Thursday, March 22, 2012

Systematic and a-systematic U2A2U pronunciation teaching

Several earlier posts have alluded to the importance of  an explicit, systematic, "unawareness to awareness to unawareness" (U2A2U) framework in pronunciation instruction. Furthermore, the general absence of research into what actually goes on in the classroom in terms of effectiveness of specific techniques or comprehensive methods (cf., Derwing & Munro, 2010) is indicative of something else: the common lack of success in enabling integration between pedagogy and spontaneous performance or use. The basic tenets of the "systems thinking" framework (compliments of Wikipedia) help focus on key aspects of the "integration" problem. Coherent systems are defined by a number of properties. Among them:
  • Independent elements can never constitute a system. Pronunciation teaching is almost by definition a-systematic.
  • Emergent properties not possible to detect by analysis should be possible to define by a holistic approach. A characterization of the process of integration as being strictly a function of the abilities, dispositions and context of the learner defines most contemporary accounts of the process. 
  • Systemic interaction must result in some goal or final state. The converse is also true:goals without explicit accounts of systemic interaction are accepted but not pedagogically productive. 
  • In a closed system inputs are determined once and constant; in an open system additional inputs are admitted from the environment. Open system frameworks can easily  sidestep pedagogical responsibility for effective usage-based outcomes. 
  • Transformation of inputs into outputs - this is the process by which the goals are obtained. This is the "missing" center of the integration process in most frameworks, that is managed or guided transformation from classroom to spontaneous conversation. 
  • Entropy - the amount of disorder or randomness present in any system. A good predictive "counter"measure of potential success at integration, especially at higher levels of proficiency. 
  • Regulation - a method of feedback is necessary for the system to operate predictably. Systematic research on feedback effectiveness carried out in the classroom is almost nonexistent. 
  • Hierarchy - complex wholes are made up of smaller subsystems. The emphasis on structural, hierarchical relationships is today much less prominent, in part because of attention to higher level, analog, prosodic (rhythm, stress and intonation) functions. 
  • Differentiation - specialized units perform specialized functions. The elements of the method must be perceptually salient to the learner and functionally integrated for efficiency and effectiveness. 
  • Multifinality and Equifinality  - attaining alternative objectives from the same inputs (divergence) or alternative ways of attaining the same objectives (convergence). The former is certainly desirable and expected; the latter should only be available for more experienced practitioners who have substantial experience with the system as a whole. 
The especially critical elements are the first, second and last. Systems that provide a wide range of options to instructors not possessing a "quorum level" of training and practice, and also place excessive responsibility on the learner cannot efficiently enable integration of targeted pronunciation, U2A2U . . . eh! 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Getting Optimal Pronunciation from English Learner Dictionaries and Beyond!

As noted in an earlier post,  Brian Teaman, Mike Burri, Michelle Goertzen, Alaina Brodie and myself are doing a 45-minute, "Haptic-integrated" demonstration. at the TESOL Convention next week, Saturday, March 31st @ 11:00 in Marriott Liberty Ballroom A.  "This demonstration introduces a set of haptic-based (movement + touch) procedures for helping learners efficiently get pronunciation, meaning and usage information from English learner dictionaries. Included are six techniques that can also be integrated into general speaking and listening instruction to English language learners (ELLs) of most levels and ages." Join us!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Touches worth a thousand pictures (or sounds)

Clipart: Clker
Clipart of Nobel:
One of the basic assumptions of research in haptics has been that in most settings visual stimuli override auditory, kinaesthetic and tactile. The import of studies reported in earlier posts for our work had been that haptic procedures (such as hand movements across the visual field to anchor intonation) were "seen" to be highly susceptible to interference from visual distraction in the immediate environment. What the new research revealed is that in a very real sense both visual and haptic information are, in effect, processed in the same channel or areas in the brain. Which of the modalities dominates at any point in time appears now to have as much to do with the quality of the stimuli themselves, not some intrinsic difference in potency of the modality type. The point is this: from a theoretical perspective, it means that haptic work done right can be enormously powerful in anchoring sound, much more so than I had thought possible earlier. In retrospect, I have consistently seen evidence of the strength of haptic anchoring, regardless of the scene or potential distractions in the classroom but was hesitant to interpret that as evidence reflecting more of a balance in visual/haptic processing. A  welcome touch of uncommon (unconventional) sense . . . 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

