Monday, April 30, 2012

Metalogues and "Hapticalogues" in pronunciation teaching

Clip art: Clker
One of my favorite meta-communicative terms, "metalogue," defined as " . . . a conversation about some problematic subject. This conversation should be such that not only do the participants discuss the problem but the structure of the conversation as a whole is also relevant to the same subject. . . "--from one of the formative books early in my career, Bateson's "Steps to an ecology of mind," may be worth incorporating in the general PEPI framework. For example, that would suggest that the vocal and conceptual models that we use in the classroom should be as consistent as possible with the models that your students are working toward. In teacher training that idea is easier to apply, i.e., that you teach like you want them to teach. (For an example of a metalogue that goes someplace else, see this one by Peter Rose.)

In focusing on pronunciation, consciously conducting classroom discourse or conversation about what needs to be done and how--in such a way that targeted sounds and processes are not only present but even foregrounded at times--is an intriguing problem in itself. For the native speaker, the speech model, itself, should make a natural, valuable contribution to the process, but what about the nonnative instructor? Haptic anchoring of sounds, vocabulary and sound processes by the instructor should provide a clear visual representation of the "correct" or approximate structure involved, even if the actual pronunciation of the instructor is not quite on target.

The EHIEP instructor, of course, has "at hand" at least six different pedagogical movement patterns that can be used to visually reinforce a targeted sound or emphasize a word or phrase. The effect is something like simultaneous signing and speaking, using symbolic, haptic-based gestures which the students should be able to read comfortably without appreciably interfering with the flow of the discourse or topic being discussed. Later, I'll link to a video of my using "hapticalogue" bits with students in talking about strategies they can use outside of class. In the meantime, try haptically anchoring some of your current targets . . . just as a gesture of good Wii.  

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Mixed "modal" arts in HICP (Haptic-integrated, clinical pronunciation)

Photo credit:
Even if you are not a big fan of Mixed Martial Arts, you almost have to admire the focus on bringing to the ring superb, full-body conditioning and an amazing set of tools (techniques) derived from several traditions: boxing, wrestling, jiu jitsu, Muay Thai, weight lifting and others. From a "professional development" perspective, these people get it; enhanced conditioning and development of new techniques are simply part of the job. Having listened to a couple of recent interviews with top MMA fighters, I was struck by what avid learners they are--and what extraordinary body awareness and fine tuning is required. (The imaginary MMA fight scenario on the linked page could as well be describing one's deteriorating state of mind and body in a late afternoon ESL class!) The ways in which they characterize or explain the relationship between practice and conditioning outside of the ring and successful performance in it were extremely detailed and systematic. The parallel to effective HICP work or speaking and voice instruction in general is worth considering. I always recommend that instructors who use EHIEP protocols (techniques) in their classes should practice them regularly, themselves, both in class and out of class. (I, myself, do a basic set of about a dozen techniques most mornings.) Part of the reason for that is that the (Lessac-inspired) procedures are not only designed for in-class modelling and correction, but also for cultivation of what Lessac referred to as "Vocal Life," overall voice quality and body flexibility, along with an accompanying attitude of openness to learning and exploration. In the PEPI model, that means beginning your day with a cup of coffee at 6 o'clock (on the circumflex) and going counterclockwise. For example, starting with (a) EHIEP protocols, or yoga or exercise, then (b) prayer, meditation or reading the paper, then on to (c) planning your day's priorities, and then (d) setting out your concrete action plans. By the time you get back around to (d), 9 'clock, you'll be ready when the bell rings .  . . 

Friday, April 27, 2012

Loss of faith in pronunciation teaching?

Library of Congress
According to this new study by Gervais at University of British Columbia, summarized by Science Direct,  use of analytic thinking, problem solving and "subtle experimental priming" such as taking questionnaires in hard to read fonts, has been shown to "decrease" (religious) faith. The study was based on " . . . a longstanding human psychology model of two distinct, but related cognitive systems to process information: an “intuitive” system that relies on mental shortcuts to yield fast and efficient responses, and a more “analytic” system that yields more deliberate, reasoned responses." I have known, intuitively, for some time that the EHIEP method is truly a "no brainer," producing "fast and efficient responses." Experiencing it is believing. Likewise, I have felt that too much analysis, linguistics and reasoning undermines belief in the efficacy of pronunciation work. Q.E.D. Keep the faith, eh!

