Saturday, June 30, 2012

NEW BLOG! "Haptic-integrated pronunciation teaching"

Have just created a blog for publishing reports, formal or informal, on classroom applications of haptic-integrated teaching. I have collected dozens of stories and anecdotes from the over the past six or seven years relating to the use of EHIEP protocols in teaching. Some have already been reported on this blog and will gradually be linked again off the new one. Anytime a report is posted there, it will also be linked here in the right column. If you have brief reports or stories you'd  like to contribute, email me ( and I'll put you on as an author. I'll post my first report from one of the early EHIEP classroom "experiments" tomorrow. Keep in touch!

The (left-to-) right way to teach and anchor pronunciation

Clipart: Clker
Earlier posts have examined aspects of the visual field. In general terms, for at least English speakers, the right side comes off as (a) somewhat brighter, (b) more energetic, (c) more analytic, (d) more change-oriented . . . and, it turns out,  according to this study of soccer referees, (e) a bit more positive (or less "foul"?)--when an action is seen as moving left to right, rather than in the opposite direction. If the potential foul incurred by a player moving right to left, versus left to right in the visual field of the referee, there was a statistically significant chance that it was more likely to be called. According to the ScienceShots research summary, this phenomena is established in other fields as well and is actively exploited, for example, by cartoonists. Of course, some of the basis for that has to do with the fact that each eye is (roughly speaking) "controlled by" the opposing hemisphere of the brain. The research and popular understanding of "left" vs "right" brain functioning corresponds to many of those differing characteristics of the visual field as well. The fact that most of the EHIEP pedagogical movement patterns go from left to right and terminate in the right visual field is, however, post-theoretical. By that I mean that the practice developed through classroom experience initially, not based on the neurophysiological evidence that has come to light since. The "positive" bias goes consistently in the student's direction. In the visual field of the instructor observing students doing PMPs, on the contrary, all the motion appears to go . . . right to left. I'm going to explore this. In the meantime, just check your mood before class begins (See previous post!) and go easy on "yellow" carding of pronunciation and sloppy PMPing, eh!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Transformation and "Transdiagnosis" of pronunciation

Clipart: Clker

Clipart: Clker
In this article from ScienceDaily, summarizing the research of Norton of the University of Houston, it is reported that "Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy" (CBT) for a client who has some "pronounced" anxiety problem--and also focuses appropriately on related psychological phenomena, such as mood, general confidence, self-image or self-awareness--will have the effect of "improving" those as well. The distinction that Norton is making is that even though normally that kind of "collateral" improvement happens anyway, it is substantially stronger when the initial diagnosis and ongoing treatment focuses on them proportionately as well. So what does that mean for pronunciation instruction, especially haptic-integrated work? Essentially, it is a reaffirmation of the "whole person" approach to instruction with one important difference. From the CBT perspective, as in Critical Phonology and other "critical" frameworks, the bottom line is that explicit, 2-way, reciprocal,  interactive connections are made in the mind of the learner between the main focus of "instruction" (in this case, pronunciation) and potential changes in related, generally affective factors such as attitude, motivation, L2 identity, etc. In other words, since a positive attitude enhances pronunciation change, the converse is also the case. As "common-sensical" as that is, the practical implications of that in the classroom are worth considering. If you can at least moderate the bad mood or negative attitude of a learners in class before pronunciation work, should you actively do that? And how? You often will not be able to simply "talk them out of it"-- but with regular, carefully choreographed, Lessac-like, body-based warm ups and haptic-based (movement and touch) exercises--you can, almost invariably. Just do it. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Write off anxiety about problematic pronunciation?

Clipart: Clker

Clipart: Clker
In our continuing series about dealing with stress associated with pronunciation change, here's another possible technique suggested by research by Ramirez and Beilock on mediating test anxiety. (Something analogous is often suggested in recommendations on the use of pronunciation "logs" or "diaries," as well.) In their study, they found that " . . . The students who aired their anxieties (in writing) showed an average 5% improvement on the second test, whereas the others broke under pressure and their scores dropped by 12% . . . the cathartic effect of writing about your emotions is exemplified by blues music. Putting your thoughts and feelings down has been shown to increase emotional and even physical well-being," Of course, if not managed right, that could be also be a pronunciation-pedagogical "Pandora's Box," but that function is basic to all effective change process. In a very real sense, the act of "embodying" the concerns regularly in a notebook probably contributes much more than the comments in reply made by the instructor. (I'd even go so far as to say that the physical, kinaesthetic act of doing that on on paper with a pen, as opposed to electronically, is essential to effective catharsis and anchoring!) I'll conclude with a couple of verses from a song, a 12-bar blues, I wrote several years ago on the lack of respect given to the syllable in pronunciation teaching, The Syllablues: 

Oh . . sometimes I do get stressed, Baby
And sometimes, I don't.
Oh . . sometimes I do get stressed, Baby
And sometimes, I don't. 
But when I do, Teacher,
Jus' "swish" you'd take note.

