Tuesday, February 28, 2012

"Happy" with your pronunciation teaching?

Clipart: Clker
In an earlier post, "New L2 identity and new pronunciation in 40 days!," it was noted that 40 days may be a minimal time period necessary to establish both exercise persistence and new identity. The linked research study summary by Shawn Anchor, and accompanying TED talk, seems to point to what may be an important motivational or affective benchmark along the way as well: 21 days. "What we found was something as simple as writing down three things you're grateful for every day for 21 days in a row significantly increases your level of optimism and it holds for the next six months. The research is amazing. It proves we actually can change." Good to know that (1)  it takes so little time, (2)  it lasts so long--and (3) we can actually change!" Granted, it may be hard to think of 60 more things to be all that haptic  (or happy) to blog about in the next 20 days, but I am optimistic  . . .

Monday, February 27, 2012

Intelligible pronunciation for dummies

To understand why some relatively intelligible interlanguage pronunciation can be so resistant to change, spend a week training to be a ventriloquist. What you learn quickly, is that with practice--a visually striking dummy, basic distraction techniques and a little extra aspiration--you can get away with some amazing substitutions, such as:
Clipart: Clker
a. Instead of 'b', blow out a strong blast of air, aiming at 'v'.
b. For 'f', substitute a strongly aspirated 'h'.
c. For 'm', leave lips open but inhale sharply.
d. Avoid works with 'p'--or drop the first letter if it is a 'p'.
e. For 'w', wiggle the tongue and articulate the word at the back of the throat.
f. 'Y' is the ventriloquist's shibboleth. Once you have that one, you are in the club. Do it, too, with a violent blast of air, rather than much tongue movement.
g. For 'th', most anything works, depending on the accent you are affecting.
i. Vowels are a piece of cake, as long as you don't need to sound too intelligent.
Our students, of course, aren't dummies--but they sometimes do need to be persuaded to improve for no apparent reason . . . like . . .  "watch my lips and repeat after me!" 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Hunting for quail and qualia in pronunciation teaching

Clipart: Clker
I cannot resist a good analogy (or even a bad one, unfortunately!). My undergraduate degree in philosophy continues to "dog" me. Here is another. Hunting for quail and hunting for "qualia." If you have never experienced a quail hunt, just imagine a fabulous pronunciation class or "teachable pronunciation moment" where problems which must be dealt with immediately keep popping up all around you--and all 20 of your students are demanding your attention at the same time . . .  BUT FIRST, "qualia." That is a philosophical term, which focuses on what an experience feels like, its "raw feel"-- which corresponds in many ways to the term "felt sense" that we use in our work. If you can quickly and efficiently anchor the felt sense of a sound/word, the chances of integrating that change into spontaneous speech increase exponentially. The problem, for both quail and qualia hunting is context and system. Here are 10 tips from Mademan.com that apply e-QUAL-ly to both projects:
1. Look for quail in open land. (Make sure you have the learner's complete, whole-body attention.)
2. Use a shotgun when quail hunting. (You don't need extreme accuracy, just intelligibility.)
3. Bring a dog on your hunt. (The attention of the learner should be on the protocols, not on you as instructor.)
4. Never shoot a low flying quail. (Make sure that the target sound is clearly in focus before attempting to anchor it.)
5. Hunt for Quail in late season. (Implement integration work with the protocols after they have been introduced and practiced outside of the class.)
6. Stay as quiet as you can be. (The qualia should be as much an internal experience for the learner as possible, not a social event. The same applies for the instructor's role.)
7. Walk into the wind. (Always attempt to leave learners with the essentials of the protocols, not with too many random associations of place and occasion clinging to the anchored word or phrase.)
8. Know their routines. (Of both the protocols and the quality and quantity of homework assignments)
9. Look for fresh tracks. (Be always ready to recognize and point out learner progress on protocol form. Change in pronunciation of problematic sounds generally follows practice using the protocol.)
10. Be familiar with the hunting area before you hunt. (All aspects of the classroom milieu contribute to the effectiveness of noticing and anchoring sound to felt sense to qualia. Play some background music maybe or arrange the chairs before class . . . ) With those guidelines in mind, you should be more than QUALIAfied . . . 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Communicative (pronunciation) confidence and credibility

Clipart: Clker
One of our goals as pronunciation "clinicians" is always to help learners become more confident in speaking the language. Just better intelligibility should result in appreciable gains from that perspective. Of course, there is more to effective face-to-face communication than just the quality and accuracy of speech. To be persuasive, one must be perceived as credible as well. Some part of that is nonverbal. The research and "friendly advice" (such as that linked above--caveat emptor!) on that focusing on business and romance is all over the map, especially when cross-cultural norms are factored in. For example, ability to detect lies (as opposed to simple discomfort or disgust) by the untrained is generally no better than random--despite what the TV program "Lie to Me!" projected--before it was cancelled! But picking up the signals of confidence, or lack of it, in the speaker is another matter. Good posture, rhythmic body movement synchronized with speech, appropriate use of gesture and eye contact--in addition to intelligible pronunciation-- all contribute to the credibility of the message. Pronunciation work is a perfect venue for helping students add to their repertoire of handy identities, including an acceptable "business-like" persona to have available for engagements where one is in order. To do that, requires systematic practice in the optimal body movement and gesture management styles of that culture--even if you, personally, don't have a business suit. In other words, make sure you at least occasionally "stick to business." 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Vowel length--by the numbers