Modelling in pronunciation instruction

Photo credit:
In working with directed body movement, especially upper body gestures and haptic anchoring in pronunciation teaching as we do, the model presented to students is vitally important. The EHIEP approach is based on the principle that the initial model for learners should be provided on video, not by the instructor, him or herself, at the front of the class. (You can either use EHIEP Youtube videos, such as those linked off this blog--or those that will be available in the near future as a complete package--or you can simply make them yourself!)  Follow up, of course, can be done from the front or wherever, once the visual and haptic model is established. In other words, you don't have to be a model to model . . . but there is much we can learn from those who do. Here are the seven principles for becoming a fashion model from (My comments are in italics following each!)
A. Do your research - To do process-experiential work takes a good understanding of how experiential learning happens and especially the typical benchmarks involved. 
B. Be prepared - Once students have some initial practice of the pedagogical movement patterns, to then exploit those in class requires that the instructor have done some serious practice outside of class in preparation. For some "kinaesthetically gifted" instructors, however, just learning the protocols along with their students is sufficient!
C. Make your portfolio "picture perfect" - As noted in earlier blogposts, having a very clear, consistent visual model to practice with for some learners is critical. For others (probably 75%), any close approximation is fine.
D. Be yourself - If using directed movement with the class does not fit your style of personal presentation in the classroom, just assign the videos has homework. (Again, either those available online or homemade ones are good enough.)
E. Smile for the camera - Once you get going with haptic-integrated work, video yourself several times doing the techniques outside of class to see what your visual model looks like to your students. It may require a little reflection and practice to present a comfortable, confident image that will convey the haptic anchoring efficiently and professionally. (Of course that is a good principle for developing your model in ALL classroom instruction!)
F. Speak up! - Coordination of voice and directed pedagogical movement patterns takes a little practice. Initially, your voice may sound a bit artificial, as you focus more on getting the movement right, rather than being reasonably authentic and expressive. But it comes quickly!
G. Read before signing on the dotted line! -  Like any teaching methodology, PEPI requires both informed understanding of the concepts involved and concrete, physical experience with it to be able to work with it successfully. "Just do-ing it!" is not enough . . . You (or at least your body) has gotta love it as well! 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

How NOT to assign English sentence stress and intonation

Clip art: Clker
In more than a few respects, the non-native speaking instructor may have a distinct advantage over the native speaker. Keeping the PEPI framework in mind, here is an example from three years ago that changed my approach to teaching sentence stress, both how to determine it and how to teach it.

I had a native speaking grad student in the MA TESOL who had very little background in linguistics and grammar--more the rule now, rather than the exception. We were doing the standard type of exercise where you are handed a dialogue and asked to underline sentence stress and intonation, based on the typical set of simple rules found in student textbooks, such as this one. What was amazing, was that he would generally underline 2 or 3 times the number of words in a sentence and then indicate that ALL of them had a RISE-FALL intonation "move" as well.

The nonnative speaker sitting next to him, on the other hand, was able to consistently get it "right," at least in agreement with me. His frustration was understandable. Regardless of how much he practiced, his performance not only did not improve, it seemed to get worse. Finally, just before the next quiz, I asked him the right question: How do you go about figuring out where to put stress? His answer: I just say it to myself and underline the words that have more energy on them. Wow.

A few days later, he aced the quiz and became one of the very best at assigning stress and intonation. His solution: Suppress his "inner speech"--and stick with the simple rules and grammatical structure, along with aiming for the most direct, unmarked (lacking contrastive stress) interpretation in that conversational context. Once those focal or prominent locations are identified, THEN haptically-integrate and anchor them affectively or emotionally.

In other words, begin with structure, go to context, anchor stress and intonation--and then pile on attitude! In the PEPI model: UP to LEFT to DOWN to RIGHT. I realize that may sound a bit counter to current "top-down" discourse models for initial prosodic assignment--my own, included! The EHIEP model, however, is designed for the nonnative speaking instructor first--not the linguistically sophisticated (or informed) native speaker.

For those highly auditory native speakers without linguistic training or the emotionally "off-the-charts," it also works like a charm. For nonnative speakers, most of whom do grammar in the extreme already, it clicks immediately, often giving them at least an initial advantage and forcing them to move on to context and mood. Counter-intuitive (and counter clock-wise)? Perhaps. But "PEPI-gogically," on target!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

PEPI: Process-Experiential Pronunciation Instruction - I

This is the next of several posts unpacking the PEPI model introduced in a recent post. We'll generally focus on the 8 outside boxes and the related quadrants of the clock/circumplex:

Clipart: Clker
          Symbolic meaning (External-oriented)
11  (o'clock) Verbal expression
1    (o'clock) Concepts and Identities
         Motivational/Behavioral (Change-oriented)
2    (o'clock)Wishes and needs
4    (o'clock) Action tendencies
         Bodily/Expressive (Internal-oriented)
5    (o'clock) Nonverbal expression
7    (o'clock) Bodily sensations
         Perceptual/Situational (Stability-oriented)
8    (o'clock) Episodic memories   
10  (o'clock) Primary appraisal

The function of a haptic anchor or haptic-integration is to experientially link those four dimensions in various combinations in instruction, depending on immediate focus of the learning task. For example, attention to change of a particular segmental problem is at least initially an "up and down" process. Vocabulary anchoring might emphasize the upper left quadrant. Anchoring meaning may be more of an upper right quadrant activity, etc. The linkage between the quadrants and categories is the "sticky" haptic center. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A natural at learning pronunciation? Don't mention it.

Clip art: Clker
Interesting new study summarized by Science Daily on the downside of positive stereotypes. Quick. Make a list of all the "pronunciation stereotypes" you can think of. I sat in on an opening session of a intensive  English pronunciation course of a friend a couple of years ago. As I remember there were about a dozen "findings of research" tossed out in an apparent effort to give the students an informed "understanding" of L2 pronunciation acquisition and the range of variability in the process--including an entire litany of possible excuses to be used later in case one is not all that good at it. I remember a comment from a student seated nearby to the effect that "he didn't have a chance!" The research (admittedly done of middle schooler) seems to illustrate well the potential counter-productive washback of any stereotype, positive or negative when setting up expectations in an experiential learning process. (See 3 o'clock on the Process-experiential Pronunciation model in the previous blog post.) So, take that list and file it--just don't dwell on it when "metacognating" with or attempting to motivate students. And don't bother either with telling them success stories and tales of research studies which prove that instructors trained in the EHIEP system are by far the best--and consequently, they should simply trust you and do exactly what you say either. . . It's always better when they figure that out for themselves. 