But when I get stuck in a backgrounded theme, I
Get real down an' doubt.
But when I get stuck in a backgrounded theme, I
Get real down an' doubt.
I get confused, compressed and depressed
Can't get my feelings out. 

I feel better already. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Touching: relieving the pain and stress (of pronunciation work!)

Clipart: Clker

Clipart: Clker
EHIEP protocols make use almost exclusively of self-touch, generally at the terminal point of a pedagogical movement pattern by one or both hands across the visual field. Among the many "touch therapies," Jin Shin Jyutsu is well known for its healing and restorative power. In a recent study, where Jin Shin Jyutsu was used with cancer patients, summarized by Science Daily, it was discovered that " . . . in each session patients experienced significant improvement in the areas of pain, stress, and nausea . . . During a Jin Shin Jyutsu session, patients receive light touches on 52 specific energetic points called Safety Energy Locks as well as fingers, toes, and midpoints on the upper arm, upper calf and lower leg in predetermined orders known as "flows." Setting aside for the moment the cultural, hygiene and interpersonal (especially "inter-gender") issues involved in having learners touch each other in class, what we might call "pair anchoring" does have real potential--especially if I can figure out how to use some of those "safety energy locks!" By that I mean, for example, one learner safely touches the hand of another on stressed elements in words, phrases and sentences. I have experimented some with "tag teams" (kind of a nice analogy there to teams in professional wrestling, in fact.) I have done that occasionally when I have had couples studying with me or by using gloves, pencils, tennis balls and other "interfaces" during student-on-student anchoring exercises. That seems to at the very least relieve some of the pain and stress! Generally speaking, it is also very motivating in making pair work, work. In one protocol, in fact, having students use boxing gloves to develop better rhythm (See my earlier, relatively goofy, Youtube "Fight Club"!) seems to be amazingly effective. Unfortunately, boxing gloves are expensive, hard to get on an off and also relatively unsanitary by today's standards. But you get the idea. In time, with virtual reality haptic systems, "tag team haptic anchoring" will be more pedagogically acceptable, I'm sure. In the meantime,  try a few of the protocols with your BFF, "manno-a-manno!"

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Phonetic (or phonemic) gesture revisited (in the classroom)

Clipart: Clker

Clipart: Clker
In the development of our understanding of speech perception, one of the terms used by some researchers was "phonetic gesture." It essentially referred to the process by which sounds are perceived--the articulatory, not the acoustic properties. The key question was just how much one's ability to articulate a sound determined ones's ability to perceive it. What subsequent research has shown is that it is a mixed bag; the relationship between external properties of sound and our internal processing of it is very complex and developmental as well. In short, ongoing perception of speech turns out to be more a matter of our conceptual systems "expectations" than it is with the actual physical properties of what we hear. That is not to say that the felt sense of the bodily "mechanics" is not important and cannot contribute both to understanding and learning. I like the term, phonetic gesture, as relating to the somatic, physical side of sound production and perception. In our work, a better application of that idea might be "phonemic gesture," that is pedagogical movement patterns that represent key meaningful units of sound within English, including vowels, rhythm patterns, stress assignment and intonation contours. As noted earlier, one of my first, informal research studies was to sit in classes of my colleagues and take notes on the use of gesture they used to accompany pronunciation instruction. Those observations got me started on this line of thinking about 20 years ago. That language instructors adapt gesture for many purposes was the subject of this research by Stam and Teller. (Their work is reported in other publications as well.) One interesting finding was the expansion of the range and depth of field of motion of gesture used " . . . an equivalent of shouting in gesture form." So, what is your current pedagogical "phonemic gesture inventory?" What do you mean

Monday, June 25, 2012

Pronunciation teaching depressing? In a phonological phunk? Try some Tai Chi!

Clipart: Clker
This is a fun article from the UK Independent (not exactly @ the top of the list of my favorite sources of research studies . . . ) on the potential effect of Tai Chi on depression. The claims for the benefits of Tai Chi are extensive, from bigger brains, to longer life . . . to antidepressant. One of the EHIEP protocols, in fact, is termed the "Tai Chi fluency protocol," inspired by watching amazingly flexible and "tranquil-looking" seniors do Tai Chi every morning out in front of my apartment in Japan. In addition to bilateral brain engagement (basically making both hands touch on every pedagogical movement pattern), each of the protocols has at least one other distinct meta-function:
Clipart: Clker

  • Warm up Protocol - Expanding the visual and physical field of operation
  • Body Flexibility Protocol - Muscle flexibility of the face, shoulders and hips
  • Vowel Resonance Protocol - Focus vowel centers (between the eyes, voice box and upper chest)
  • Matrix Anchoring Protocol - Precision of node positions (points where hands touch)
  • Vowel/Word stress Protocol - Establish relative conceptual, spatial and haptic "distances" between vowels
  • Sensuous Syllable Butterfly Protocol - In addition to bilateral grounding (bringing the learner back into the room, etc.), establish the felt sense of English rhythm groups--up to 7 syllables
  • Touch-i-nami (intonation) Protocol - Anchor basic intonation contours and expressiveness
  • Tai Chi Fluency Protocol - Fluency and expansion of general pitch range
  • Rhythmic Feet FIght Club - Compact conversational phrases and anchor pause structure
  • Baton Integration Protocol - Integrate most of the above . . . 