PTSD?-2: Embodied learning vs learning, embodied

To quote Jean-Luc Godard, ‘It’s not where you take things from — It’s where you take them to.’  There is an excellent piece in this month's TESOL Quarterly by Randal Holme, "Cognitive Linguistics in the Second Language Classroom," which, among other things, focuses the issue of the role of the body in L2 pedagogy. In fact, the first section of the article is entitled, "The Embodied Learning Principle." In essence (to somewhat overgeneralize--Do read this yourself!), what Holme argues--persuasively, I think--is that in order to be "learned," new language has to end up "in the body," that is (from our perspective) strongly anchored, (but from the Cognitive Linguist's perspective, for the most part, that means--in the brain.) It is most importantly a question of directionality of the process: language being essentially "embedded" in the body through any number of portals, including metaphor and affective engagement. He does, in fact, mention a few "kinaesthetic" techniques that appear to facilitate the process, such as clapping hands, etc., but he is in some sense, using Jean-Luc's principle: it is not as critical how the language is taught, just that it gets "embodied." I like that, as far as it goes. Our perspective, however, is that pronunciation teaching must begin as a much more embodied process (Train the body first!)--not just  result in an embodied felt sense and L2 identity. In other words, he has it at least half right. But instead of just "embodied learning" (the L2 embodied as outcome), we would maintain that it must also be "learning, embodied," a strongly somatically-based process that, among other things, enables language acquisition. Progress! 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

PTSD? (Pronunciation Teaching Somatic Dysphagia?}

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(PTSD? interpreted: A condition afflicting some in the field of pronunciation teaching today such that they still find extensive use of the body hard to swallow!) Of course the more generally accepted meaning of the acronym, PTSD, is post-traumatic stress disorder, a potentially very serious psychological problem affecting hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. As noted in earlier blogposts, one of the most important theories contributing to the early development of HICP was Observed Experiential Integration, which is used extensively in the treatment of PTSD.  As the name of the theory and therapy suggests, it is a system that focuses on integration of change into daily functioning of the patient, one that relies heavily on body-based therapeutic techniques, including managed eye tracking and massage therapy. One parallel between approaches to PTSD treatment such as OEI and HICP teaching is worth considering: how enhanced behaviour and attitudes are managed by therapist (or instructor) into everyday interaction and communication. The point of departure is consistently somatic: train the body and then employ it as the primary driver of integration, not pre-frontal, cognitive "thought." Not that cognitive therapy or cognitive linguistics do not contribute substantially or are not necessary, only that the body . . . is!

Looking ahead in pronunciation teaching: future pacing

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One of the basic techniques of hypnosis (or great sales) is termed, future pacing. (Linked is the 1979 study by Schumann et al. that initially brought the idea to my attention.) The idea is to assist the learner or client in "seeing" the path ahead to success. In hypnosis that is done by observing the nonverbal reactions of the client as the future states is visualized and then reinforcing them in various ways. in pronunciation work, the parallel can be clear characterization of realistic goals (such as intelligibility in speaking to a target audience for the learner) and/or a systematic charting out  of the benchmarks involved in getting to that goal. In hypnosis, of course, that assumes that the hypnotist and client have agreed to a certain kind of relationship and commitment--and the client is "suggestible." (See also note in linked article on that.) In business, for example, it assumes that the decision to buy the product or service has been made. The point: it is not enough to just "sell" students on the value of changing their pronunciation "your"way--you have to provide them with both maps (cognitive schemata) and somatic grounding (the ability to readily access the body and mind states necessary to do that.) Write yours down sometime on one page as if you are going to hand it out to your students. . . Would you buy it? 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Ecologically-based "biopsychosocial" pronunciation (teaching) practice

There is much that we can learn from the field of social work in understanding how to assist students in integrating their classroom pronunciation work and individual practice into spontaneous speaking. Here is a definition I like from East Tennessee University: "Clinical practice is defined as a model of practice that involves those activities with and on behalf of clients, especially those activities completed in the client’s presence and with the client’s collaboration. These activities are informed by an ecologically based biopsychosocial assessment (italics, mine.) These interventive and change oriented activities are based on a range of theories . . . These activities may take place in an individual, family, or group setting."  What is fascinating is that if you go on to the link and read the rest of the description of the responsibilities of the social worker, you will find that our field today certainly gets the social advocacy and social justice dimension. It is the critical "middle, the "clinical practice" phase following up on classroom presentation and brief "noticing"practice, that is often missing or downplayed in contemporary teaching that explains why pronunciation work may not be integrated into real world functioning and communication. Support your local eco-bio-psycho-social HICP practitioner!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Speaking of prose in pronunciation work

Picture courtesy of Wikipedia
Generally "speaking," integration of pronunciation should focus on practice of conversational language and style--not simply dictionary entries, word lists and internet "magazine"columns. In the EHIEP framework, work on new sounds and "fixing" older ones is done exclusively using vocabulary that (ideally) the learner has at least a reasonable chance of encountering in speaking and listening.