Process-experiential Pronunciation instruction

Logo: Process-Experiential Therapy
Once every couple of months I check in with my local counseling psychologist/researcher in the building next door on my current thinking as to the development of this work, one of those who introduced me to Observed Experiential Integration over five years ago. Yesterday's question was: How can I better conceptualize the role of haptic integration within the appropriate balance between cognitive-conceptual and body-based somatic pronunciation instruction? He referred me to Process-experiential therapy. To the right is the logo from the PE website which outlines the general model. If you just substitute "haptic-integrated" for "experienced emotion" you have a very interesting framework for the theoretical foundation of our work, especially in light of recent developments relating to the importance of learning about this approach--experientially! (The logo, itself, not surprisingly, maps on very nicely to the general character of the visual field as detailed in several earlier posts, with "up~down" being "internal~external, and "left~right" being "stability~change.") What is even more striking (to me at least, not my colleague!) is that the 12 boxes also map on beautifully to the "vowel clock" framework described in earlier posts as well. In the next few posts, I will unpack and slightly alter the labels of several of those "boxes" in examining the empirical and theoretical bases of HICP. If you are one of my grad students, you have your homework!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Expressiveness in pronunciation instruction: an anchor by any other name would feel so sweet?

clipart: Clker
With apologies to Shakespeare, will quickly consider the topic of a recent discussion as to the efficacy (or necessity) of haptic anchors and haptic-integrated methodology in pronunciation instruction. The question was: Doesn't expressiveness, like in dramatic reading, not accomplish much the same thing? The linked 2003 dissertation explored the impact of expressiveness on literacy development and seems to confirm that--at least for middle school native speakers of English--that seems to be the case. Expressive reading and the attendant interpretative process leading up to the "performance" did appear to carry with it a number of positive linkages to identity and reading competence, including vocabulary and confidence, etc. If that is the  case, then why not use drama as the focus of pronunciation instruction. That is certainly a possibility, one that has been explored extensively by many, such as Gary Carkin. The problem, of course, is that the nonnative probably does not come to the process with the culturally situated emotional and expressive experiences to access and link to the text at hand. In addition, the language limitations, themselves, constrain what can be talked and emoted about within the learner's current stage of interlanguage development. In other words, linking a known word to dramatic expressiveness is one thing; learning (that is anchoring) a new term in the context of a drama and delivering it with appropriate expressiveness, is another. Some learners are amazingly adept at that: most probably aren't, given the relatively short amount of time that the average instructor can devote to an expressive project such as a mini-drama or dramatic readings. Haptic integration attempts to link some level of somatic awareness of body resonance in appropriate articulation with the word. In the process some degree of expressiveness, given the usage context may come along as well--but that should be moderated somewhat to focus on the core meaning and pronunciation of the word, not too much of the specific expressive value in that conversation or narrative. (That that context for the word and its meaning is then linked is, of course, a very good thing in itself.) So, should pronunciation work be expressive? Yes! Especially since in EHIEP methodology you should have plenty of "time on your hands!" 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Pronunciation "corps" competence!

Photo credit:
The problem with graduate students, when one enjoys an occasion good pun or double entendre, is that they can almost at any moment do the same, often even "one-up-man-shipping" you! The other day I was challenged to define the "corps competence" of HICP work (the illusion being to the basic meaning of 'corps' being 'body'.) Although this is still a work in progress, as usual, I found a potentially good analogy: core exercise frameworks in physical training. Linked is the Sports Medicine About website, which also links to every kind of core strengthening exercise imaginable, lists the three main "benefits" of core training: (a) relieves back pain, (b) improves athletic performance, and (c) improves posture. Translating that to our work, those categories read as something like: (a) fluidity (fluency), (b) integrated, energetic speaking performance, and (c) body awareness and directed movement. One of the key concepts in core training, whether in athletics or pronunciation work, is integrated functionality, that is understanding the system as a whole and attending to key components in a systematic and ordered way. (To get a set of abs like those pictured to the right requires a great deal more that just crunches and holding your breath!) The "problem" for us, of course, is that on the one hand, integrating pronunciation throughout the curriculum is a very "deconstructive" act, distributing procedures and objectives almost at random. On the other hand, as we have learned in haptic-integrated work, a certain amount of very systematic, skill and body-based training--separate from regular class, integrated skills activities (probably about 8 hours in total, spread out over the course of around 8 weeks)--is essential to provide an optimal set of "integrate-able" pronunciation techniques for instructor and students to use in class. The parallel to physical training is apt (or "ab-t"!): efficient, integrated pronunciation teaching requires genuine "corp-oration," getting and keeping both corps and core skills in shape . . . 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Better (looking) intonation with just the wave of a hand