If one of those won't "move" you and your class out of a temporary "phonological funk," nothing will!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

TIme for pronunciation change

Clipart: Clker

Clipart: Clker
Following up on a few recent posts dealing with what goes on outside of class, today we'll look briefly at a set of principles of time management for clinical research professionals that provides a nice model for students. (If you, too, could use a little more productive time, this piece could be helpful as well.) In any teaching context the use of some kind of systematic pronunciation diary or log that includes a time management or practice scheduling function can be very effective. I have for decades used both: (a) Students plan their practice sessions that will take place before the next class--before they walk out the door (sometimes requiring my approval as well!), and (b) they also keep regular notes on how the practices went and related reflections on relevant "pronunciation events" (for them personally and their specific goals) that occur either in or out of class. Here is the recommended "clinical researcher's" framework, with my annotations:
  • Use only one prioritized list — planner system, notebook, or calendar — for home as well as work. And make at least parts of that available for instructor review or consultation. 
  • Update the list at the end of the day, rather than the morning . . . including reflections and "data."
  • Consider the penalty, impact, and payoff of  . . .  a task. This can be a radical proposal for many learners, having to take full responsibility for the actions and time. 
  • Review you goals and action plans each day prior to compiling your list . . . in the morning after coffee, breakfast and doing your basic pronunciation work. 
  • Before you start a task that is not on your list, ask yourself, “Will what I am about to do move me closer to my objectives?” That, of course, assumes that the objectives are clearly articulated and achievable!
  • Give yourself time to relax, meditate, or “goof-off.” (I, personally, also recommend regular aerobic exercise for my students as well.) Even if that only means sufficient sleep, research has validated repeatedly the place of critical "down time" for the brain in efficient learning. (In the EHIEP system, practice is scheduled on alternative days, not daily, although a morning warm up is highly recommended.) 
Got time to do some of that with your students? 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Fossilized pronunciation: recidivism unanchored

Clipart: Clker
Clipart: Clker
A grad student is doing a research paper looking at the conditions under which learners are able to anchor new pronunciation outside of the classroom, in conversation with those around them or strangers. (I may report on that later, too.) This has been a key theme of my work (especially pronunciation classes for nonnative business professionals) for decades. About the time I was publishing my first article on fossilized pronunciation, I became aware of the model for preparing prisoners for return to society developed by Prison Fellowship entitled, Innerchange Freedom Initiative. (That, in turn, was  based on a project created by the Catholic church in Brazil sometime earlier.) That approach to rehabilitation, which continues to have a very impressive record in avoiding recidivism (having to go back to prison after being released) was based on several principles:

  • Participants are assigned a mentor who stays with them throughout and beyond the program. 
  • It begins two years before release and continues for one year after.
  • It is a holistic, involving, academic, vocational, spiritual, life skills, and substance abuse training. 
  • In the post-prison phase, prisoners are assisted in finding employment and getting connected to a local church.

Now not to run too far with the analogy here of "fossilized" learners being "imprisoned" by their heavily accented pronunciation . . . There were two aspects of the IFI framework that caught my attention and became integral to the system I developed for dealing with fossilized pronunciation, other than the holistic, integrated whole person model: the importance of (a) the value of the learner's connection to the local community in ensuring that change lasted, and (b) maintaining a less formal "mentoring" or consulting relationships for at least a short period beyond the program. What I discovered early on was that (a) could often greatly enhance (b), pointing students to quality opportunities for practice and giving them advice on strategies and preparation--something more than "Now go practice your English with your friends or the tourists . . . " 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Focus on "Phon" (in integrated pronunciation instruction): Post hoc FOP

Clipart: Clker
Clipart: Clker
"Focus on form" has become a basic construct of contemporary language teaching. (Wikipedia has a nice, concise definition, based on Long 1991.) Although there are several variants on this theme today, Long's key assumption was " . . . the learner must be aware of the meaning and use of the language features before the form is brought to their attention." [Italics, mine.] In other words, that would appear to exclude doing a little mini-lesson just before learners are to encounter a problematic form. (That is actually a bit extreme, but let's go with that for now.) Go a step further and focus on those situations where the learner (not just the instructor) is also aware of the "problem," perhaps based on a breakdown in communication or a very evident pronunciation or articulation difficulty--even if the task was not entirely compromised at the time. In other words, an obvious, easily recognized mis-pronunciation happens which deserves "treatment." We'll call this one "Post Hoc FOP." There are at least three other logical possibilities (my terms here): "Pre-Hoc FOP," and "Mid-Hoc FOP" and "Sub-Hoc FOP" which will be dealt with later. Those are, in a very real sense, relatively spontaneous clinical interventions based in real-time communication. So, what do you do? Here are a few to get the ball rolling (One of these, some combination of these or something else.) Instructor . . .