Even in the EFL context, the target should be accessible for practice of some kind. In other words, especially because of prosody, dialogs, drama and oral reports of various kinds are essential for efficient integration. I can think of an exception.
There are texts that are not conversational but still meant to be read out loud. (Some previous posts have dealt with explicit reading of poetry, for example.) If you are a native speaker (NS) or a near native speaker (NNS) here is good test for you based on a piece from one of the greatest writers of English prose of all time: James Joyce.

As you may know, he insisted that his prose could not be truly understood unless read aloud. His control of the prosody of written narrative, such as a shot story was extraordinary. Try this. Record yourself reading the linked excerpt from "A portrait of the artist as a young man" two or three times without listening back until you are finished.

Assume that you are reading it for a sick friend, for example. Listen to the last cut first and then the first. As language teachers our speaking style in class can become all colors of strange. If you want to know what it feels like to communicate well in the classroom, the felt sense of personal expository talk and mood that is both genuine, composed (not hyper- teacher-talk-ish) and yet still comprehensible for students, there you have it. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

"Full-bodied" pronunciation teaching, posture--and learning

Three years ago I did a workshop titled, "Full-bodied, systemic, multiple modality pronunciation instruction," at the 2010 TESOL Convention. At the time I was unaware of the 2007 study by Dijkstra et al. (summarized in the link above.) In that research they demonstrated the powerful effect that overall body posture can have in facilitating recall of memories. In effect, by assuming something like the same body posture as when the "original" event occurred, subjects were significantly better at remembering the details, sometimes years later.

There could be a number of explanations as to why that was the case, but, clearly, the body "remembers" or at least can contribute to recall. In HICP work the goal is always full-body engagement in anchoring and recall. Both instructor and student are responsible for at least attempting to avoid any "interference" on the part of the body or distraction caused by tension, extraneous movement or environmental "static."

Best case, following the warm up protocols and systematic practice with the system, the entire brain and body (and posture) should be capable of  focusing momentarily on pedagogical movement patterns and anchors associated with targeted sounds and processes. Worst case, it is just "posturing!"

Handheld pronunciation: Sounds Right . . .

Clipart: Clker
If you have an iPad, get ready for the next wave of pronunciation programs. If not . . . not to worry just yet. You won't be missing much for a while. Granted, handhelds, by definition, use the hands, touch and movement, but almost without exception (that being the new iPad HD), they are not "haptic," that is there is little or no touch-based feedback to the user on accuracy of positioning or pronunciation. That will come. More importantly, however, is the impact on the body (or kinaesthetic memory and processing) of using a handheld, especially for pronunciation. Working a handheld quickly and efficiently often involves extensive body control and rigidity (video games such as "Temple Run," aside!) such that the focus and attention must be on the interface--similar to the difference between writing a note by hand and doing it on the wordprocessor--not the body. (There is more and more research coming out on the limitations of "handheld literacy and learning." See earlier posts.) Handhelds such as "Sounds Right" by the British Council, linked above, may be good for getting information and basic sounds, but when it comes to later recalling and being able to integrate those sounds into conversation, that is probably another matter. There are a number of similar handheld pronunciation practice programs now available. They all involve holding the handheld in fixed position (which normally will be in the lower visual field--with head "bowed" just to see what is on the screen well) and then either just listening, repeating or taking a shot at pronouncing the word or phrase first.) HICP is based on a bit more body engagement than that, actually. It may work in an iPad held by something other than the body (like a tripod) at eye level as you dance along and pause occasionally for some haptic feedback, however. Keep in touch.  