Clipart: Clker
Clipart: Clker
Linked is a summary of a study to be published shortly that looks at the link between the way numbers are represented in the brain and how that can affect visual and haptic perception of length. In essence, focusing on a larger number changes perception of the length of something in the visual field or an object that is experienced haptically, running the hands across it in some manner. Many pronunciation systems use vowel numbers similar to those used in HICP, where the numbers roughly correlate with those on a the mirror image of a  clock face--or the place in the standard IPA matrix. According to this research and other previous studies the effect should be to give the learner the felt sense that, for example, vowel #2 (high-front-lax) is perceptually shorter than vowel #1y (high-front-tense-unrounded + off-glide.) Acoustically, that is certainly the case. Whether a vowel #11 (high-back-lax-rounded) is perceptually longer than a vowel #2 (high-front-lax-unrounded) is an empirical question, although my guess is, to quote one of my favorite lines from Bertrand Russell, that "[That] difference that doesn't make a difference, doesn't make a difference . . . " What is of interest, however, is the potential effect of using digraphs such as 1y or 11w for diphthongs or vowel+off-glides, or using double numbers such as 22 or 66 for lax vowels that are lengthened before voiced consonants or sonorants--accompanied by haptic anchoring of course! The type of haptic anchoring used, whether a light tap or brush or scrape or plunging action may interact more with the numbers assigned to vowels  than I had previously thought. It may be time to consider reframing the nature of the number system itself to correlate better with the visual and haptic felt sense of vowel length. We can at least wait until the research study is published--and then either mortgage the house to come up with the $32 to buy it or wait until it shows up someplace else as a PDF on some pirate's blog . . . 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Vowel reduction and word stress: one word at a time

Clipart: Clker
Especially in pre-academic ESL/EFL instruction, the common strategy is to devote considerable instructional time to rules and patterns of word stress assignment, and attention to principles of vowel reduction. As noted in earlier posts, some of that emphasis is due to the fact that many acquire pronunciation through reading--not speaking and listening-- and need good strategies for figuring out word stress and vowel reduction, especially with technical terms. With the advent of good audio sources for pronunciation, at least some of the need for essentially "phonic" decoding has been lessened. Flege and Bohn's 1989 research inked above came to the striking conclusion that " . . .  L2 learners acquire [word] stress placement and vowel reduction in English on a word-by-word basis." In that study, the vowel quality of the vowels in the words that were being learned appeared to be impervious to alteration or enhancement once the word had been assigned meaning and use conditions. If that is indeed the case in general--and that has certainly been my experience in working with stress and vowel reduction in conversational language, especially with intermediate-level and above, then the key to developing accurate pronunciation at least at the segment-level seems to be experiencing and anchoring the felt sense of a word as a whole, not as simply a token of a pattern or process. Now the pattern of the stress assignment or vowel reduction involved may generate to other new words in some manner, but basically, those aspects of the word that are learned as part of the initial, overall configuration, which includes any number of factors in addition to those that are sound-related, are highly resistant to change later. In other words, the brain of the learner apparently grasps whatever pronunciation of the new word is immediately available or possible-- and then doesn't look back much or continue trying to approximate the L2 target much further, if at all. In a word, we do appear to learn the pronunciation of the language . . .  one word at a time. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Prana(yama)nciation work readiness: Bee "Mmmm"

Clipart: Clker
Some kind of warm up is often essential before attention to pronunciation. The current warm up in the  EHIEP system, designed to loosen up mind and body,  takes about three minutes and resembles a cross between exuberant choral conducting, ballet moves and body building stretches. (See the linked Youtube in the right column for an earlier version.) The warm up function can be accomplished many ways. In developing an EHIEP adaptation for use in India, I went back to my earlier experience with yoga and began experimenting with versions of the "Pranayama" or "Bee" technique. As noted in a recent post, the paralinguistic side of HICP work must be culturally attuned to appropriate nonverbal behaviorial norms of the students. Although it seems to take about twice as long to "get there' (at least for ME!), the effect or mind/body state you arrive at seems remarkably similar. Of course, if you can't do a good lotus position, don't have a venue where your intense buzzing won't be seen as socially dysfunctional--or have serious nasal congestion--this might not be for you. But it is worth trying once, just to get the felt sense of what optimal, holistic readiness is like. So, pour yourself a cup of herbal tea, relax, sit down, and follow the directions. Will give you a buzz . . . Pranayam(a)ise!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Haptic-integrated intonation instruction for NNESTs proposal

My students are submitting this proposal for the upcoming BCTEAL conference at Capilano University (outside of Vancouver, BC):
Clipart: Clker

Teaching essential English intonation can be difficult for nonnative English speaking teachers (NNEST). That can be especially true if the teacher’s L1 has a prosodic system that is quite different from English, such as Thai or Chinese, where tone may have other functions. Although some textbooks have basic explanations and brief practice, integrating features of intonation into general speaking instruction can be challenging, at best. One problem is that, without a minimum of training in English prosody, it can be nearly impossible for some to accurately assign intonation contours to phrases and sentences. The key is first understanding how intonation is related to basic grammatical structure—something NNESTs are often even more conversant with than their NS colleagues! Whereas for NS teachers deciding on the intonation of a conversational turn in speaking (or even in listening comprehension) can be almost effortless, just a matter of “listening to” their native-speaking “inner voice,” many NNESTs are not fortunate enough to have developed one of those, at least not yet. In this workshop, four NNESTs in training to be teacher-trainers first present a simple, grammar and rhythm-based method for determining what intonation contour to use. They then demonstrate a straightforward, classroom tested, “haptic-integrated” system (making extensive use of movement and touch) for practicing conversational intonation rhythmically with students. Participants are given guidelines and handouts for using the framework in classes with teenage and adult learners.