  • Ignores it.
  • Notes covertly and consults with student privately later. 
  • Requests target be repeated out loud, by learner or class as a whole
  • Leads learner to correct approximation of the sound.
  • Models correct pronunciation once or twice without further attention.
  • Passes to learner written note on "error."
  • Does a quick, impromptu (probably canned) insightful explanation
  • Instructs learner to "notice" something . . .
  • Uses gesture signalling pronunciation issue (may be very differentiated to indicate part of speech, etc.)
  • Points to Gattegno-like wall chart . . . 
  • Instructs learner to put the target sound or word on personal practice list or in pronunciation diary or "log." 
  • Has peer point out error. 
  • Has peer makes notes to be shared later.
  • (Haptic-integrated) does word or phrase with learner using appropriate pedagogical movement pattern a couple of times. 
  • (Haptic-integrated) instructs learner to do word or phrase as homework. (See also earlier posts on EHIEP-based homework frameworks.) 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

(SRBIIIPI) Scientific, research-based interventions in integrated pronunciation instruction - 1

SRBI is a very catchy acronym in contemporary eduction. The 12 principles involved, which focus on system-wide design of instruction delivery, are listed on page 2 of the linked document. Very impressive sounding, especially the "scientific, research-based" qualifiers up front. So how can we be sure that we are doing SRBI in stepping in to provide feedback or correction during a speaking-oriented lesson? (The research in the field on effectiveness of such classroom interventions as "noticing," "focus on form," "uptake," "re-modeling"and a few others, especially in grammar-oriented instruction is inconclusive, at best--let alone suggestive of how to actually conduct such impromptu pronunciation interventions.)  In considering how to make such effective, on-the-spot, in process interventions in integrated pronunciation instruction, with a little of the usual "application by analogy" that happens regularly on this blog, that SRBI model is useful. Here are four relevant bullets. (Visualize this applying on a moment-by-moment basis in a conversation class, for example, where students have stumbled onto a pronunciation issue that really deserves attention immediately):

• The use of research-based, effective instructional strategies both within and across a variety of academic domains.
• Differentiation of instruction for all learners, including students performing above and below grade level expectations and English language learners (ELLs).
• Common assessments of all students that enable teachers to monitor academic and social progress, and identify those who are experiencing difficulty early.
• Early intervention for students experiencing academic and/or behavioral difficulties to prevent the development of more serious educational issues later on.

Clipart: Clker
Tomorrow's post will take those four bullets as a point of departure to consider what we might call "Experience-based pronunciation interventions," a few of the strategies (including haptic-integrated examples) that experienced instructors resort to on such occasions which address the problem, provide learners with a good anchor for remediation and practice--all without irreparably disrupting the overall flow of the class and the topic under discussion. Will, of course, invite your contributions to that discussion as well! 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Connecting sound and gesture in pronunciation teaching

Clipart: Clker
Clipart: Clker
Explaining how gesture can facilitate learning of sound and how sound, in turn, can be associated with gesture is not easy. For some, just "explaining" it experientially by leading them through a few basic protocols is sufficient. In doing workshops (like the most recent one) there will always be a group of relatively experienced instructors who for any number of reasons seem to "get it" it quickly. (Students, in general, get it immediately, regardless!) For those with no background in pronunciation teaching, who are just by nature more highly "pre-frontal" (requiring a great deal of explicit, systematic rationale before buying a new technique) or who are just not very "gesticular," more is required. Have been looking for a relatively recent research summary article or two that I can point to that makes the case  persuasively. Found a couple. This one, from 2008 by Kelly, Manning and Rodak, and this one, from 2005 by Empkin, Cramer and Reikinsmeyer will serve for the time being. The former, although not from a refereed journal, provides a very nice overview of research (and some application) on the relationship between gesture and language. The latter, a report on a research project looking at the effect of haptic guidance on learning of movement, demonstrates clearly what touch contributes to the process. (There are several other similar studies reported here on the blog in the past year.) Until we get some controlled, empirical studies of the efficacy of the EHIEP protocols, inferential evidence such as this and anecdotal reports from classroom trials--along with experiential, participatory demonstrations--will have to suffice. Beginning soon, I am going to begin posting reports from colleagues, "Hapticians" who use EHIEP protocols in their classrooms, along with a bit of theoretical commentary. (Or I may start another blog for that purpose, as noted earlier.) Keep in touch. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Overcoming pronunciation anxiety II--with (& in) class!