Sunday, March 11, 2012

"Building, the map" and haptic-integrated pronunciation

Have recently had some fascinating interaction with a grad student who was having a great deal of difficulty following the pedagogical movement patterns on the haptic videos. The task of the learner is to mirror the video, speaking and moving along with the model. The problem for her was one that we have come to expect occasionally (perhaps of one in twenty or so), especially in instructors in training. The linked research by Carson et al. (2010) investigates parameters of buildings where people are less likely to get lost: " . . . an integrative framework that encompasses these factors and their intersections:

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  • the correspondence between the building and the cognitive map, 
  • the completeness of the cognitive map as a function of the strategies and individual abilities of the users, 
  • the compatibility between the building and the strategies and individual abilities of the users, and 
  • the complexity that emerges from the intersection of all three factors."

Seen from that perspective, where the map must be a function of/emerge from the strategies and abilities of users, the answer has begun to emerge as well: extensive, sufficient haptic and visual anchoring for all learners. Getting some to mirror pedagogical movement consistently can be virtually impossible without an analogous, relatively complete visual and somatic map of the sound system, accessible to even the most a-haptic among them, much more so than I had anticipated early on in the work. Fortunately, we can do that now. As so often happens, the "problem" has become the solution.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Pronunciation teaching techniques: Going over to the "dark side"

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Linked is a Science Digest summary of research by McCaffrey of Univ. of Mass., looking at overcoming obstacles to innovation. One outcome was the development of a procedure, the "generic parts technique," that appears to facilitate the process. It is based on asking two questions when working on a problem: " . . . Can it be broken down further? and. . . . Does my description of the part imply a use?" How does that principle apply to pronunciation teaching? How about this "simple" technique: Repeat after me! One could easily write a book, trying to unpack all that is involved in that "simple" classroom practice. (I may even attempt that, myself!) Imagine yourself a "neuro-ethnographer "in the class, attempting to "get down" all the micro and macro behaviors of instructor and student involved--and let's throw in availability of a few fMRI's as well. Once you begin to "drill down" into the parameters of the technique your list of variables that can potentially affect effectiveness grows exponentially. Pronunciation instruction has, in many quarters, a bad rap--in part because of the other "uses" of its parts and all the intra- and interpersonal pieces involved. Unless you are willing to "part with it," disassembling your favorite pronunciation procedure is not recommended. For other less engaging routines . . . what use(s) are they, anyway?

New pronunciation learning readiness warm up!

Linked above is a demonstration of the new (shorter version of the) EHIEP warm up. It takes about four and a half minutes and loosens up just about everything you need to. There are three parts to it, including most of the classic or standard moves of voice and body instructors in some form: (a) body flexibility (head, shoulders and hips), (b) vowel resonance centers (front of the face, back of the throat and chest) and (c) general vowel quality and articulation of most English vowels. Have students just follow along a few times before pronunciation or speaking work. This version is decidedly understated, appropriate for a wide range of student and personality types!  After about the fourth time through, it becomes almost addictive and higher in energy, a great way to wake up in the morning or to get the class tuned up. All modules and homework "modulettes" of the EHIEP system begin with some form of this warm up as well. (Note: It seems to work better by having students follow the video, rather than an instructor at the front of the class--who would have to perform it "mirror image," which can be a challenge for many.) This is the demonstration version. To train students in doing it you many need to stop and rewind each of the moves or write out the sounds and key words. The complete EHIEP haptic video system will include both this version and a training version that breaks down each piece, along with complete text and visual schemas in the instructors manual and student workbook. Need to warm up to pronunciation? This is a good place to start!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Pronunciation futures: the iPad (haptic) HD

Photo courtesy of Slashgear
If you have to explain what "haptics" is to a colleague or student, from now on just let them touch your new iPad HD. Delighted to see that the case is now closed on how effective haptic interfaces are in engaging the user/learner. Thanks to Apple, the research on haptics and widespread application to touch technology will quickly become available. I'm told by friends who work with iPhone programming that our work is a natural for that interface--especially now that the door has been opened in Cuperinto. Now, rather than buying a couple dozen research articles online, I'm going to get an iPad HD. Welcome to the future of pronunciation teaching. Keep in touch. 

