Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Mirroring, Tracking and Listening

M, T and L are basic tools of pronunciation teaching. It has been assumed for some time that tracking, that is having a learner speak along with a simple audio recording, is something of an overt form of what naturally goes on in the body in listening. There was earlier research that seemed to suggest that the vocal apparatus (mouth, vocal cords, etc.) moved along with the incoming speech at a subliminal level.
Clip art: Clker
Turn outs, according to this research, by Menenti of the University of Glasgow, Hagoort of Radboud University, and Gierhan and Segaert of the Max Planck Institute, summarized by Science Daily, that general listening (without seeing the speaker, "live," visually) does not necessarily involve such sympathetic "vibrations." In other words, the felt sense of listening in some contexts can be decidedly non-somatic or divorced from embodied attention.

That does not mean that tracking is still not a useful technique for assisting learners with the intonation of the language, but clearly, the neuro-physiological rationale may be suspect. This raises several interesting questions related to the complex inter-relationships underlying listening, speaking and pronunciation skills--and how to teach them, especially in adults. The evidence that mirroring, on the other hand, engages the body is unequivocal. That certainly speaks to the HICP/EHIEP--and any pronunciation teaching practitioner who is listening . . .

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