Thursday, July 12, 2012

Get in the mood for pronunciation work? Try a touch of vowel color!

Clipart: Clker
Clip art: Clker
According to this research by Ackermann and colleagues at MIT, summarized by ScienceNow, touch--expressed in texture and hardness--can not only "color" one's mood but "impact . . . how we perceive the world!" For example, " . . . running your hand over sandpaper may make you view social interactions as more hostile and competitive." In the study, subjects put together either a puzzle with pieces that had sandpaper-like texture or one where the pieces had by contrast, a very smooth surface. Depending on which puzzle they had assembled, their mood in responding to a video clip varied accordingly. So, how is what students touch in your class affecting how they feel about the work? In the EHIEP vowel protocol (a set of techniques for teaching and anchoring the vowels of English), there are four distinct touch-textures: (a) a light tapping (lax vowels), (b) gently dragging the fingernails across the palm of the other hand (diphthongs or tense vowels plus off-glide), (c) holding the hands together gently (tense vowels), and (d) one hand pushing the other hand about 5 centimeters either to left or to the right (lengthened lax vowels before voice consonants). Those pedagogical movement patterns (PMPs) are also performed while articulating the vowel with as much "euphonic resonance" as possible, anchoring the sound to the movement and touch-texture. The mood encouraged by those PMPs, based on the sensations experienced on the hands, is at least pleasant (See earlier post.), if not slightly stimulating. (This sense of the potential "coloring" of one's mood by "vowel-texture-touch" is different from but somewhat related to the inherent visual intensity or phonaesthetic quality of vowels in English, addressed in several earlier posts.) Assuming that the class began with something of a full-body warm up, the effect of haptic-integrated touch-on-vowels should at least help learners to perceive the process more positively. It does more than that, of course, but systematic attention to "mood maintenance' is always a nice touch. 

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