Clip art: Clker
Clip art: Clker
A new study, summarized by Science Daily, explores why the left side of the face seems more attractive than the right. One explanation offered is that the left side is more emotionally expressive than the right, since that the right hemisphere, which controls the left side of the face, is also more closely associated with emotion. Most thespian logos seem to concur. (Of course, the same does not hold in many cultures for the hands or respective sides of the body.) Earlier posts on the "aesthetics of the visual field," for instance this one or that one, have looked at what it may mean to position or anchor a word or intonation contour in various quadrants of the visual field. There are certainly well documented differences between left and right and upper and "downer." In various studies, the left~right dimension has been characterized with terms such as: cool~hot, soft~rough, stability~change, passive~active, holistic~particulate, analogue~digital, etc. Granted, those are very "rough" generalizations relating to the corresponding brain processing centers. Here is the relevance to HICP work. Intonation contours are performed by the left hand, beginning in the left visual field and then moving over to the right visual field to touch the right hand as the  prominent syllable, word or discourse element is articulated (anchored). We have known for some time that the quality or fluidity and "grace" of the left hand in tracing out the intonation contour of a phrase or clause was a factor but this brings the issue into focus. The character of the pedagogical movement pattern with that hand does much to set up or mirror the emotional and affective mood of the utterance, before the key information is foregrounded. What is also intriguing is that for the observer, the left to right gesture is read in the right eye, which has been shown in many studies--for most people--to be the more emotionally reactive or intense. Express with the left; read and foreground with the right. Wave if you get it . . . (with your left hand, of course!)

Friday, April 20, 2012

What fowl language tells us about rough speech

(Credit: Markus Boeckle)
Always on the lookout for textural descriptors of speech. (See earlier blogpost on research showing that the brain seems to process textural "metaphors" quite literally.) It has been discovered that ravens lower their voices in response to calls from enemies or strangers, according to the researchers, to affect the perception of a larger body size. They note other studies showing that "smaller" mammals, including smaller humans, tend to "roughen" their voices to accomplish something of the same function. (I'm following up on that rabbit trail as well, of course!) In EHIEP, for example, we use the term "rough" with students to refer to most lax (short) vowels, in part to help distance them from their four tense "neighbors." Tense vowels, in turn, are termed, smooth, and diphthongs as "double (smooth)." One of the basic principles of voice training or simple change in voice quality setting is the requirement that learners adopt a new felt sense of their voice as "homework" temporarily. The basic idea is to create a separate, almost parallel voice style that can be worked on somewhat independently without at least initially interfering with normal day to day conversation. That may be done by slightly deepening, raising, smoothing or "roughening" the presenting vocal style, just enough so that the learner can switch into it consistently in practice. Got a few "foul vowels" among your students? Just rough them up or smooth them out . . . 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A touch of audible mutter: keeping pronunciation to yourself

Clip Art: Clker
My gosh . . . apparent proof that students occasionally talking quietly to themselves in class rather than listening to you or participating in the lesson may actually be a good idea, rather than a sign that you have been "metacognating" them too much--or not quite enough. In the study, basically, saying a word out loud repeatedly that represented something that subjects were looking for helped them find it. Just imagine had they tossed on a haptic anchor as well! Or tried the task with only the anchor but not the vocalization. The same process should work for retrieving meaning, pronunciation or usage information as well. Haptic research would suggest that the haptic-only condition might even be stronger than the simple vocalization in such an "exploration" phase of learning. Earlier posts have examined the case for resonant practicing of pronunciation targets out loud and vigorous, systematic vocalization of homework. This seems to support that practice, even without the enthusiasm and sensuous, somatic anchoring. So next time students can't remember the way a word is pronounced, what it means, its collocation or how to use it, just instruct them audibly mutter their best approximation out loud two or three times under their breath, accompanied by its pedagogical movement pattern, and see what happens. Worse case, those around them will think that they are losing it; best case, they'll find it. 

Getting the "fat" out of pronunciation teaching

From my perspective--and take this for what it is worth, probably the best models for understanding efficient pronunciation teaching and learning are physical conditioning and fat loss systems. And not all of them. In fact, my favorite for some time has been Craig Ballantyne's "Turbulence Training" system.  I don't recommend that you go out and buy his stuff immediately, but his approach to training is a good "buy," to say the least.  Full disclosure: I am absolutely addicted to high-intensity weight training done three times a week.That practice regimen obviously influences my thinking and approach to this kind of teaching as well. The above link takes you to his website and his audio introduction to that system. If you are (a) not a regular exerciser, (b) would really like to slim down but don't have the time or understanding of how to do it,  or (c) do not have a system for getting learners to practice their pronunciation regularly, it is worth listening to for the first 15 minutes (the last five is pitch for you to buy the books, etc.) The analogy between high intensity weight training and full-body, multiple modality, (haptic-integrated!) pronunciation training and change is more than an analogy. The principles are virtually identical. As Craig says, training should be fun, intense and efficient. Does that describe your system? 

A touch of speech-synchronized gesture just for good measure--and measuring!

