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. 

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