Thursday, September 1, 2011

"Fast and furious" pronunciation learning

Clip art: Clker
The Web is filled with sites claiming to have products that accelerate learning of the pronunciation of English. Almost without exception (I haven't reviewed all of them!) they probably work--as long as you are not concerned with developing general ability to communicate intelligibly. In fact, many of them, such as this one, probably serve to even further disconnect pronunciation from spontaneous speech, by relying so heavily on visual engagement. (We have seen in earlier posts the potential impact of that visual bias.)

Although for other reasons, I sort of like the "Eye-speak" name of the program, in the sense that is not far off in concept from any attempt to teach pronunciation as cute little vignettes inserted throughout the curriculum or course without systematic follow up using the skills introduced in  succeeding classes where speaking or listening is involved.

I am beginning to believe that a great deal of what passes for good pronunciation instruction, done for the most part in isolation from basic course content--even with the typical proviso that the students go practice on their own with no further guidance--actually works against acquisition of intelligible speech by either partitioning it off (very successfully) or having little or no impact in the first place. Actually, with a little haptic tweaking, that just might work: int-EYE-gration. What a concept!

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