Clipart: Clker
Clipart: Clker
The stress generated by pronunciation instruction, especially the "public" performance side of the process so necessary for integration of change, gets a bad rap. (Anxiety brought to class by the learner, as alluded to in the previous post, not withstanding.) A recent study, summarized in the Wall Street Journal, provides a little more neurophysiological evidence for that principle. What the researcher points out is that the stress should be immediate-task-based, not general fear of failure or longer term existential questions. The article concludes with the following: "We'll say to athletes, 'You're going to be anxious. Great. Channel it and use it," Dr. Josephson says. "Being willing to feel some anxiety and not running away from it is huge." Although I have not been able to find the research piece I discovered earlier on the "advantage" of some types of group therapy, I have for decades been operating on the principle that a balanced "diet" of both the private and public practice is essential for most efficient pronunciation change. (That is why tutoring in pronunciation for some may be relatively ineffectual--if the learner does not also have a meaningful place to practice, especially one where the "new" personna will be readily accepted or at least not noticed!) That, in part, explains why occasionally I encounter a student, especially from China, who has developed extraordinary pronunciation and fluency from having studied back home only in an "all English" college that was exceedingly serious about controlling learner practice 24-7. This is another important dimension of integrated pronunciation instruction not addressed in the pronunciation research literature. To quote the article once more: "You have to embrace the anxiety to overcome it."-- even if only with a quick, 3-second "Shhh!" (See previous post!) 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Shhh! Overcoming pronunciation (and haptic) anxiety--one word or phrase at a time.

In a recent workshop, we had an especially anxious (and nearly belligerent) participant. In talking with him it became evident that the haptic-integrated pronunciation work was really not the problem, although something was certainly triggering his strong reaction to the process. Recently, with the aid of fMRI technology, the underlying basis of such responses was for the first time mapped in the brain by Shervin at the University of Michigan. Freud would have been very pleased, indeed, to get empirical validation that subliminal, unconscious messages can, indeed, set off reactions to present events--based on either past experiences or continuing, underlying psychological conflicts. It is not uncommon for learners or instructors to experience anxiety when first asked to consciously move their bodies in public. (In general, the latter are far more restive and problematic than the former!) Embodiment theories provide a number of perspectives on how and why that may happen as well. Such reactions can usually be diffused in a number of ways, from a brief explanation to carefully staged introduction of pedagogical gesture, but occasionally they cannot. When that happens the learner should be allowed to remain in a disengaged, observer role. (See earlier posts on effective modelling in that context as well.) Although we cannot possibly anticipate every action or random expression which might set off such aversion to EHIEP protocols, we must work to create experiences that capture learners and their attention--for about 3 seconds at a time--so as to at least moderate counterproductive reaction. The disaffected instructor in the workshop suggested an alternative which I intend to explore further. (Just need to find a "new" class to try this out on! Any volunteers?) At least temporarily, we'll set aside all the "pointless and confusing" warm ups and introduction to the various (8) sub-systems of English pronunciation that form the basis of the overall, haptic-video-based EHIEP approach, and, with only the briefest of visual (spoken or written) rationale, "simply" use the pedagogical movement patterns to correct mispronunciations or introduce new sound processes, as necessary during normal speaking or conversation instruction. There is some anecdotal evidence that that works. The question is in what contexts and how efficiently, of course--and whether it can be done without at least a quick, simultaneous, accompanying, subliminal, heartfelt haptic "hug." (Shhh!) 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Fathering persistence in pronunciation instruction

Apropos for the day, a recent research study (summarized by ScienceDaily) by Padilla-Walker and Day of Brigham Young University on factors influencing persistence, examining the potential contribution of fathers to development of persistence in teenagers. The longitudinal study basically asked the question "Can your child stick with it?" and concluded the following about children who could:
  • [They] felt warmth and love from their father.
  • Accountability and the reasons behind rules were emphasized.
  • [They] were granted an appropriate level of autonomy [italics, mine].
  • [There were] above-average levels of authoritative parenting[italics, mine].
  • [The fathers] engaged in high quality interactions, even if the quantity of those interactions might have been lower than is desirable.

