Friday, October 26, 2012

Connecting reading to pronunciation

Clip art: Clker
Fascinating study of the neurological correlates of literacy in children by Yeatman and colleagues at Stanford, summarized by Scientific American, "Brain connectivity predicts reading skills." The basic finding was that changes in the "white matter" connective tissues in the brain help explain individual differences in development of reading ability. Note how that happens:

" Differences in the growth of both tracts (the arcuate fasciculus, which conects the brain's language centres, and the inferior longitudinal fasciculus, which links the language centres with the parts of the brain that process visual information) could predict the variations in reading ability. Strong readers started off with a weak signal in both tracts on the left side of the brain, which got stronger over the three years. Weaker readers exhibited the opposite pattern . . . Both processes are influenced by experience — underused nerve fibres are pruned, whereas others are myelinated — so they occur at different rates and times in different people."
Clip art: Clker

The researchers go on to propose that " . . . individual children might benefit from reading lessons that are tailored to their patterns of brain development." Research on the underpinnings of the process and pedagogy of L2 phonological system development seems to point to a common "thread," if you will: relative connectivity of language-related brain centers. By extension, L2 learners also "benefit" from a pedagogical system that involves multiple-modalities and multi-senses. Does your pronunciation method need a touch of pruning or myelination? It does . . . 

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