Hopefully, it'll be accepted for presentation. If not, invite them to come to your school and present it there! 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Phonic literacy: Touchphonics

Clipart: Clker
In a comment to the previous post, a colleague reminded me of Touchphonics. The link above is to a Youtube promo of the system that is worth watching, just to see the principles of multiple-modality instruction--but especially touch, color and movement--applied in working with (for the most part, native-English speaking) K-5 students. There are several similar product-packages on the market, but that one is especially interesting and transparent. What the video does not show much of is how the "pieces" are manipulated in instruction to give learners maximal "haptic" experience or felt sense of the sound or group of sounds and their functions. If you are teaching kids, especially in an EFL context--and have the budget for it, it is worth considering. EHIEP, done primarily just as modelling by the instructor, can anchor and alter sounds efficiently with that age group; TP, reading (sound-grapheme) phonics. Both done by the book, of course . . . 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Pronunciation literacy

Clipart: Clker
To learn the pronunciation of a language, what do you need? Basic literacy? Phonetics? A reason? A context for use? A model? A dictionary? I have always assumed that the answer will largely depend upon the learner population and necessity for varying degrees of intelligibility and accuracy demanded by the surrounding culture. (The EHIEP system, for example, is designed to be relatively context-free, that is just as applicable for pre-literate work as it is for "high end" accent reduction.) That is until I stumbled upon the "amazing claims" made in the linked video for the "DD-CODE-English." (For some reason in over 4 years out there it has only been viewed less than 5,000 times.) It is promos like that one that make you realize just how little you have accomplished in about 40 years in the field--and how much there remains to be done . . . 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Free L2 and haptic research studies and reports!

Clipart: Clker
Clipart: Clker
You may have noticed that most of the research or sources linked off this blog connect to sites that are free, accessible to anybody. There is a good reason for that.You may also have noticed in the last decade or so that more and more  published research is only accessible through publishers or professional associations. Although I do occasionally buy a copy of a study online, at $30+ per piece, the budget runs out quickly. And when I do get the article, I still cannot follow up on many of the sources in the reference list--for the same reason. The "Guild," the traditional owners of information, membership and privilege are attempting to maintain what control they have left today. The very notion that those of us without access to the original research should simply accept uncritically the digested version of a study by any expert is losing ground rapidly today. There are a growing number of excellent, online refereed and unrefereed journals such as the Asian EFL Journal, that are freely accessible--let alone a phenomenal number of quality research blogs. In many disciples, the blog is quickly replacing the journal article as the venue of choice for disseminating research findings. As a matter of principle, if the HICP practitioner cannot personally check the details and validity of a study--for free, it will generally not be cited here. (For one of my favorite musical depictions of the fading power and place of the Guild in a culture, see the Youtube link above.) Granted, that still somewhat restricts the scope of what can be brought in to substantiate haptic-integrated classroom practice, but  fortunately it also limits the necessity of taking too seriously "Die Meister-Thinkers" of disembodied, inaccessible research--and opinion,  as well. 

Tap your way to better pronunciation?

Clipart: Clker
If for some reason you have encountered any of the so-called "Power Therapies" developed for dealing especially with conditions such as PTSD, you may have heard of "Thought Field Therapy." (If not, not to worry!) It is based roughly on, among other things, acupressure therapy which, in turn, is based on Chinese traditional medicine . . . Thought I'd just briefly "tap" into that approach to psychotherapy to highlight one aspect of HICP teaching: tapping the hands and body for different functions. (See most recent post of the potential cross-cultural pitfalls of self-touch in our work.) There are several versions of TFT; the one linked above, the British TFT Association, has more connections to Western "reality" than some others! What they share is the use of rhythmic and a-rhythmic tapping on various acupressure (or Shiatsu) points on the arms and upper body, locations in traditional Chinese medicine which are identified with various "energy fields" or "junctures" of various kinds--typically while focusing on a problematic memory or systematically avoiding focusing on it. That such manipulations in a coherent therapeutic mindset or worldview may "work," is not the question. They do, but, from a Western perspective, particularly, it is nearly impossible to establish that empirically--so I won't try. HICP does, however, borrow from that tradition the idea that touch, as it creates haptic anchoring, in some cases even on the same acupressure locations, is a useful tool--when combined with a wider range of more "traditional Western" pronunciation teaching moves. Just for fun, you might download the linked PDF on TFT .  . . and keep it "on tap!"

