Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A model of multimedia pronunciation teaching: about as good as it can get!

Linked is a patent application that presents a design for a multimedia system to teach pronunciation and spelling. Although the description is only text, it is striking how well, in principle, the design appears to provide a learning platform that can integrate a wide range of visual and auditory experience for the learner. It represents the best of what we see today in video and online language teaching systems. But, given where we are now in the development of virtual reality and haptic systems, this proposed patent is "history" already. From one perspective, it is just expensive, applicable to only those with the technology--and the appropriate learning preferences. In other words, visual-auditory learners with money. More importantly, however, it simply does not systematically engage the body at all, either in the computer mediated environment or out of it--the final gasp of the sterile language lab. In a sense, it is not a bad model of contemporary pronunciation teaching either. It can present to the learner in an organized fashion almost any conceivable pronunciation target, from several perspectives, but  it cannot (or will not consider seriously how to) seal the deal, ensure that what is presented is adequately anchored and integrated later. It would only take a touch of haptic to make it something extraordinary.

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