Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Correct pronunciation! (Don't "baby" them!)

Photo credit: REX / The Telegraph
Sometimes it is simply fascinating when a research study on speech development "goes viral" on the internet--and comes out on various "news" sites. Here is a wonderful example. A 2011 study by MacDonald et al (Technical University of Sweden) found that " . . . toddlers' speech didn't change in response to altered feedback, suggesting that long-held assumptions regarding the role of self-perception in articulatory development need to be reconsidered." Really? Collins, in the Telegraph online, takes from that the lead line that "Parents 'should correct toddlers' pronunciation.'" Conley, on ABC online, on the other hand, cites the researcher as saying that parents should, instead, not correct toddlers' pronunciation, but be patient, provide a rich language environment, and wait until their child gets to age four or so. My first guess is that there is a parallel process or benchmark with adult learners as well, when a window on correcting of pronunciation opens--and then closes not too long after for most. The research on correction of adult L2 learner pronunciation is all over the map, from seemingly effective in the lab (at least in the short term) or under extreme repetition, to of little or no value if (simply) modelled by the instructor. My second guess, as addressed in several earlier posts as well, is that some of the problem is how we--and the researchers in the study cited--define "self-perception" of pronunciation--as primarily auditory. How you feel about that makes a great difference. Haptic-integration. If you don't understand self-perception of pronunciation (at least in speech production and change) as fundamentally body- or somatically-based, you need to correct that . . . 

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