Friday, February 17, 2012

Working with cultural taboos on touch in HICP

Clipart: Clker
In my high school public speaking class (circa 1960), one of the "rules" for giving effective speeches was to NEVER touch your head. You got points off every time you touched your face--for any reason. That lesson stuck . . . (For a general review of the place of the use of touch in communication and therapy cross-culturally, see the piece on the Zur website linked above.) Although it is difficult to find readily accessible research on the web on the place of self-touch in various cultures, there are some surveys that relate general principles, such as this one. Given the incredible range of symbolic meanings attached to the head, face, hands and arms in different cultures, the chances of infringing on a student's L1 paralinguistic taboos in working with directed upper body movement can be substantial. Likewise, touching hands in the visual field can accidentally coincide with a prohibited gesture. That constraint is evident in the development of signing systems for deaf in different cultures, as well. In EHIEP system as it is today, in addition to touching hands, much like sign language, there is some minor facial touching in anchoring, such momentarily placing a finger on the voice box or point on the head to get the felt sense of resonance. Experience with learners from most major cultures have helped us gradually eliminate pedagogical movement patterns (PMPs) that don't work in specific contexts, but instructors may well have to make minor adjustments. For example, recently we were working with a new protocol to establish more upper body flexibility that included lightly tapping both thighs in the course of the exercise. The students reacted with great, embarrassed laughter--quickly informing the instructor that that touching gesture signalled a very personal function in their culture, never to be done in public! There have been more than a dozen such "revelations" in the last few years--such as left hand use--to the point where what we have today generally is accepted by students as at least inoffensive in the classroom context. (Part of the reason for that is that normally in the early stages as the PMPs are being learned, only the instructor can see the students' PMPs, not other students.) I have, on the other hand,  a long list of other techniques that should be taboo in pronunciation teaching . . . 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Full-body rhythm: full-body pronunciation

Clipart: Clker
Clipart: Clker
A good case could be made for the position that the body rhythms which both drive and accompany speaking a language are at least as important as the vowels and consonants in achieving native-like expression, perhaps even more so. (On this blog I rarely talk about how to approach that level of accuracy.) Although rhythm is central to EHIEP methodology, that is the learner should see the grouping of words in conversation as the basic building block or point of departure in integrating change into spontaneous speech, the focus is generally on upper torso, head and arm movements that generate and control both rhythm and body movement. Of course, consciously synchronized upper body movement "moves" the rest of the body as well, especially the hips, glutes and abs. For any number of reasons, it is better to maintain attention "up there" rather than "down there"--at least in some cultures! Linked are three Youtube videos of the popular "body rhythm" art form, beginning with the one above of Keith Terry. Watch a bit of that and then a bit of this somewhat more "funky" style. ("Funky" is used in one of the protocols extensively.) And then finish up with this great "Mayumana" piece. The three taken together, from the initial hand focus, to the full body movement and clapping, to the exceedingly controlled and coordinated, almost robotic-like performance, captures the range of motion and felt sense necessary to move like a native. That level of rhythmic abandon is not required for basic intelligibility--but it certainly gives new meaning to the term "corpus" linguistics. Corporal linguists and instructors of the world, get down (with it!)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Useless pronunciation work

Library of Congress
In looking for research on the value of pronunciation work in EFL contexts where there is realistically little or no possibility of students engaging in realistic speaking practice or even hearing English spoken whether in the classroom or from audio recordings, I came on a proposal for an action research project by a student in Indonesia (as fulfilling a requirement for a bachelor's degree.) In its own way, it states the problem (and the pragmatic solution) well: focus on vocabulary--and probably grammar. We have done three or four recent workshops on using HICP protocols for getting the pronunciation, meaning and usage out of a dictionary. (The upcoming demonstration at TESOL in Philadelphia is on the same basic set of strategies.) Learning the pronunciation of words and phrases in such (use-less) contexts is certainly not ideal but it is the reality for the preponderance of the world's students. There are  two "sides" to our work: integrated pronunciation instruction in the classroom and systematic homework which focuses on both essential phonological processes and targeted short conversations (12-lines long) and vocabulary lists tailored to the instructional program. In ESL settings, learners also, of course, have the L2 culture to function in as well. In EFL settings like the one described in the action research proposal, even our "other half" should be enormously helpful. I only have anecdotal evidence in the form of reports from former grad students who use EHIEP protocols in their classes "out there" to support that assumption, but even "useless" pronunciation instruction done well and with sufficient "joie de pronunciation" can establish a solid foundation for later and a rich, felt sense of what it is like to speak the language. I have met countless internationals whose experience had been exactly that--and whose use of the spoken language was excellent. There are many paths to use . . . 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Hands up! (The felt sense of resonance from Baoding)

In recent posts, I looked at various techniques for establishing focusing on vowel resonance in the upper body. For over 20 years, I have been exercising with Chinese health balls (保定健身球), pronounced 'ken-shin-kyu' in Japanese. There are many types. According to "legend," their use originated with soldiers rotating iron cannon balls in their hands to develop strength and dexterity back before the Ming dynasty. Along the way, they evolved into many forms, including beautiful cloisonne-covered 55 millimeter-diameter versions which contain various kinds and frequencies of chimes. High quality balls may also have surfaces that are exceedingly pleasing to the touch. The haptic feedback to the hands, and then to the entire skeletal structure can be simply amazing: when the balls are rotated in optimal patterns--which takes considerable practice--the resonance experienced through the hands, along with the sound emanated and the blurs of colours, can be a multiple modality experience of the first order. To keep the balls rolling optimally requires complete sensory attention and engagement. I can think of no better analogy or model of the type of momentary full-body focus that is always the goal of HICP protocols. Unfortunately, it is nearly impossible today to find a set of four matching balls without going to a shop yourself and (often) spending an hour or two trying to find a set of four that match in colour, weight and surface texture--let alone getting a set of four where the tones of the chimes create a chord of some character that is pleasing. (In the literature on the balls, it is said that Chinese folk medicine practitioners would, based on the personality, physical and emotional state of the patient, prescribe to the artisan exactly how all the various parameters of the ball should be created.) I'll do a Youtube video in a bit to demonstrate. The best "hapticanalogy" I can imagine. Hands down . . . 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Pronunciation teaching (and HICP) phobias

Being, myself, a "Phob-a-phile," I enjoyed surveying "The Phobia List" recently (linked above) in search of some of the apparent phobias that we encounter in HICP or general pronunciation work. I fear the relevant conditions are legion. No wonder we sometimes encounter some resistance, eh. Here is my preliminary list from "The List." Feel free (Don't be afraid!) to contribute others!

