Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Teach rhythm before pronunciation, Baby!

Clip art: Clker

Clip art: CLker
Think that it is time we extracted "rhythm" from the concept of "pronunciation."  Whenever pronunciation priorities  are mentioned, the usual follow on is "rhythm, stress and intonation--and segmentals, of course." Now why "rhythm" should appear first has only to do with certain phonaesthetic and phonotactic rules of English, certainly not based on real practices in the field. Were that the case, the order would probably be more like: stress, intonation, segmentals--and rhythm, if at all. According to new research by Zentner and Eerola, reported by Science Daily, babies, it turns out, have it right, however: " . . . that infants respond to the rhythm and tempo of music and find it more engaging than speech . . ." and " . . . the better the children were able to synchronize their movements with the music the more they smiled." Will one of us please do a study on how rhythm is taught in pronunciation work and language teaching in general? There are, of course, any number of systems that foreground rhythm to varying degrees, especially in working with children, but few with adults, other than recommendations for doing songs, jazz chants, poetry, etc., occasionally--and procedures that focus on analysis of rhythm grouping and listening activities to identify rhythm grouping in speech (all very valuable contributions, nonetheless.) But the idea of systematically establishing rhythm up front first is, for the most part, absent--with a few obvious exceptions such as Chela-florez 1997--one of my very favorites, by the way, which almost gets there but stops short of providing an easily adoptable system of kinaesthetic or haptic anchoring. (I won't bother mentioning how the EHIEP system attempts to do it right . . . ) Just the idea of starting out each pronunciation "inter-diction" (doing a quick, impromptu pronunciation focus during speaking instruction for correction or modelling or anchoring, for example) by doing a little taiko-drum-accompanied dance work would at least be enough to make students smile apparently . . . 

1 comment:

Angelina Van Dyke said...

Thanks for the Chela-florez - I'm trying it this week and next with some haptic anchoring.

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