Speech-synchronized gesture has been studied extensively--although subsequent research has questioned whether, in fact, the gestural "chicken" does not in fact come before the words, or at the very least they are generated simultaneously by the brain or are proceded by still "deeper" origins. Linked above is a blog post from December 2011 where I described something of the process by which I had arrived at haptic-integrated pronunciation work after a couple of decades of basically "kinaesthetic" exploration and classroom practice. To that comment, I'd now add this:

  • My early work with speech synchronized gesture resulted in a series of "gesture-synchronized speech" techniques, with the focus on using gesture to drive and anchor language, such as the use of upper torso nods, baton strokes, and various arm and hand movements across the visual field.
  • As many have discovered, although the effectiveness of movement-based techniques may be striking at times, it is exceedingly difficult to document or validate and reproduce consistently.
  • When, in 2005, I was introduced to a psychotherapeutic system, Observed Experiential Integration, that exploited eye tracking across the visual field, for a time it looked like that approach might serve to make the impact of gesture-synchronized speech stronger and consistent. To some extent that turned out to be the case but the training involved by instructor/therapists and potential interpersonal risks involved was  excessive. 
  • In OEI, however, and in American Sign Language to some extent, I discovered a great deal of haptic anchoring, movement terminating in self-touch, usually on the upper body or limbs. From there, researching the fundamentals and neurophysiology of touch and movement to the application of haptic techniques and haptics (machine interfaces) in several fields would gradually lead to where we are today: haptic-integrated, clinical pronunciation. 
  • Clip art: Clker
  • Haptic-integration seems to both solve the problem of systematic pedagogical use of movement and provide an engaging and potent anchoring capability to pronunciation work. Once pedagogical movement patterns become regularized, their impact and potential to enhance memory and recall becomes extraordinary, measurable . . . and empirically verifiable.

It has been a moving journey thus far--but is only the beginning. Keep in touch.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Putting pronunciation back in the box (and the visual-haptic field)

Clip art: Clker
Over the last few years (and in several earlier posts) I have played with different visual-haptic representations of the sound system of English from a clock shape to a 3x3 matrix. The 1997 study by Coello and Grealy helps resolve the issue. Most recently, we have focussed on anchoring the matrix as precisely as possible, moving away from the earlier "clock man" model which, although it connects up very quickly for learners to the general spatial orientation of the clock, it has turned out to be nearly impossible to consistently locate fixed points accurately on and within it. (That includes the pedagogical movement patterns associated with the vowel system, intonation, rhythm, pitch and some other elements of the expressive system of English.) The research seems to explain why the matrix is ultimately preferable: when the visual field was defined (marked out visually in front of subjects), angular--as opposed to circular movements--were shown to be significantly more accurate. That concept may apply with any visual schema that we use in teaching. Metaphorically and analogically, the whole notion of "seeing" pronunciation work through a somewhat more "digital" lens is long overdue, especially as technology begins its inexorable invasion and takeover of the (visual and methodological) field. There is apparently still hope for all us "squares" out there . . . 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Chain drill (and Kinetic Chain) in pronunciation teaching

Clip art:Clker
If you were trained to do "chain drills" in teaching, clap your hands . . . or some other random haptic anchor. I have used that question at conferences. It generally elicits a generational response--based on where you were or if you were breathing yet-- about 50 years ago in 1966 when Cornfield's book was published. Chain drill was a basic tool of structuralist teaching. (And it is still good, especially in pronunciation work!) The concept of linking together questions and answers around the class, particularly when some aspect of the core question is haptically anchored (for example, assigning some kind of pedagogical movement pattern to the stressed word in the sentence or phrase)--when done right--is wonderfully effective in quickly anchoring the target sound or structure to basic conversational usage. It connects the language "chunk" with the body and emotions in a social network where the learner's performance is openly in public and received non-judgementally. The ultimate anchor for integrating usage. An analogous term 'kinetic chain' is used in sports and rehabilitation work, where the observable movement or pain in some body part must be understood as functionally connected to the operation of the entire body, bones, muscles, tendons--even the brain. In other words, foot disfunction can be the cause of next pain, etc. Conversely, "fixing" any apparently local problem should be approached as a whole-body project. In pronunciation work, especially today with the gradual "dis-integration" of attention to accuracy in the field, it is far too easy to only do "lip service" to that notion. 

Feeling spacey teaching pronunciation? Not a bad idea!

Clip art: Clker
One of the basic principles of HICP is that space in the visual field can be haptically-anchored to distinctions between sounds and sound patterns in language. Consequently, precision of pedagogical movements in the visual field and points of reference where hands touch or a hand touches part of the arm or upper body is paramount.

A number of posts have referred to the neurological "overlapping" in visual and haptic process in the brain. In other words, sight and touch are intricately interwoven. In the 2007 review by Pelli and TiIlman summarized by Science from the journal, Nature, the concept of "critical spacing" is used to highlight the fact that spacing beween visual entities is apparently much more important to visual discrimination than is size. (Other research suggests the same for color as well.)

What that implies for our work is that establishing the optimal visual and haptic distance between vowels such as high-front-tense 'i' and high-front-lax 'I' should be very important for anchoring, encoding and recall. (How that then relates to resonance, tongue and jaw movement, and vowel quality is, of course, a very interesting question, as well!)  In recent work I have begun to very carefully reassess the relative locations of all PMPs.

