Sunday, July 15, 2012

Three mistakes pronunciation instructors may make (especially if they play guitar badly)

Clip art: Clker
 It is not a coincidence that language instructors who gravitate toward speaking and pronunciation instruction tend to be musical. (My guess is that they play or have played an instrument or are singers of some sort as well. That connection is mentioned in several studies but I can find no systematic research on it.) Being a guitar player, one of the sites I stumbled on,, has a list of 3 mistakes to avoid and 6 principles to practice. (Unfortunately, to get to this list you have to sign up for the newsletter, etc.!) The "translation" to pronunciation work is very straightforward . . . if you play an instrument, especially the merging of motor learning and meaning (My extrapolations are in italics):
1. Too many scales and keys without ever deeply mastering a single scale - Acting like simply "pointing out" problems is effective technique.
2. Not making real music out of the scales - "Rich" repetition of targeted sounds, with haptic-integration and/or engaging expressiveness is the antidote.
Clip art: Clker
3. Mindlessly repeating scale patterns - If you do "mindless" repetition, without multiple-modality involvement, you should be teaching something else, not pronunciation. 
Principles of good practice:
1. Memorize your scale patterns - Yes, teach learners how to memorize more efficiently, based on their personal cognitive style preferences.
2. Learn to jump to anywhere on the neck - Link target sounds across lexical sets and exemplars. (Pedagogical movement patterns, based on haptic research in several areas, should do that.)
3. Learn to switch direction in the blink of an eye - Use the visual field for anchoring targeted sounds consistently. 
4. Know the building block shapes and how they interact together - Yes . . . the "sense" half of "felt sense" means having very concise, clear cognitive and rule schemas for learners as well.
5. Learn your scales on single strings, as double stops and beyond . . . This is critical, focusing on targeted sounds with maximal attention, in an "uncluttered" visual and emotional setting in class.
6. See the entire keyboard as one "monster pattern!" - Both instructor and learner need to understand how the whole system functions, instructors at a theoretical level; learners, by being equipped with a simple set of explanations, practices and anchoring procedures--especially the latter. 
Time to face the music on how you manage drill, repetition and anchoring? 

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