Memory for movement in (haptic-integrated) pronunciation instruction

Photo: Library of Congress
Day at Duke University has a research project underway on memory for movement in dance that is worth participating in, just to get some perspective on the range of ways in which your students (and yourself) learn pedagogical movement patterns. There are a myriad of "haptic memory styles" that we observe. Recently, a student reported an unusual style: watching a 3-minute video clip of a protocol about two dozen times before attempting to practice the set of movement patterns, in that case a set of 7 sweeping motions across the visual field accompanied by articulation of each vowel. He reported being able to learn to perform the motions quickly from that point on. Other students prefer to stop the video after each pedagogical movement pattern and practice it intensely before going on to the next one. In all we have probably observed what appear to be over a dozen relatively distinct approaches or strategies. The method has to be flexible enough to either allow all learners space and time to do it their (own) way or train them in alternative routines. Check out your own "style" while working your way through the "memorable" Duke dance movement questionnaire. I'll post a list of the descriptions of the pronunciation-movement learning styles that I have been "collecting" in a subsequent post, so we can compare notes and successful techniques. 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Evaluating "the dance" in HICP teaching: Part two

In an earlier post, I have linked to a rubric that we use in evaluating the accuracy of a teacher-in-training's haptic pedagogical movement work. The previous post discussed the process of assessing oral performance of students in the classroom "paralinguistically," by observing their bodies moving in synchrony with their speech. The criteria used by the dance program at the University of Oakland to determine student general competence gives us a very nice picture of how to conceptualize movement in our instruction:
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A. The dancer demonstrates a clear sense of alignment, center control, flexibility and strength. He/she has a strong sense of musicality and the ability to assimilate corrections. (I have never seen a better description of what we see in the successful learner who is disciplined and stays with the assigned protocols.)
B. The dancer demonstrates a high level of concentration, energy and confidence when executing movement in class. (That could almost be a basic benchmark in development of the basics by the learner.)
C. The dancer demonstrates a high effort of professionalism by arriving to class on time, dressing properly, and being prepared to dance. (That one works with a little metaphorical interpretation of the first two--or as that applies to the instructor!) 
Do a little informal research. Have a colleague rank your students on A and B above and then you relate that to their general intelligibility. You may be surprised with what you find--and ready to dance!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Haptic error detection and correction: I see what you are saying . . .

Clipart: Ciker
Socrates, in the Republic, (linked above in a great essay by the philosopher, Schopenhauer) was said to have said to a young disciple, "Speak, so that I may see you." He was, of course, alluding to the power of both the first impression and the scope of meanings and educated guesses that can be made when face to face about the intelligence, character and life history. Not that those are entirely reliable or that our ability to "intuit" such information does not vary from many perspectives. In the "haptic-integrated" pronunciation lesson, nonetheless, that principle, where any number of the dimensions of the sound system and expressiveness are embodied and "visible," applies quite directly. Once the body is trained to "conduct" the tongue, vocal apparatus and intensity of resonance, even in a class of 100, from the front as instructor you can get a pretty good idea of how something is being articulated in the back row--just from observing the pedagogical movement patterns of students during speaking exercises. (And error correction is accomplished by reversing the process!)  In fact, that same "information" is available in all classes at all times at a very subtle level, although not many of us are that tuned in--or could use it productively even if we focus on it consistently. But it does affect us unconsciously, nonetheless--especially when our L2 students' bodies are moving in all the "wrong" directions. So, how do you conduct your class? Or vice versa? 

Monday, March 5, 2012

Attending skills workshop at BC TEAL

Just got word that our proposal to do Attending Skills Training: Peer monitoring in conversation instruction at BC TEAL in May has been accepted. (I'm doing it w/Mike Burri, Nate Kielstra and Mitch Goertzen.)
Here is the summary:
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Attending Skills are a set of techniques that are effective in creating a context where students of upper beginning level and above can work in small groups and (a) practice strategies maintaining conversations, (b) become better conversational listeners and (c) provide productive feedback to classmates on speaking performance.

Developed over 50 years ago by counseling psychologists, attending skills are standard practice in most “helping” disciplines and have been applied extensively in second language teaching (Acton and Cope, 1999.) In this workshop, participants will be introduced to a method for teaching “attending skills” in classes of any size, to learners from teenage to adult. Focus of small groups is primarily to identify the use of good conversational strategies by the “attender”, not the facilitating “talker”. They will then learn strategies for instructor mediation and whole class participation, and have the opportunity to participate in a small group. At the end of the workshop, participants will be provided with complete guidelines for adapting attending skills training to their classrooms.

