Monday, November 26, 2012

Physical vs social domains in pronunciation work

Ever wonder why students may not be able to use a new piece of pronunciation in pair work or controlled conversation or on their way our the door? Forthcoming research (already!) published in NeuroImage by Jacka, Dawsona, Beganya, Leckiea, Barrya, Cicciab and Snyderc, fMRI reveals reciprocal inhibition between social and physical cognitive domains (in the brain) suggests part of the answer: "Regardless of presentation modality, we observed clear evidence of reciprocal suppression: social tasks deactivated regions associated with mechanical reasoning and mechanical tasks deactivated regions associated with social reasoning."
clip art: Ckler
The implications of that for integration of pronunciation work, both in the lesson and in the brain of the learner, are worth an "uninhibited" reexamination. For one, perhaps insight, explanation, meaningful conversations, "lite drills" and metacognitive encouragement are not enough for efficient "uptake" to occur. Likewise, decontextualized "body drills" that focus primarily on the mechanics of articulation are not going to automatically bridge the "domain gap" either--in the classroom or on the street. Optimal learning in both domains must go on either simultaneously or in some kind of intricate dance that achieves both outcomes. Haptic integration is one answer to that, where the "channels" of communication and change are not quite in as direct competition. The only problem is often just overcoming the inhibitions of the "haptically challenged."

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