Tuesday, August 16, 2011

(Haptic) Pronunciation Rehabilitation

Clip art: Clker
Here is an interesting paper outlining a virtual-reality approach to using haptic rehabilitation technology with stroke victims. The parallels to some aspects of haptic-integrated pronunciation work, especially in dealing with fossilized pronunciation, are striking: (a) focus on "daily" actions, (b) exploit the visual field as a 3D structure--not just 2-dimensional, vertical and horizontal, and (c) use haptic guidance and anchoring. Changing fossilized (cf., Acton 1984) pronunciation requires a somewhat different approach where the targets must, at least initially, be words and phrases with high likelihood of daily active or receptive use by the learner. (Often you have to simply "ferret out" every word with problematic sounds, one by one!)

Following Lessac, only then can language bits practiced in (relative) isolation as "homework" begin to integrate into spontaneous speaking. The 3-dimensional space allows not only consistent haptic anchoring of language bits but also provides for registering emotional and expressive intensity, key elements in working with seemingly intractable mispronunciations. From that perspective, the term "rehabilitating (fossilized) pronunciation," has a nice ring to it. Now if we can just apply that principle to contemporary pronunciation teaching in general . . .

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