Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Pronunciation change readiness: Meditate amygdala affect collar? Better pronunciation should "faller!"

Clip art: Clker
Clip art: Clker
This one is a bit of a stretch . . . stick with me. The impact of affect and emotion on pronunciation, both acquisition and production, is reasonably well understood--but how to manage it is not. One of the principles or assumptions has been that management of emotion should go on simultaneously with instruction, that a learner's affective state (relatively out of consciousness) tends to be pretty fragile and easily disrupted. (That certainly seems to be the case with one's "haptic state," at least. A number of studies have been reported on the blog pointing to the importance of attention management during haptic work.)

In new research by Desbordes and colleagues at Boston University, summarized by Science Daily, on the lasting impact of meditation training, it has been demonstrated that the effect of mediating amygdala responsiveness--through two types of standard meditation work--may persist for some time, the "physical" changes to the brain being clearly evident in increased mass and activity, or lack of, in the targeted area.

What that means for us, in principle, is that some kind of brain "training" (or maybe analogous neuro-therapeutic treatment) could have real promise for enhancing pronunciation change. The key here is that what is done (a) impacts general emotional responsiveness, and (2) may well be unrelated to what is considered "normal" classroom instruction, as long as it assists the learner in achieving a more "amiable (and less hyper-reactive) amygdala." Now if that immediately strikes you as utter nonsense . . . you, yourself, may be a good candidate for a little mindful, "amygdala tune up"!

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