That focus has been very revealing. Some of it was motivated by learners who reported being seriously confused when, in an instructional video, my execution of the PMP and contact node for one of the vowels, the "critical space," varied by a couple of inches. A "feel" for visual space is potentially a very powerful tool, indeed. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Telling the truth (or something close to it) in pronunciation teaching

Clip art: Clker
Machiavelli was purported to have advised that one should always tell the truth . . . because one day you may need to carry off a great lie and you'll want to be believed! He might have added that it is also hard work conceptually and destructive, occupying areas of the brain that could instead be used for something more productive. . . like learning pronunciation, for example. The 2011 research linked above by Porter, Brink and Wallace explores, among other things, the nonverbal "conflicts" that can be detected when lying in some contexts, in two locations on the face: corrugator supercilli (between the eyes) and depressor anguli oris (basically below the lips,) where the evidence of the extra effort seems to erupt to the surface momentarily. Pronunciation instruction at some stages, like learning of any kind, requires extreme concentration and focus of attention. It just happens that the facial muscles and underlying bone structures are also involved in producing sound, so that the effect of restrictions and distractions are magnified. It is more than a good analogy. If haptic-integrated pronunciation anchoring is being done on a multi-tasking, time share basis with other internal or external influences, it can be significantly undermined. (Research reported earlier looked at the susceptibility of haptic engagement to distraction, especially clutter in the visual field and body-based issues such as muscle stiffness or pain.) So, pay attention to quality of attention as evident on the faces of students. On this, don't be caught "lying down" on the job!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Motivating pronunciation change: keeping it going 2

Clip art: Clker
In an earlier post, Motivating pronunciation change: keeping it going, I looked at the relative value of discipline and fixed exercise development systems. The review of a just released study in the linked article adds an interesting refinement to our understanding how to achieve better exercise persistence--in our case, just ensuring that learners stay committed to the program and work outside of class. What the research found was that up front it was critical that learners are presented with a wide range of options and are generally not moved too quickly into the "grind" of repetition and form-based exercise. Once they begin to experience a little buy in and success, however, they readily accept a more and more limited set of regular fitness-building exercises, as guided by their coach or trainer. There are any number of possible psychological and physiological explanations for that effect, but the bottom line is that the progression to strong, disciplined routine needs to be gradual and experientially grounded--not simply adhered to because of persuasive motivational pep talks to "tough it out" for a while. (Although I do like the textural metaphor there!) That is a potentially fascinating insight into setting up the process so that pronunciation work "Stick!-s!" 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Pronunciation teaching going to pot(tery)!

Clip art: Clker
The 1965 article summary linked above by Jameson looked at the connection between personality and pottery: Psychological aspects of craftsmanship in pottery making at secondary school. As I read the article it was easy to substitute in "pronunciation" for "pottery" throughout. Quoting from the abstract: "The results indicated that the N.I.I.P. Spatial Test 81 had the highest predictive value. It was also found that intercorrelations between the verbal, non-verbal, spatial, tactile-kinaesthetic and pottery criterion tests were all significantly positive. It was further found that neuroticism, as measured by the M.J.P.I., was negatively (and significantly) correlated with the criterion of skill . . . " I especially like that last one! Reminded me of an old favorite song of mine done by Caedmon's Call. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Overcoming resistance to sticky, classroom-based pronunciation

Clip art: Clker
The (Stick-y!) EHIEP approach is based on the concept of providing accessible group-based and classroom-based essential pronunciation instruction for relatively untrained teachers. The 8, 30-minute training sessions (either "live" or on video) and follow ups  are designed to, in effect, "outsource" the initial training in the procedures so that they can be subsequently used by both teacher and students. The content is almost entirely "conversational language" focused. Since the basic instruction is constructed to be done by the class as a whole, for most part using choral "whole body" repetition or mirroring, it is critical that everybody in the room is on the same "somatic wave length." In the linked rather straightforward (working paper-like) research study on overcoming resistance to change in organizations, Pardo del Val and Martínez provide an interesting summary in Table 2 of the preliminary results of their (undated) study, ranking the sources of resistance. (The significance of the relative rankings is also not reported at this stage of the study.) Their list at least provides a fascinating look at the range of sources of resistance to organizational change in the study and in the literature. Even the rough ranking is revealing. Consider that list (or potential rubric) from the perspective of getting the right degree of "buy in" to your classroom pronunciation work, especially as we attempt to teach to and with the group initially, not just the individual. That list works for attempts to change any organization, of course, but I have found it very helpful in figuring out how and what to emphasize in orienting students and teacher trainees to the system:

  • Deep-rooted values (2.70) That one, especially in relation to cultural attitudes toward body engagement and experiential learning just about says it all. 
  • Capabilities gap (2.42) That we can fix.
  • Departmental politics (2.42) That may not be reparable . . . 
  • Low motivation due to cannibalization costs and cross subsidy comforts (2.31) That is about the only one that does not translate rather easily or analogically, but I love the image!
  • Incommensurable beliefs (2.31) Ideas don't die . . . people do. 
  • Different interests among employees and management (2.27) Ideas don't die, people do . . . 
  • Communication barriers (2.23)
  • Organizational silence (2.20) That can be a positive as well! 
  • Low motivation due to direct costs of change (2.15) Especially the social or psychological costs involved. 
  • Myopia, denial, perpetuation of ideas, implicit assumptions (2.11) A good methods course should be a corrective in that regard. 
  • Lack of a creative response due to fast and complex environmental changes (2.05) That one we can manage. 
  • Lack of a creative response due to inadequate strategic vision (2.04) That one is crucial and seems to be a key variable predicting success of EHIEP work. 
  • Change values opposite to organizational values (2.04) Or the contemporary methodological perspectives on the role of the body in learning, in general. 
  • Forgetfulness of the social dimension of changes due to obsession of promoter (2.01)
  • Lack of a creative response due to resignation (1.96) You have to use a different sense of "resignation" there to make that one work, of course. 
  • Leadership inaction, embedded routines, collective action problems (1.94)
  • Cynicism (1.84) Good to see this one so far "down" the list!
  • Forgetfulness of the social dimension of changes due to forgetting supervisors (1.67)
  • Low motivation due to past failures (1.65) This one ought to be further up the list, I'd think, too. 

                                                             Sorry about the longish post there. It was also LONG overdue!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Why "haptic-integration" should enhance pronunciation work

Junko Kimura/Getty Images
Linked is a good, readable nontechnical summary of what computer haptics (and haptic) is about. (This one nicely complements the 2007 AERA review of research to that date by Minogue and Jones, discussed in an earlier post that reported on the application of haptics in education as well.) This blog post is titled why haptic-integration SHOULD work in our work, in part, because the hard, research-based evidence is, generally  speaking, only indirect, coming from five areas:

(a) Basic research on the neurophysiology of movement and touch, including its close relationship to visual and auditory modalities,
(b) Developments/recent successes in computer haptics-applications such as virtual reality training, gaming and prosthetics,
(c) Practice in several related fields such as sports, dance, rehabilitation and the arts
(d) A few relevant empirical studies examining the effectiveness of haptic enhancement in approaches to helping children learn to connect up orthography and sound, and
(e) About five years of explicit application of haptic pedagogical movement patterns in the EHIEP system and its early predecessors.

I have designed two or three, small scale empirical Stick!-based studies of haptic-integration techniques that I hope to carry out in the next few months. It is a problem inherent to most experiential educational methods. In the meantime, we'll continue to focus primarily on the how . . . and Wow!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Haptic-integrated pronunciation meets Kinect

Clip art: Clker
Linked is a neat Youtube video by University of Washington students showing how haptic feedback can be integrated into Kinect technology. Here is another "Haptic" piece done at Michigan State University giving a nice picture of what some of the haptic technology actually looks and feels like, as well. Obviously, that technology could manage instruction in the gestural, pedagogical movement patterns in EHIEP. With the addition of current voice and speech recognition technology, it won't be long until the complete package is available for virtual reality (haptic-integrated) pronunciation teaching. Keep in touch!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Drawing (and anchoring prominence) on the left side of the brain

Several earlier posts have referred to the "meaning" of the visual field, including the optimal placement of vowel schema in the visual field. Any number of visualized models of psychological and social systems have been represented on similar X~Y axes, with process being located on the X axis and positioning, on the Y axis. For example, many popular characterizations of personality preferences, management or cognitive style can be situated in that conceptual field.
Clip art: Clker

                               Stability                         Change 


In the 2007 study by Des Roches et al. (linked above; available in Abstract form only), it was discovered that when processing novelty, the right eye/left hemisphere was favoured. When the image was demonstrably negative (rather than positive) in emotional loading, there was a tendency for processing to favor the right hemisphere/left eye. The same general asymmetry appeared to be present when presented with analogous olfactory stimuli as well. (To avoid the problems of culture, individual variability and language, the research was done using 38 Arabian mares.)
          Not coincidentally, in the EHIEP framework,  anchoring of word stress, phrasal stress, discourse prominence and "front" vowels is done in the right visual field (Back vowels, however, are anchored in the left visual field, a mirror image of the typical IPA matrix display.) New information is generally anchored to the right on all protocols. Given information and emotional setting is usually established first in the left visual field.
         Most interesting--and novel study!  The research appears to provide further support for systematic exploitation of the visual field in HICP work--simply by having put the "chart" before the horse!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Stick! (How to make pronunciation work stick!)

The 2007 Best Seller, Made to Stick, by Heath and Heath, presents a good model for not only selling products and ideas--it is at least as useful as a template for what we do when we do it well. (Three earlier posts have referred to the use of the term "stick" in various fields, including Haptics. For each of H and H's six categories I have added a note elaborating what means for haptic-integrated instruction.

  • Simplicity - For both instructor and student. Tasks, objectives and scaffolding must be transparent. Attention should be managed consistently and effectively. 
  • Unexpectedness - Lessons should be engaging and "surprising", involving extensive experiential learning not normally associated with traditional pronunciation instruction. 
  • Concreteness - Tasks should be somatically grounded, body-based, with clear criterion and resonant "felt sense."
  • Credibility - Learners must experience rapid initial achievement and should be provided with a minimal, reasonable theoretical framework.
  • Emotion - Learners should be both very much at ease with the work while, at the same time, emotionally in control--with just the right balance of enthusiasm and composure.
  • Stories - The focus of the work is on pronunciation in context, conversational narratives, either 12-line dialogues or materials used in "regular" classes--along with a good collection of success stories and relevant analogies. 
Stick!  That is a not a bad term (or metaphor) for what happens when we do it well as well. (More on that in an upcoming post on the EHIEP theoretical framework and methodology.) As a possible new brand identity for the general HICP model--with accompanying textural logo, how well would Stick! stick? 