Research on adult exercise persistence has demonstrated similar principles of persistence but generally only in regard to the aspects of the learner's personality or the overall environment provided, for example, by the health club. I have yet to find a systematic study of the relationship between the leadership style (e.g., parent vs facilitator) of the coach and trainee persistence. Note the two terms in italics in the list: autonomy and authority. One reason that many have serious aversions to pronunciation work is that it requires all five of the above--but especially the exercise of both authority and (Here it comes!) . . . power. It simply does not fit well with contemporary learner-centered, non-evaluative and (overtly) non-directive approaches that can generally be very effective in motivating learners to do high level, strategic thinking and reading, general acquisition of vocabulary and developing fluency. (It did resonate well, of course, with the structuralists' drill and practice ethos.) Getting students to consistently and persistently do their pronunciation homework-and providing them with effective and systematic practice at the same time--can be enormously challenging. Are you comfortable with being more of an authority figure in pronunciation work? Apparently, you need to be . . . 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

IPA (Intra-personal physical alphabet) basics for pronunciation teaching

Had a fascinating discussion with an ESL teacher recently who maintained that knowing basic IPA for English (international phonetic alphabet) was irrelevant--for him! Asked how students are to get the pronunciation of a new word, his response was simply ("All they have to do is consult . . . ": online audio from a learner dictionary or DVD.  (For some student populations, we could probably find some common ground there!) In phonics teaching there are probably hundreds of "body alphabet" schemas and dances. (I kind of like this one!) Where he actually had it right, I think, was with use of IPA with learners--when it is not used systematically in integrated instruction. If learners cannot accurately relate the symbol to the sound, (if it is not anchored well, in EHIEP terms) it is worse than pointless--at least those sounds that are especially problematic for a learner. As noted in several earlier posts, effective use of the dictionary for anchoring pronunciation, meaning and usage is generally essential to efficient learning beyond basic functional (primarily oral) usage, which requires at least orientation to a limited set of dictionary phonetic symbols. EHIEP work begins with physically anchoring of the vowel system, first lax (what we refer to as "rough" vowels) and then tense+off glide and diphthongs (what we refer to as "dynamic" vowels), something of an "Intra-personal, physical phonetic alphabet!" The best analogy is sign language. Here is a brief Youtube clip of me doing a  the "dynamic" vowels. That is representative of the entire EHIEP system, in fact. Before long, as soon as we get the complete EHIEP haptic-videos all edited and publicly available, the training of students--and instructor--can be done in IPPPA, as well! Keep in touch. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Explaining haptic-integrated pronunciation work to students

We are doing a workshop today at King George International College in Vancouver. One section of the handout has a helpful set of guidelines to use in talking to students about the system:
  • EHIEP will help you learn and remember vocabulary and pronunciation better. 
  • All you have to do is follow the instructions. 
  • It is a good way for the instructor to correct your errors. 
  • It is fun, relaxing and easy to do. 
  • After each class video lesson, you must practice three times a week, in the morning for about 30 minutes before you come to school. (It is better to practice every other day, not every day.) 
  • It is based in part on research on touch and movement in computer games and robotics--very much like Wii and iPhone! 
  • And if those points don't work, the default position: Let your body decide. Experience it for a few lessons and then make up your mind. Almost never fails . . .

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Perfect pronunciation teaching or just a quick tune up? (How to perfect it!)

Clipart: Clker

Clipart: Clker
"To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often." (Winston Churchill) Books, workshops, seminars and consultants to help you change are easy enough to find . . . "Change theory" alone gets over 340,000 hits. I have always liked Lewin's model of "Unfreeze, change and refreeze." Doing it is not all that complicated either; it is the very heart of good professional development. (I am writing this post in response to a student who feigned horror at the discovery of all the changes in procedures and name that have taken place in the development of the EHIEP system over the last 8 years.) One of my favorite models is in the enormously popular book, The Goal: A process of ongoing improvement, a novel by Goldratt. The one aspect of the framework that has always fascinated me is the principle that change at the "technique level" (in language teaching terms) is method-neutral, that is almost any technique can be incorporated into any method. And furthermore, just that ongoing process of bringing in new techniques, which initially may not appear (or be!) compatible with the current system "from above," itself, creates an atmosphere and systemic, dynamic approach that enables constructive change. In essence, what happens is that the new procedure causes a subtle but very important level of adjustment in the overall system that serves to keep it flexible and responsive. How that works is not simple, of course, but the evidence of it is. What was the last new widget that you let sneak into and impact your method? How are things working "[wI-jIt]?"

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Embodied, imaginative pronunciation practice

Clipart: Clker
Clipart: Clker
In workshops, I often begin with the question: What do you know about how your students work on their pronunciation outside of class? Do they? (To paraphrase a current country western song, "What happens in pronunciation class, all too often . . . stays in pronunciation class!") In a nice piece on learning a new piece for the flute--which is easily translated into our work, Lea Pearson offers the following:  "Embodied practicing is practicing in which you engage your whole self - body, mind, emotions and multisensory awareness - in all you do. It has three main aspects: Learning the music away from the flute, imaginary practicing and regular practicing." Note especially the bridge from cognitive, intellectual attention to the piece of music as communication, to "regular" whole-person, normal performance: imaginary practicing. By that she means ' . . . imagining everything you might be doing to make the music – finger movement, breathing, embouchure changes, dynamics, articulation, expression, etc – all with a multisensory awareness." What this framework contributes to our understanding of (haptic-) integrated practice is the role of expressiveness and creativity in anchoring changed pronunciation. As noted in earlier posts, expressiveness and enthusiasm do not always contribute positively to the process (both can also serve to undermine anchoring of specific targets as well) but carefully managed "embodied practice" as described by Pearson seems very promising. More on the specifics of how that "bridge" might work in EHIEP instruction later. Imagine that!

