Monday, December 31, 2012

Can't see how to say it right? (Self-reflective, visual-soma-kinaesthetic correction of mispronunciation)

So you try to demonstrate with your face and mouth how a learner should be pronouncing a vowel, for example--and it simply does not work. In fact, the mispronunciation may just get worse. New research by Cook of City University London, Johnston of University College London, and Heyes of the University of Oxford (Summarized by Science Daily) may suggest why: visual feedback of the difference between one's facial gesture and that of a model can be effective in promoting accommodation; simple proprioceptic feedback (i.e., trying to connect up the correct model with the movements of the muscles in your face, without seeing what you are doing simultaneously) generally does not work very well. Amen, eh.

I have had students whose brains are wired so that they can make that translation easily, but they are the exception. The solution? Sometimes a mirror works "mirror-cles;" some new software systems (noted in earlier blogs) actually does come up with a computer simulation that attempts to show the learner what is going on wrong inside the mouth and what should be instead--with apparently very modest, but expensive results.

Clip art: Clker
Clip art: Clker
The EHIEP approach is to early on anchor the positioning and movement of the jaw and tongue to pedagogical movement patterns of the arms and hands. From that perspective, it is relatively easy, at least on vowels, stress and intonation (and some consonants) to provide the learner with both visual, auditory and proprioceptic feedback simultaneously, showing both the appropriate model and how the learner's version deviates. (In fact, in some correction routines, it is better to anchor the incorrect articulation first, before going to the "correct" one.) In effect, "(Only if) Monkey see (him or her mis-speak), (can) Monkey do (anything about it!)"

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