Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sticky, persistent, integrated pronunciation change

Disintegration of Persistence
of Memory by S. Dali:
Credit: Wikipedia
A favorite image or visual metaphor of mine for the current state of pronunciation teaching, especially understanding of how to make change "stick" is Dali's "Disintegration of Persistence of Memory." Although the 1954 painting probably relates a little better to the evolving mind and memory of modern man than getting learners to integrate repaired or new pronunciation, the existential issue is the same: flooded with information, insight and other random "edutainments," how can we remember anything? Better yet, with virtual memory in the "clouds" all around us now, why bother?

Several aspects of pronunciation change still require decidedly "pre-modern" kinaesthetic engagement to stick efficiently, where the potentially neurotic, "self talk" interference is at least temporarily absent--what a recent post referred to as "mindfulness" focusing on just one objective: anchoring in memory, or in HICP terms, haptic anchoring. In yesterday's workshop, in response to the question: "What makes pronunciation change stick?",  the suggestions from the audience ranged from "context" to "real communication" to "opportunities for usage" to "collocation" to "paradigm-relation" (similar form) to "comprehensible input" to "personal relevance."

What was not mentioned is most revealing: saying the word or phrase out loud for practice or some kind of somatic "felt sense" of the sound(s), the basis of HICP work. It is as if much of the basic understanding of how pronunciation was to be integrated or "drilled in" of only a couple of decades ago has been lost. Stick with us. Memory persists here . . .

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