Allodoxaphobia- Fear of opinions
Amychophobia- Fear of scratches or being scratched.
Anablephobia- Fear of looking up.
Aphenphosmphobia- Fear of being touched. (Haphephobia)
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Ataxophobia- Fear of disorder or untidiness.
Atelophobia- Fear of imperfection.
Atychiphobia- Fear of failure.
Cainophobia or Cainotophobia- Fear of newness, novelty.
Caligynephobia- Fear of beautiful women.
Cenophobia or Centophobia- Fear of new things or ideas.
Chiraptophobia- Fear of being touched.
Chirophobia- Fear of hands.
Chronomentrophobia- Fear of clocks.
Dextrophobia- Fear of objects at the right side of the body.
Disposophobia- Fear of throwing stuff out. Hoarding.
Gelotophobia- Fear of being laughed at.
Glossophobia- Fear of speaking in public or of trying to speak.
Gnosiophobia- Fear of knowledge.
Haphephobia or Haptephobia- Fear of being touched.
Hellenologophobia- Fear of Greek terms or complex scientific terminology.
Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia- Fear of long words.
Hypengyophobia or Hypegiaphobia- Fear of responsibility.
Hypnophobia- Fear of sleep or of being hypnotized.
Ideophobia- Fear of ideas.
Illyngophobia- Fear of vertigo or feeling dizzy when looking down.
Kainolophobia or Kainophobia- Fear of anything new, novelty.
Kakorrhaphiophobia- Fear of failure or defeat.
Katagelophobia- Fear of ridicule.
Kinetophobia or Kinesophobia- Fear of movement or motion.
Laliophobia or Lalophobia- Fear of speaking
Levophobia- Fear of things to the left side of the body.
Logophobia- Fear of words.
Metathesiophobia- Fear of changes.
Nebulaphobia- Fear of fog. (Homichlophobia)
Neophobia- Fear of anything new.
Ommetaphobia or Ommatophobia- Fear of eyes.
Omphalophobia- Fear of belly buttons.
Oneirophobia- Fear of dreams.
Optophobia- Fear of opening one's eyes.
Paralipophobia- Fear of neglecting duty or responsibility.
Phalacrophobia- Fear of becoming bald.
Phonophobia- Fear of noises or voices or one's own voice; of telephones.
Sarmassophobia- Fear of love play. (Malaxophobia)
Scopophobia or Scoptophobia- Fear of being seen or stared at.
Sinistrophobia- Fear of things to the left or left-handed.
Sophophobia- Fear of learning.
Soteriophobia - Fear of dependence on others.
Symbolophobia- Fear of symbolism.
Symmetrophobia- Fear of symmetry.
Syngenesophobia- Fear of relatives.
Technophobia- Fear of technology.
Teleophobia- 1) Fear of definite plans. 2) Religious ceremony.
Tropophobia- Fear of moving or making changes.
Xanthophobia- Fear of the color yellow or the word yellow.
Xenoglossophobia- Fear of foreign languages.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

6-Dimensional Pronunciation Change

To understand the construction of an EHIEP module and how the pedagogical movement patterns are subsequently implemented in the classroom, or any effective pedagogical intervention that "works" for that matter, think: Periwinkle, the classic visual representation of a 6-dimensional space. The three "phases" of an EHIEP protocol, presented by means of haptic video clips, the first three "Ds",  represent the essential steps in the process of teaching and learning a technique that can be used in any lesson for momentary focus (focus on form) in the classroom or in personal practice:
  • Demonstration of the pedagogical moment pattern
  • Detailed training on all aspects of the protocol (movement, touch, resonance, visual field positioning, haptic anchoring, etc.)
  • Dance-like-based rhythmic practice--Generally done with strong bilateral (hand/body side) engagement
  • Deconstruction (momentary focus on form)
  • Designed, designated haptic-integration in speech, speaking or conversation
  • Denouement (gradual, managed disappearance of the problem; emergence of the "new" form)
Perhaps the key is the third "D", the "dance," in ensuring efficient learning of the target(s) of the protocol and the ability to recall it at will for later use in spontaneous speaking. The last three "Ds" represent what we call the "classroom interdiction," where the target is identified and the (more) appropriate form is either introduced or substituted in and anchored. Shall we Periwinkle? 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Haptic anchoring: textural metaphors and "meant-to-for's"

It has been reported widely that researchers have discovered that the area of the brain mainly responsible for sensing texture (such as hard, soft, rough, smooth, slimy, gritty, etc.), the parietal operculum, also is strongly activated when metaphors of touch occur in speech. Up until now it has been assumed by many that the connection between metaphors and senses was, at best, very indirect. Apparently choice of metaphor does matter, much more than we thought!
            Note some of the terms or metaphors or similies--or literal descriptors--of the various kinds of touch enacted by one hand on the other in HICP haptic anchoring: tap, squeezing, scratching, digging in, hard push, brush lightly, sensation of a crab crawling over the back of your hand, like compressing a strong spring with both hands and then letting it go, gentle or soft touch between the eyebrows, digging in your fingernails into the palm of the other hand as you scrape across the hand, turbulent air rushing over the finger, vibration from the vocal cords making the fingers tingle, biting the sides of your tongue, pressing the hands together, etc.
          HICP, in some (felt) sense, works in a similar fashion. Textural (haptic) anchors are attached to words or phrases which then are (ideally) re-experienced when the word is used in practice or communication, setting the word in the assigned or repaired new pronunciation or structure. They are designed to (meant-to-for) signal the presence of targeted sounds--in the tactile channel, without interfering with  ongoing speaking or thought too much. Just a touch of feedback (or touch feedback) is often about all you need . . . 

