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. 

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