Saturday, September 15, 2012

De-fossilizing pronunciation instructors

Clip art: CLker

Clip art: Clker
Very nice 2010  study by Boettinger, Park and Timmis of Leeds Metropolitan University, entitiled, "Self-directed noticing for de-fossilization: Three case studies." It is good from a couple of perspectives, first in how well it describes the  highly meta-cognitive, strategies used by three researchers (themselves) in attempting to de-fossilize aspects of their own L2 speech production and second, by the absence of virtually any reference to somatic or kinaesthetic strategies, other than to engage in more "facial effort" in producing a vowel more accurately. The study focuses on "autonomous de-fossilization," in that the three researcher-participants did not attend classes or consult with each other during the period of the study. The strategies they came up with and their reflections on the process are revealing, especially in the fact that in their own attempts to solve their problems  they occasionally even had to fall back on traditional, less theoretically-correct techniques such as . . . repetition! Overall, the range of strategies arrived at--and the overwhelming faith in meta-cognitive, self-reflective techniques--is wonderfully illustrative of the general aversion to analysis of embodied practice, even when it there. In reality, from indirect references in the three narratives, I think we can safely assume that the ability of any of the three to use awareness of movement and vocal resonance in their de-fossilizing may have been substantial. In the report on the study, however, it is  for the most part absent, perhaps assumed to be a predictable consequence of disciplined, meta-cognitive direction and prodding. For some learners, especially those at the head of the class, that is unquestionably true--for most, nonetheless, in de-fossilizing pronunciation, explicit, systematic body engagement is a necessity. Required reading. 

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