Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Getting pronunciation out of the dictionary in 9 steps . . . for dummies!

With the development of electronic dictionaries, you'd wonder if "dead tree-tionaries" are on the verge of extinction. Not so, not quite yet. The felt sense of a good, print learner dictionary with audio file attached --and there are several on the market now-- is still preferable for most students at earlier stages of pronunciation learning, and for many long beyond that. The combination of the more accessible full visual field of the dictionary entry and the (generally) good color/font layout add considerably to the material available for good encoding and recall. Plus, the "feel" of the physical book and ability to place it in an optimal position in the visual field is hard to match at the moment electronically. (Although probably not for long!)

We have developed a haptic-based protocol for teaching students how to go to the dictionary and have a much better chance of coming away with the pronunciation, grammatical category, meaning and usage. The key, of course, is continuous haptic anchoring and sequencing--not just saying the word or words to yourself or out loud. In the "Public speaking for dummies, 2nd edition"are, in fact, all the basic elements of the protocol (interpreted with a little imagination and translation, of course!), just not quite in this order:

Clip art: Clker
(a) Identify the stressed syllable.
(b) Identify and anchor the vowel quality in the stressed syllable.
(c) Say the word out loud, anchoring the stressed vowel with emphatic (rise-fall) intonation.
(d) Anchor the grammatical category, doing the emphatic (rise-fall) statement, "It's a X!" twice.
(e) Repeat "c"
(f) Read aloud twice the meaning, using a flat, "robot-like" but good-humored, intonation contour.
(g) Repeat "c"
(h) Anchor the usage example twice with "declarative" or "rising/question" intonation, whichever is appropriate
(i) Repeat "c"one final time.

We'll be doing this next month at the Tri-TESOL conference in Washington, "Haptic Dictionary Pronunciation," and at the TESOL convention in Philadelphia next March (2012). Even if you can't join us to experience it first hand, try that 9-step haptic dance with your students. They'll get a lot out of it.

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