Saturday, October 20, 2012

Navigating, resetting and remapping pronunciation change

Clip art: Clker
Clip art: Clker
When is a pronunciation "error" or mis-speak so serious that it interferes the developing L2 interlanguage model in the learner's  brain? Some early Behaviorists' models would have (and may still) predict(ed) that avoiding errors of almost any kind is critical. Contemporary theorists and methodologists see that differently, for a number of reasons. When it comes to spatial navigation "errors," (at least in rat brains) research by Valerio and Taube of Dartmouth College summarized by Science Daily suggests that there is a discernable threshold in that regard:

"When the animal makes a small error and misses the target by a little, the cells will reset to their original setting, fixing on landmarks it can identify in its landscape. "We concluded that this was an active behavioural correction process, an adjustment in performance," Taube says. "However, if the animal becomes disoriented and makes a large error in its quest for home, it will construct an entirely new cognitive map with a permanent shift in the directional firing pattern of the head direction cells." This is the "remapping.'"

In haptic-integrated work, coordination of sounds and pedagogical movement patterns is central to the methodology. Numerous blogposts have made that connection, especially as it contributes to how well learners of different cognitive preferences (e.g., visual, auditory, kinaesthetic or tactile) relate to the EHIEP system. We have repeatedly seen an effect analogous to what is described by Valerio and Taube: For some, if the visual model on the screen which learners are moving along with deviates "substantially" from their perspective from the anticipated, regular point in the visual field, they quickly become very frustrated and report that they seem to lose that "node" at least temporarily. Minor deviations, like allophonic variations are ok. 

In this case, to paraphrase Bateson, a difference that (does) make a difference--does make a difference. Rats . . . 

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