vocabulary learning, the experiential, haptic anchors are not just ancillary or "add ons" to the process but are fundamental to acquiring meaning.

Virtually all of pronunciation is closely tied to kinaesthetic and tactile sensory networks. It should come as no surprise then that it can also be learned efficiently,  haptically. This framework suggests that at least for some set of learners a primarily haptic and less cognitive/visual presentation approach will be best. Based on our experience, that seems to apply to most learners, particulary in terms of learning basic vowels, stress, rhythm and intonation. Success may just depend upon how long one stays in touch . . .

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