Saturday, March 10, 2012

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

Clipart: Clker
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?

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