Saturday, August 4, 2012

A "critical hypersensitivity period" for pronunciation learning?

This may fall into the "Well, duh . . . " category of research findings. According to Steinberg of Temple University, Summarized by Science Daily, teenagers develop intellectually well before they do emotionally, experiencing an extended period of "hypersensitivity to immediate rewards," especially when hanging out with friends. Ya think? Actually, that is worth considering a bit in relation to pronunciation work, especially haptic-integrated pronunciation work. A couple of decades ago, the idea of the "critical period" in language learning, ending roughly with puberty, was seen as giving children an enormous advantage over adults. Subsequent research has very much moderated that view; adults learn in different ways but are still capable, given appropriate conditions, of very effective learning, even of sound systems. (It is interesting that most studies compared children with adults, not children with teenagers, nonetheless.) The Steinberg analysis suggests something of what the difference is, especially to the extent that emotional engagement--and management is critical to language learning. The same principle is very evident in haptic-integrated pronunciation work, as noted in previous posts: when movement and touch are involved, any affective or visual distraction from the target of instruction during the process of anchoring can be enormously disruptive. That is one of the reasons that the EHIEP system is carefully designed to avoid over-emotional responses and "dramatic" gesture and dialogue. Should you, too, constrain your use of highly enthusiastic, pronounced, motivational, over-the-top, out-of-control "cheer leading" and nervous giggling? Need to be a little more "hypersensitive-sensitive?"  

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