Monday, June 11, 2012

EHIEP PMP as haptic communication

Clipart: Clker

Clipart: Clker
The pedagogical movement patterns (PMP) of the Essential haptic-integrated English pronunciation (EHIEP) system, which involve both movement of hands across the visual field, along with systematic self-touch of hands and upper body, like all "interpersonal and intrapersonal" gestures, are culturally defined and express meanings beyond the specific pedagogical functions assigned (e.g., stress marking, intonation "tracing," rhythm grounding, sound-change anchoring.) Those serve both intra- and interpersonal functions, and given recent research on mirror neurons, it is clear that the brain makes far less distinction between the felt sense of self- versus other-touch than previously thought. Jones and Yarbrough (1985), for example, identified 10 categories of such "haptic communication." That framework serves as a nice template for understanding these "parallel" or complementary meanings or unconscious suggestions inherent in the EHIEP protocols:

1. Touch as Positive Affect - Aside from doing a regular body and vocal tract warm up, the "positive" felt sense of connecting up new or changed sound patterns with "their" words is a definite upper!
2. Touch as Negative Affect - For some learners, getting comfortable with the haptic system takes time. When done carefully and thoughtfully, however, it is rarely problematic.
3. Touch as Play - A sense of focused, yet relaxed and playful engagement is fundamental. directed body movement, itself, does much to create that.
4. Touch as Influence - That goes in both directions: the precision of the PMPs help create a more controlled and confident speaking style which, in turn, affects those with whom the learner is interacting.
5. Touch as Interaction Management - As noted in earlier posts, haptic engagement is the "glue" of many learning systems, that which controls attention and anchors key targets better in memory.
6. Touch as Interpersonal Responsiveness - The use of haptic-integrated protocols in class, especially for efficient correction of pronunciation is perhaps the strongest argument in favor of doing it.
7. Touch as Accidental - The distinction between designed, productive use of haptic anchoring as in the various PMPs and more typical types of touch used in the classroom, such as hand clapping or stretching rubber bands is striking. The former type enhance anchoring; the latter may as well confound it. (See earlier posts on that subject.)
8. Touch as Task Related - That is, of course, the bottom line with EHIEP, task-related touch and movement.
9. Touch as Healing - I could take this one several places but suffice it to say that, if only metaphorically, haptic-integration does greatly enable productive change.
10. Touch as Symbolism - The PMPs are both somatic and symbolic in a sense, connecting the felt sense of a word, for example, with its meaning and orthographic signature, but also involve the set of intrinsic "meanings" listed above.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Individual versus pair work in (haptic-integrated) pronunciation teaching

The advice out there on using pair and group work in pronunciation teaching is mixed. For focusing on the comprehensibility side, for example, Gilbert and others have developed a range of effective communicative pair instruction formats where articulation of the sound is essential to meaning. In general, the enthusiasm for group and pair work, although well documented in other areas of instruction, has not been validated, the subject of published research in pronunciation teaching. Neither has peer-based monitoring and correcting of oral production in class, especially at the segmental level, been systematically explored. The same applies for what goes on in individual practice or after class in the form of homework or ad hoc student-initiated practices. (There are a few examples, such as Stevick's classic, Success with foreign language learning . . .  available on for about $265 now!) That is all indicative of an overall "non-clinical" approach to instruction in the field today--the motivation for this blog!
     Most would agree that both group and individual work are advantageous in all contexts but often unrealistic in some settings as well. In EHIEP work, for effective results, both must be exploited continuously. The key--somewhat being enabled now by the development of cheap, accessible web-based technology--is the idea that  outside of claslearners should be able to learn and practice key pronunciation features from mirroring video models (See previous post.) At the same time they should also be working on their own, personal word lists and mini-dialogues, embedding and embodying new and changed elements. Efficient integration of pronunciation instruction in class and subsequent integration by students of those targets into their spontaneous speech, requires both effective "inside out" personal work and "outside in" social practice. The next breakthrough in pronunciation teaching is "mirror-ly" a matter of time--and (haptic-integrated) technology--as individualized practice first more systematically complements and then ultimately replaces the classroom. Keep in touch. 

