Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Marking the territory: What wolves can teach us about integrated anchoring and learning of L2 pronunciation

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There are many who report using haptic anchoring in teaching pronunciation, techniques such as clapping hands, stomping feet, tapping on the desk or pulling at rubber bands-- coordinated with stressed words or rhythm groups in speaking. Such "marking of the territory" does certainly help to reinforce the goal of the activity, but it is not "haptic-integrated," in the sense that we use it here.

In the 2003 study of the marking behavior of wolves in Poland, by Zub, Theuerkauf, Jędrzejewski, Jędrzejewska, Schmidt and Kowalczyk, an elaborate system was revealed such that each incidence of territorial marking could only be interpreted by considering three parameters simultaneously: (a) significance, (b) variability, and (c) relationship to other marking(s). In other words, the efficacy and meaning of the "mark" was dependent entirely upon its relative place in an integrated, multi-dimensional map of the territory.

In the same sense, haptic anchoring of new pronunciation only contributes effectively when it is thoroughly integrated into speaking, listening, reading or writing tasks. If it is experienced outside of meaningful discourse, narrative and task sequencing, as traditional, isolated pronunciation exercises inserted in the midst of a lesson--no matter how vividly or dramatically the haptic anchoring is executed, chances are it will not be all that different or memorable in principle than when the wolves, themselves, employ the same marking "technology" for other, more mundane functions in the Bialowieza woods . . .

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