Embodied language ego: the felt sense of speaking English

Since doing research with Alexander Guiora while in graduate school, the idea of "language ego" has been a very useful tool for me in pronunciation work, especially dealing with fossilized pronunciation. (The book chapter above, reporting the results of the well known "alcohol study,"  provides a good characterization of Guiora's articulation of the concept.) Although the role of the body and body movement in instruction has always been prominent in my work, it has been only in the last decade, with my introduction to haptic and haptics research, that the two concepts, language ego and embodiment, have begun to converge. Some of that almost certainly is the result of my decade or so in Asia and longstanding interest in yoga and related frameworks. Jukubczak's 2006 paper contains an elegant description of the "embodied ego," from an East/West perspective. The term I have been using recently, "embodied language ego" (ELE), nicely highlights a key conceptual and pedagogical feature of HICP: focusing almost exclusively on language first (with accompanying haptic anchoring), rather than extensive, early conscious attention to and discussion of L2 identity. Learners get the idea of developing a more confident, intelligible ELE: the felt sense of speaking the language. It is a relatively concrete problem for them, one that can be better articulated in terms of goals and recognized as benchmarks are achieved. Good to be back to working actively with this enhanced notion of language ego. Re-ELE!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Hippopotomonstrosesquipronunciaphobia: liberating pronunciation

Gattegno, in his 1975 book, On being freer (linked above), makes the point that our goal as teachers is not just to "liberate" our students, as many today argue, but rather to continually enable them to become "freer," as they learn language or any area of study or personal development. The irony in our work is that whereas learning the pronunciation of a language should be enormously liberating, often the experience is precisely the opposite: fear of the process and the classroom dominate. There is probably no better measure of a method than that, especially one dealing with integrated speech production in public. From Gattegno's perspective, the felt sense of true learning is being continually "freer" to understand and do more. That beautifully describes the look of students who have successfully passed beyond the simple "intelligibility" threshold into where their L2 "spirit" or "language ego" or "L2 identity" is beginning to emerge as a, freer, autonomous persona. HICP should not only be a freer . . . but liberating as well.  It is easy to assist learners in expecting and perceiving incremental progress from that perspective. In other words, the "freer," the better. 

Core pronunciation: Intonation

Conductors, choral and orchestral, are said to develop great core strength (and a life expectancy considerably beyond the rest of us, by the way!) It is as if they conduct from their very core both literally and figuratively. The EHIEP approach attempts to capture the felt sense of English intonation focusing on both expressive, flowing gestures across the visual field and the accompanying mid-body core (abs and diaphragm) rhythmic movements. To get a sense of the ideal "felt sense" of flow, see the linked video above. (Granted, that one is not conducting, per se, but just put a ribbon in your left hand and follow along with Eugenia Kanaeva.)

For expressiveness, shut off the sound and mirror Navarro Lara for a couple of minutes.  For a nice experience of conducting from the core, strap your hands to your sides and then watch this one of an excerpt of a master class by Maestro Cheah, contracting your core on each down beat. Flow, expression and core anchoring of discourse foregrounding. Work on that for a couple of weeks.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Core Pronunciation: Vowel resonance

My colleague, Angelina VanDyke, a vocal music instructor and performing artist, has been helping me develop a new "resonance" protocol. Here are four random Youtube videos that illustrate the basic concepts that we are working with. (The final EHIEP protocol will probably involve all three with appropriate bridges, haptic anchoring and pedagogical movement patterns.) Each focuses pedagogically on vowel resonance, but, of course, does several other things at the same time. The first  is the lip trill or "motor boating,"  exercise. In addition to loosening up everything, it does an especially good job of anchoring vowel resonance in the front of the face. (That one really works!) This classic voice exercise, focuses on 'ng,' the velar nasal at the back of the throat, focusing on resonance back "there." The third exercise does an especially good job of promoting felt sense of upper chest resonance. This video (from an unlikely "energy" source . . . ) shows one form of simple thumping action, without singing a, low pitch, resonant vowel triad at the same time. Add that to this and you get the general idea for the third piece of the protocol . . . and even the spirit of the EHIEP logo over there on the right!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Core pronunciation: Rhythm

This is the first of three posts on the somatic (body-based) centers of HICP work. The second will be on vowel resonance; the third, on pitch or speech melody. Each post will be accompanied by a great Youtube video that you can either dance or sing along with to develop the better awareness of relevant body movement or "good vibrations" that are part of each overall pedagogical movement pattern (PMP). There is simply no better place to begin than with Latin ballroom dancing . . . (If you have a Wii or Kinect system, you probably have a few dance routines already like this one!) The basic core muscle contraction and hip movement in the video--done a little more unobtrusively, of course--is a good introduction to the felt sense of English rhythm. Most of the protocols in the training phase of EHIEP instruction include some degree of conscious attention to core and hip motion. (This exercise is for instructor training only--unless, of course, you are teaching in Brazil or thereabouts!) A couple of times through the 7-minute video and you got it. A month or so of regular practice and you are beach-enabled!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Just blowing smoke or essential pronunciation practice ritual?

