Friday, September 14, 2012

Short-term and long-term pronunciation change

Clip art: Clker
Clip art: Clker

How often do you have learners who can do the "right," temporarily improved pronunciation of 'th', for example, but can't do it next day? According to a 2011 study by Schweighofer and colleagues at the University of Southern California, to the extent that the change was motor-based, that may make sense, depending on what else was being focused on during the classroom session and how things were sequenced during the lesson. Ironically, woking on a sound in several "passes," rather than just bearing down on practice the sound in isolation may be a much more effective approach. ". . . if your brain can rely on your short-term motor memory to handle memorizing a single motor task, then it will do so, failing to engage your long-term memory in the process. If you deny your brain that option by continually switching from learning one task to the other, your long-term memory will kick in instead. It will take longer to learn both, but you won't forget them later." That is an intriguing comment. It suggests something about the roll of repetition, integration and attention management--particularly in haptic-integrated work, which relies heavily on awareness of movement and somatic resonance in the upper body. Here's the question: When you decide to work on the articulation and integration of a consonant, let's say, 'th,' in what order do you first lead them through the various parameters of articulation of that sound: (a) lip configuration (b) tongue movement and positioning, (c) jaw movement/teeth opening, (d) aspiration, (e) voicing, (f) resonance and, of course (g) timing? Then, in what phonological and usage contexts do you next situate the "corrected" segmental for anchoring and practice? That is the essence of clinical pronunciation: management of real-time engagement and interaction. Take your local speech pathologist and aerobics instructor out for lunch. 

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