Acton, W. and C. Cope. (1999). Cooperative attending skills training for ESL students, in JALT Applied Materials volume, Kluge, D. and S. McGuire (Eds.), Cooperative language teaching in Japan, pp. 50-66. (That chapter is also available now online from ERIC and a few other places.) Attending skills work or something very much like it is often essential in giving learners a productive, comfortable classroom setting in which to focus on integrating new sounds. If you are in the area, hope you can attend!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

EHIEP? (Never thought you'd ask!)

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As we get ready to roll out the EHIEP haptic video system, I was working on "elevator talking points" for a brochure when I Googled that term and discovered that the secret is to have them ready after you have said something clever in response to a question such as: What do you do?  So next time you get that question, reply simply with:

"I'm an EHIEP Instructor!"
"Really? That sounds exciting!"

                 From there you go straight to your talking points: 

  • It is! EHIEP stands for "Essential Haptic-integrated English Pronunciation." 
  • It's a new "haptic video" system used in ESL and EFL for teaching English pronunciation.
  • Haptic video, like haptic cinema,  uses rhythm, movement and touch along with the "aerobic-like" videos.
  • "Haptic-integrated" means that the use of movement, and especially touch, greatly improves a student's ability to learn a new sound, remember it and recall it later, but most importantly haptic techniques are excellent for helping students use what they have learned in class in everyday conversation--quickly. 
  • All the basic instruction is done by Professor Acton of Trinity Western University on the video for you. Any teacher can use it, can "outsource" essential pronunciation and then follow up using the techniques everyday in tutoring or typical speaking and listening lessons.
  • It is inexpensive and easy to use. It is composed of 8, 30-minute teaching modules, 8, optional 5-minute consonant teaching mini-modules, and 3, optional 15-minute homework mini-modules with each of the 8 modules. (total of 24) 
  • It is designed to work in classes of up to 50 students of any proficiency level, teenage and older.
  • It is based on extensive research in several fields and has been extensively classroom tested. 
  • It's fun--and moving!

The quality of your pronunciation work going up? Join us!

Planned pronunciation change: "BITI" models

Getting from classroom to conversation with "corrected" pronunciation of a word or process is the focus of HICP. Should you need a mathematical model of the main variables involved, the "Theory of planned behavior," first articulated by Ajzen, puts it this way:

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Now I'm not entirely clear on all the variables there ('BI' = behavioral intention, what the desired performance should be)--you can go to Wikipedia and unpack the entire formula, yourself--but, were we to apply it to pronunciation change, one of the more important variables would certainly be 'p' (perceived power of control). And by that I don't mean that we simply provide students with a list of suggestions for as many possible integration strategies as possible and then send them home to figure out a plan as optional homework--and then find some native speaker to practice them on. Granted, you can rather easily create a temporary "perceived power of control" in learners with attractive exhortations and visual/cognitive schemas, but the sense of control ultimately must come from the "felt sense" of successful integration. One of the great discoveries of Alexander before the turn of the 20th century was that change in speech behavior can often be best accomplished by body-based interventions outside of social engagement. In our terms, homework done in relative isolation becomes the bridge to enhanced social functioning. Before I post my new one, how would you characterize the (implicit or explicit) steps, phases or benchmarks in your BITI (behavioral intention to target-level intelligibility) model? Even a little BITI is better than none . . . 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Do-it-yourself pronunciation improvement for the "academically privileged"

Photo: Library
of Congress
In a recent post I commented on "English (pronunciation) for the academically privileged," in part focusing on the apparent "hyper-mentalizing" necessary to participate in many such programs. The linked website above, purporting to have the "blueprint" for do-it-yourself-ing it, even has this line at the outset: "If you’ve had trouble with your English pronunciation, this message will be the most important thing you will ever read." Wow. Have no idea if "it" works--although I have my suspicions--but it is certainly an entertaining read, filled with "EAP" hyper-language and "hyper-claims." Enjoy!

Video in pronunciation teacher training

Linked is a nice pronunciation teacher training video by Meyers and Holt. (The website has a few others as well.) Very solid work by two pronunciation specialists who really know their stuff. There are others like that available, but If you are looking to improve your own skills or those of your colleagues, that is a good, reliable source. 

The HICP/EHIEP system, on the other hand, is based on the notion of essentially outsourcing some of the essentials of English pronunciation instruction (literally!) In other words, the haptic videos are designed to be used in the classroom with students, instructors and students learning together, where the 8 classroom techniques are introduced. (The basic EHIEP system--which will be available shortly--includes 8, 30-minute videos, with optional haptic videos for consonants and homework.)