(Caveat Emptor: If you as an instructor have serious issues with even reading a model piece from an outfit that provides custom essays for college students for a fee, you may want to avoid the link above! If you have never seen one of these "rhetorical pirates" in action, you may enjoy just checking out the sell, regardless. )

I stumbled onto this stock, freshman English-level essay on "Sacred Pipe Ritual" some time ago on the "Dreamessays.com" site. There are many like it out there. This particular essay does list the  "standard" set of ritual parameters of the pipe ceremony seen in many cultures world wide. What it highlights for us is the structure and functions of ritual in general. As noted in earlier posts, the EHIEP system is, on the one hand, highly ritualistic, using haptic video to lead learners (in the complete system) through around 30, 20-30 minute, fixed routines--8 done in class, 24 done as homework. Within the routines are a number of functions, from general learning readiness to anchoring of the essential sounds and sound patterns of English. Those functions are then readied to be carried over into the classroom or personal practice. Note the parallels between the "pipe" ritual elements and what has been described in earlier posts as the key elements of HICP work:

  • The pipe becomes the sole focus or center of attention, representing the center of the cosmos. (That may be stretching the analogy a bit!)
  • The design on the pipe bowl often resembles the trachea.
  • The gestures in the ritual are predominately pointing, either in the four directions or toward participants.
  • The two parts of the pipe, bowl and stem are ritually joined together, creating strong symbolism, especially of connection to nature and potency. (The parallel there to haptic events is striking--and worth a later post!)
  • The symbolism of the four directions has many manifestations, but, in essence, East relates to birth; West, to death; South to earth (or female/mother); North, to the sun (or male). From the several earlier posts on the phonaesthetics of the visual field and placement of sound patterns within them, the convergence is striking--assuming that the vowel matrix is positioned so that front vowels are to the right, versus the standard IPA left to right orientation.
  • Finally, the physical presence of the smoke can take on any number of symbolic functions in unifying the experience for the participants. (There is a great deal of smoke and mirrors in the field today!)
Going back to the previous post. Once you have articulated your approach to pronunciation systematically, examine the ritual inherent in it and how that should relate to integration into spontaneous speech. That is where we are headed today with the accessibility of virtual technology. Put that in your pipe and smoke it! 

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Why pronunciation teaching techniques often don't work for long--or at all!

Probably the most "brilliant" paper I ever wrote (at least in my estimation at the time), one only published in an obscure vanity press in Japan, was titled, "Technique entropy in language teaching." (If you must have a copy, I'll send you one!) The point was that a technique, unless thoroughly integrated within a coherent system, was subject to rapid entropy: it's half life was only a couple of iterations,  best case.

The same principle applies to any system, including pronunciation instruction. Systematicity is the great equalizer. A good technique in a bad or unsystematic system is quickly an ineffective technique.  The EHIEP haptic-video package is a very tight system. All students go through virtually the same 8, 30-minute modules--ideally, with 3, 20-minute homework video assignments done, per module, as well. (That can be adjusted if the instructor is EHIEP-certified.) Each of the protocols trains students and teacher in techniques that are to be used in all classroom instruction from that point forward. There are, in fact, more than three dozen commonly recognized techniques in the method, any one of which cannot possibly work in some context. Is your method systematic?

If you are not sure, take a look at the 1993 linked piece above on systems theory by Walonick, then sit down and see if you can adequately describe how yours all fits together, what each piece contributes and how. If not, no need to be too concerned. It is not that difficult to change it for a more ca-EHIEP-able one!

A speaking warm up (for imaginative, creative native speaking instructors with a little extra time on their hands only!)

One of the "advantages" of being a native speaker--or highly advanced level L2 speaker--is that you can benefit from warming up reading out loud decontextualized, near-nonsense sentences, focusing, for example, on vowels and consonants. It is a well-established, highly effective practice in public speaking. In Lessac's exercises he includes that type of work as well. You can quickly enhance the felt sense and resonance of the voice, along with sharpening articulation and clarity of speech, by producing dozens and dozens of words containing all the vowels and consonants of the language.

The nonnative speaker, of course, has a least a couple of problems with that approach. The sentences are often designed to be vaguely humorous but generally opaque, although the creative native speaker can probably visualize the scene or quickly come up with an imagined context for the isolated sentence. The pronunciation of some of the words may not even be obvious to the native speaker--without the presence words with similar vowels or consonants nearby--let along for the nonnative.
Clip art: Clker

That approach is doubly problematic for HICP work in that the focus is almost exclusively on language that the learner has at least some possibility of using in conversation or at least hearing it in some context. Hence the need for a very different approach in developing good warm ups and attempting to change a quite restricted set of vocabulary initially. In effect, the emphasis is on word change, not generalized vowels or consonants.  Haptic anchoring is highly effective in setting up new pronunciation of individual words, phrases and sentences. The research on haptic memory confirms that those should then become the reference points for figuring out and remembering both the meaning and pronunciation of new words as well. Without anchoring meaning, however, it is another matter.

