Saturday, July 14, 2012

Better pronunciation? Better sleep on it!

Clip art: Clker

Clip art: Clker
The basic visual, pedagogical "tool" of HICP work--and the EHIEP system--is a 3 by 3 matrix enveloping the visual field in front of the learner. Vowels, stress assignment, rhythm and intonation are anchored in various ways in that conceptual space. It is, for vowels, for example, a mirror image of the standard IPA matrix. In part because learners use the "matrix" so extensively in learning and practicing target pronunciation, it is not uncommon to hear reports of them dreaming related to the experience. In a rather remarkable 2010 experiment, summarized by Science Magazine, Wamsley, Stickgold and colleagues at Harvard School of Medicine had subjects work with a maze problem--before taking a nap! Those who reported dreams related to it while asleep--performed significantly better on the problem after they woke up. Hmm . . . I have generally recommended that students do their practice in the morning before work, for any number of reasons, including just time management and having a fresher  mind and body to work with. I may reconsider, or at least begin something of an informal experiment, asking some students to practice daily after morning coffee, as usual, and the rest, just before falling asleep. Sounds promising. We'll see what happens. Until we get some "dreamy" data, however . . . better just sleep on it!

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