Friday, April 6, 2012

Embodied "Etiquette-cal" intelligibility

Although not explicitly or systematically part of EHIEP work thus far, the connection to nonverbal communication, at least some of those paralinguistic behaviours that are considered "distracting" by native English speakers, is worth keeping in mind. For an interesting look at what one model of that repertoire in North American business community, take a quick look at the 2nd edition of "Business Etiquette for Dummies." Even the list on the linked promo is revealing. That is not to say that BE4D should be used as a course book for instruction but it is fascinating to observe just how many "tips" relate to body movement, gesture and general speaking style to create a "model," confident business professional identity. (It is reasonably balanced from a gender perspective as well.) It should be relatively easy to begin with that overall framework and develop a set of guidelines for embodied intelligibility related to the pedagogical movement patterns that we use. (For example, controlled use of upper torso motion to embody speech rhythm and pace.) All the great voice and body training systems involve similar procedures and principles. It should be our "business" to do some of that as well. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Rhythm and prominence: The place of effective haptic anchoring

Clip art: Clker
Clip art: Clker
I have been aware of the "Interactive Metronome" program, linked above, for several years. For a number of conditions it has been used very successfully. (The promo says that there are over 20,000 certified trainers!) It uses a combination of audio input of a rhythmic beep, along with hand clapping and feet tapping for steps, for both diagnostic and therapeutic purposes. I was asked if it fit within the HICP framework of haptic procedures. Yes and no.

On the one hand (no pun intended) it does involve movement and touch. In general, however, I am not a proponent of hand clapping and repetitious foot tapping for anything other than just getting the "feel" of the rhythm of speaking. I do not recommend tapping out or clapping out the syllables of a word or phrase, for example, as the primary technique for anchoring prominence (word or phrasal stress). One reason for that relates to the research reported earlier on the blog focusing on the nature of tactile and kinaesthetic memory. Tactile memory, relative to audio and video memory, for example, tends to be more easily "overwritten," or sensitive to cross-modal competition. In other words, another anchor or distraction in the same "vicinity" will, in effect, be more likely to "erase," downgrade or get confounded with the earlier one.

What that implies is that a pedagogical movement pattern (PMP) that attempts to anchor stressed syllables haptically in one area of the body and unstressed syllables in another, for instance, should be more effective than simple, repetitive clapping of hands or tapping of feet, which tries to anchor or write in both stressed and non-stressed on the same location. The rhythmic practice versions of four EHIEP protocols do that in using a regular rhythm "tempo," not all that different from a metronome. (I sometimes do use a metronome with learners who do not have much of a felt sense of rhythm--of any kind!) The body location combinations are: deltoid--elbow, hand touch--outside hip, index finger tap--to center palm or fingernails to center palm in various positions in the visual field. No excessive applause or foot stomping to "get" attention for prominence needed--or all that effective either!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Learn L2 grammar like a native?

Clipart: Clker
Only if you learn it in an immersion-based program (rather than a more pre-frontal approach relying on more explanation, etc.,), according to these two studies by Morgan-Short et al. (2012.) From the summary description in Science Daily it is, as usual, nearly impossible to figure out what the actual protocols and procedures were--and the original article is unaccessible. What is being claimed is that an "immersion treatment" resulted in activation of brain areas more like that of a native speaker. Just how much so, of course, is not characterized either.

The question applies to pronunciation instruction as well. Is it necessary or even preferable to learn it "like a native?" That the experiments even emulated "native like" is quite arguable as well. To quote another of my heros (philosopher Bertrand Russell): A difference that doesn't make a difference doesn't make a difference . . . The often unexamined assumption that how pronunciation is learned by native speakers should invariably serve as our primary model for instruction needs to be reexamined in light of today's developing multi-disciplinary collaboration in the field and CALL technology. We'll come back to that theme shortly in deconstructing some haptic-integration techniques, methodologists and methods. In the meantime, as a very useful exercise, consider what it might mean to your work were that no longer the case

Sunday, April 1, 2012

It's experiential, Stupid! ("Getting" haptic methodology)

Clip art: Clker
At the conclusion of our recent demonstration at the TESOL convention, Getting optimal pronunciation from the dictionary and beyond, a participant walked up and related his personal experience of the session. What he said will probably be one of my opening stories for some time to come. It went something like this: "After you and your colleagues demonstrated and explained the method, I turned to my friend and told him that I did not have a clue as to what you were talking about. After you lead the audience through an example, using the 10 steps-- still nothing! Then, as we were doing the pair work with the haptic anchors and gestures . . . I got it! This is really EXPERIENTIAL learning! What an "Aha! moment!"  I went from clueless to believer in 5 minutes."

I have seen that happen probably hundreds of times over the years. Until some have had that felt sense of kinaesthetic or haptic integration, it can just not make much sense. What a great story. What an experience.