So, for refinement of your current classroom speaking model, I might still recommend (1) get your body ready (Follow instructions in the recent post of "Perfect Form" in HICP work) and then (2) a traditional "nonsense-sentence" warm up like the one linked above for some, especially those without formal training in public speaking. Try it daily for a couple of weeks, recording it occasionally and reviewing it for clarity and dialect consistency--and to get used to monitoring your speech model a bit more dispassionately. Your voice will thank you. So will your students. 

Friday, February 3, 2012

Body wisdom: The Use and Training of the Human Body

See if a library nearby has this book by Arthur Lessac. Although long out of print, it still probably the most relevant to HICP, especially the "form-focused" work mentioned in the previous post. I have worked through it, cover to cover (which is the only way to "get it," according to Lessac) a couple of times and refer back to it constantly.  In the link above to Alibris.com you can see what a used copy is worth now ($127 ~$392). Break the bank: buy one. Or . . . if you are in the area sometime, stop by and I'll let you "touch" my copy. 

Perfect form in HICP work

Near-perfect form is essential in early HICP work only in overall body posture, stance and breathing--and pedagogical movement patterns--not in absoute accuracy of the pronunciation of L2 sounds being produced by the learner. In other words, on the physical side, the approach is "form-focused instruction," whereas in terms of phonetic accuracy, it is more "focus on form" based. (See the nice linked 10-point list from RealAge fitness on achieving better form in exercising. I am going to create a slightly adapted version in rubric format for HICP work, in fact.)

It is a crucial distinction, one that is now well-established in the field in terms of how we direct learner attention to form in the process. In grammar work, for example, the difference would be starting off a class with a grammar explanation and drill and the practicing it, as opposed to creating tasks, such as story telling, where grammatical constructions naturally come up that need to be attended to and then giving students a brief, concise mini-lesson, sufficient to manage the problem at hand.

The same applies to pronunciation instruction, in general, of course, but the problem is always being able to adequately "anchor" the new structure or strategy in the mind (and body) of the learner. The research seems to suggest that FonF, when done well in clearly defined contexts should result in better uptake and integration into spontaneous speech. From that perspective, HICP is perfect . . . 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The (haptic) handwriting on the (virtual) wall for pronunciation instruction

"MENE, MENE, TEKEL, PARSIN!" (Possible pronunciation: Many, many tech'cle person!
At the TESOL convention in March, I'll be giving a talk in a Symposium on integration of pronunciation teaching. The title will be something like "Post-pronunciation, pronunciation instruction." Will argue three points: (a) The movement toward integration of pronunciation teaching into all skill areas signals the end of what we do as we do it. (b) Those can operate comfortably in virtual technology are going to take over and , (c) but the emergence in the last decade of haptics technology, haptic engagement in pedagogy, and haptic video and cinema, among others . . . offers exciting possibilities! (Rough translation and extrapolation of the Babylonian above: It's about over, gang. The field has had near enough of our disembodied,  insiders' club attitude. Our best tricks are about to be passed out to tech- and haptic-savy Newbees.) Could be worse . . . we could be in a lion's den . . .  or Philadelphia . . . 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Motivating pronunciation change; keeping it going

John Rohn, the great motivational speaker, also is a great one-liner. A couple of his famous quips:

“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.” and “Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.”

Discipline and habit are two terms or concepts that, for any number of reasons, have fallen out of fashion, at least in the contemporary, popular culture and educational philosophy of the West. In the East that hasn't happened yet, but there are signs that it is happening there was well--as media and technology flourish by promoting the need for neither. Motivation, discipline and habits that work. In pronunciation work we appreciate the need for all three but so often the program or instructor provide plenty of the former but precious little of the latter two. The problem is that we have "evolved" (or devolved) to a place where only highly individualized goals and practice are seen as theoretically acceptable or pedagogically permitted.

Assisting learners in fashioning their own development and practice regimen, even one-to-one can be at best very time consuming. It is far too easy (or the only realistic choice in classroom instruction) to just lay out a few options for learners and let them figure out how to work with them--if they have the discipline and are in the habit managing the rest of their lives effectively. There must be a better way at hand, where students as a group are trained in the relevant disciplines and habits together . . . where in about 4 hours of haptic-video-guided practice and 8 hours of haptic-video-guided homework, most any student can develop the self-directed tools required--and the instructor has the means at hand to deal with the important pronunciation issues in class. There is . . . 

Digital vs haptic reading (Something just clicked . . . )

Linked is a summary of a talk by Anne Mangen of Stavenger University in Norway that looks at the impact of eReaders on reading comprehension. Are you now an eReader? Or still a "dead-tree-ite?" The consequences of the shift toward eReading, like the shift away from handwriting instruction and even keyboard entry in writing, are just beginning to be addressed in research. What is lost or gained in "Kindle-ing" a novel as opposed to holding a hardcover book in your hands as you experience the story? For some--and this is certainly related to personal cognitive wiring--the difference can be striking.

Reading Mangen's comments examining particularly the hands as haptic agents in the reading and writing processes, I was also "struck" (a near haptic occurrence!) by the parallel between typical disembodied pronunciation instruction and the EHIEP approach. Although we do focus on the visual space in front of the learner extensively in early training, precise hand movement and touching of one hand with the other or touching the head or upper body is key. The haptic video EHIEP package involves almost continuous pedagogical movement patterns conducted by the hands. As we find ourselves being rapidly pulled down the "eRabbit hole" we can still grasp ( 掴む) the felt sense of expressive oral language in interpersonal communication and reconnect with our bodies and voices . . . handily . . .