Friday, August 10, 2012

Hehehe! (De-stressing with high front tense vowels!)

Clip art: Clker

Clip art: Clker
This should be enough to make you smile--or at least make your students smile . . . 2009 research by Kraft and Pressman, reported by Psychological Science, appears to demonstrate that even faking a smile can be de-stressing. In pronunciation work we often tell students to smile as they pronounce high, front tense vowels, like in "Hehehe!" or when attempting to make the distinction between 's' (as in see) and 'sh' (as in she), slightly rounding the lips on the latter. I'm not saying that that is the best way to fix and s/sh problem necessarily, but sometimes it is helpful. I have also used something similar when working on word-final velar nasals, as in 'ing'. In effect just activating the muscles of the face to look and feel like a smile "orders" the brain to feel better, less stressed, physiologically. For the native speaker, we generally think of facial expression as being driven by attitude or "feelings." For nonnative speakers--and actors--it often happens in the opposite direction, taking on the paralanguage of the other results (if only temporarily) in changes in attitude and personna. Even if you don't believe that is the case, at least smile when you say it. 

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