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Learning pronunciation by mirroring instructor modeling

The value of mirroring nonverbal behavior is well established in several fields, including counseling psychology and  pronunciation instruction. In EHIEP instruction, students are introduced to 8 sets of pedagogical movement patterns across the visual field that are later used in classroom instruction. Although it is important that their initial experience with the gestural patterns accompanied by articulation of sounds or sound patterns is focused and multiple-modality engaged, it is not critical that they are able to do any of the patterns on their own, without direction of either a video or their instructor. In fact, given what we now know about the potency and behavior of mirror neurons (reported in several earlier posts, such as this one,) it seems less critical that there is some overt response. (There IS some sense to the "comprehensible input hypothesis, after all!)  In fact, an interesting model of that process is the one proposed by NLP practitioners, as in this piece characterizing the five stages of modeling in NLP: "The first phase is identifying an appropriate exemplar as the model of excellence. In phase two the modeller takes an unconscious uptake of patterns demonstrated by the model (this phase ties in with the findings on mirror neurons) avoiding conscious understanding at this stage. Phase three is an evaluative phase based on feedback gained from demonstrating the modelled patterns in the appropriate context." It is often sufficient that students just "get" to phase two, where they have internalized the pattern and can respond to it when later it is employed in instruction for anchoring or recall. At that point the student will only be asked to "move along with" the instructor repeating the sound or word being attended to, but it is probably sufficient just to have attended well enough so that his or her mirror neurons had picked up ("uptaken") and "recorded" or made note of the pedagogical movement pattern earlier. In other words, once well anchored, change just needs consistent practice outside of class and occasional, high value, context-rich, mirrored "re-modeling" in class. Looking good!

Digesting pronunciation change: Bob's 9-step

Clipart: Clker
Clipart: Clker
"It'll take me a while to digest that . . . " That comment from a student after having been given the recommended "haptic-integrated" homework, got me thinking. Digestion is not a bad metaphor for the process of integrating pronunciation change, in fact. As always, when faced with a question like that, we turn to Science Bob for an answer! In teaching, I often use similar heuristics in examining pedagogical processes. (Semiotically speaking, process integration is process integration, regardless of where in our experience it occurs.) When I walked through it, I was surprised how it forced explicit consideration of some transitions  So, strap on your analogical transponder and consider the parallel to Bob's 9-Step:

Clipart: Clker
  1. Teeth " . . . small enough pieces so that it can fit down our throats . . . "[Conceptual, explicit focus on form, generally initiated by the  appearance of a problematic pronunciation target during "regular" speaking or listening instruction] 
  2. Saliva " . . . soften . . . in the mouth so that it is easier to swallow . . . break down . . . into simpler forms . . "[Basic presentation of "target" to learner and practice plan introduced in class] 
  3. Tongue " . . . works  . . .  to form a "ball" that can be swallowed . . . helps us tell the difference between . . .sour . . . sweet . . . "[Embodiment and sensory, felt sense, haptic-integrated focus, using standard EHIEP protocol] 
  4. Esophagus " . . . a transportation tube from the mouth . . .closing a trap door in our throat . . . moves . . .  using muscles not gravity . . . '[Integrated, directed execution and practice of sound, sound-in-word or phrase in class and in homework] 
  5. Stomach " . . . moved around . . . .mixed . . .  for . . .  hours. When it is done . . . now . . . called chyme . . ."[Occurring in the next few days: haptic-integrated integration of sound-felt sense-meaning complex in memory] 
  6. Liver/gall bladder " . . . breaking down . . . . fat  . . . supply . . . energy later . . . " [Regular, focused practice of sound and sound in words, generally in personal word lists] 
  7. Pancreas " . . . adds . . . as the food leaves  . . . breaking down . . . carbohydrates" [Regular, context-based, integrated practice in conversationally relevant language, typically for a week or more] 
  8. Small intestine " . . . the real hero . . .  where the real digestion takes place . . .  put to use by the body . . . thousands of tiny fingers called villi . . .  absorb . . . and send them off . . . "[Appearance in conversation in various forms, both in production and reception; noted after the fact] 
  9. Large Intestine " . . . Whatever the body cannot put to use . . .  cannot be digested . . .necessary up until now . . . no longer needed . . ."[Change is fully integrated in conversation; pedagogical heuristics fade out and are discarded] 

Friday, June 8, 2012

"Robot-like" pronunciation?


Clipart: Clker
News release about a robot designed to teach English in Taiwan which " . . . has a "large doll head" and arms and a body that can make movements based on the dialogues being taught in an English class." Furthermore, " . . . the robot allows young students to learn to speak English in a "stressless" environment and in a fun way." Wow. On the one hand, "robotic," mechanical pronunciation teaching does not sound that "fun," but from the EHIEP perspective, also being able to provide learners with clear, consistent models of pedagogical movement patterns (see previous post) and accurate acoustic models is appealing. I have written earlier on the potential use of virtual reality avatars in our work. Our "EHIEP-bot" logo could use a little spiffying up, of course, but it does embody the spirit of what Professor Wu's baby is about--a balance of cognitive and affective anchoring, 3-second moments of concentrated focus and attention on sound processes. At times assuming the EHIEP-bot personna of "goofy, haptic precision" whether in presenting or practicing or providing corrective feedback can be extraordinarily effective. Sport your "hapticobot" this week; support your local "Haptician!"