 In the promo for the Meyers and Holt video, there is a "bullet" that I love: "Low-tech techniques using rubber bands, hand movements and mirrors so teachers anywhere can become more successful pronunciation teachers." Such "low tech" embodiment techniques, once haptic-integrated into virtual reality and haptics systems, represent the future of the field. They are clearly moving in the right direction! 

Friday, March 2, 2012

Zone of Pronunciation Development (ZProD)

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With apologies to Vygotsky, have lately been reviewing student pronunciation texts and pronunciation methods books looking for evidence of scaffolding and what I would characterize as the "Zone of Pronunciation Development" where scaffolding should occur. In part because of the overriding theoretical perspective in the field, and education in general to a lesser extent, that instruction must be first designed to meet the needs of the individual, not the group, it can be very difficult for the textbook writer or curriculum designer to create and maintain effective scaffolding in pronunciation work. Scaffolding in the classic ZPD model appears to require assisting learners at a level consistent with one-on-one tutoring but not classroom instruction, where the type of support provided does seem "hyper-personalized." The spirit of ZPD scaffolding is to enable the learner to become as independent of the mentor as quickly as possible--but not too soon. What my research seems to suggest so far is that genuine scaffolding in pronunciation teaching has been missing for about the last 25 years or so, since the fading of the highly structured, Audiolingual method and related systems. Scaffolding is still consistently promoted by contemporary methodologists, but in practice it seems to extend only to the classroom door, if that far--and only rarely "out" to integration into spontaneous speech. (There are some exceptions, of course--such as HICP work!) How's your scaffolding? More on this in subsequent posts. (Truly efficient) pronunciation instruction is forever on the scaffold, it seems! 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

English (Pronunciation) for the Academically Privileged and "hypo-mentalizers"

Clipart: Ciker
Following up on the previous post, in pondering why so much of contemporary pronunciation research, methodology and materials seems to be increasingly "hyper-mentalized," it occurred to me that we should perhaps just follow the money . . .  So where, for the most part, are the learners with the resources to pay for extensive--or even, any--pronunciation instruction? You got it: higher education. (Linked is an interesting, but probably not representative, EPAP "strawman" of a syllabus. Would love to see the list of tongue twisters!) Nearly as important, however, is the nature of academic study and materials in that context: hyper-mental and hyper-textual. That group thrives (or survives) on hypothetical, metacognitive challenges, but in terms of intelligibility their needs may bear little or no resemblance to those of the immigrant or guest arbiter. It may be time to create a new pedagogical category or two: English Pronunciation instruction for the privileged academically (EPIPA!) and English Pronunciation Instruction for the "not so" (EPINS!). The irony is that, at least from our perspective, a good, less cognitive-deductive (and, of course, haptically-integrated) EPINS!-type program (for the hypo-mentalizer) which focused primarily on integrating new pronunciation, rather than understanding it and decontextualized practice, would almost certainly be more effective and efficient for most EPIPA!'s as well. If you have regular work doing EPIPA!, Congratulations! If not, no need to hyper-mentalize . . .

Over-personalizing pronunciation instruction: grapheme personification

Clipart: Clker
As you may have noticed, one of my hobbies is following synaesthesia rabbit trails in research. Linked is the abstract of a new article in a special issue of the Journal of Neuropsychology by Amin, Olu-Lafe, Claessen, Sobczak-Edmans, Ward, Williams, and Sagiv on a relatively rare condition, what they term a form of "social synaesthesia": giving letters of the alphabet personalities and other human attributes. Would that my institution were fortunate enough to have a subscription to that journal. (I may even consider forgoing a week of venti carmel frapps and buy that.) Apparently they haven't visited many preschool phonics classes in North America where letters are routinely given names, faces, bodies and identities . . .  The last line of the abstract, however, is most interesting: "This benign form of hyper-mentalizing may provide a unique point of view on one of the most central problems in human cognition – understanding others’ state of mind." Now I could go a dozen different directions with that, but I think I'll stick with this: hyper-mentalizing. What a concept! That finally may explain why some applied linguists have such difficulty with pronunciation instruction, especially HICP: they just get too up close and personal with their phonemes and begin hyper-mentalizing. Should that fit you to the letter . . . we have the antidote.