Saturday, December 1, 2012

The body language of pronunciation teaching: Karaoke Affect

Clip art: Clker
One of the potential "turn offs" for some instructors and students in buying into the gestural and somatic basis of pronunciation work is . . . how "goofy" it looks (with apologies to Goofy, of course.) And some of it does, unquestionably. If you need to get to "goofy," you have to ramp up use of wilder gesticulation gradually, what we call "Karaoke Affect." As long as you establish the context carefully and set up good conceptual partitions, most students will come along with you . . . to goofy and beyond.

But to one who is not in the typical pronunciation teaching box, or just passing by, who has no clue what the class is about, what do the typical, gestural classroom techniques communicate: (a) clapping hands, (b) snapping fingers, (c) stretching rubber bands, (c) humming with a kazoo, (d) thumping on the desk, (e) stamping feet, (f) waving hands in the air to imitate intonation, (g) tracing lines on worksheets with fingers, (h) stepping up and down with sentence stress, (i) popping candy in the mouth on certain vowels, (j) throwing bean bags on stressed words, and (k) let alone the dozens of mouth machinations done for teaching specific vowel and consonant articulation?

According to recent research by Aviezer of Hebrew University, Trope of New York University and Todorov of Princeton University, summarized by Science Daily, it is the body that accurately communicates feelings (at least), not the face and mouth. In the study, subjects were much better at determining emotional state by focusing on movement and gesture, not looking from the neck up.

Situating and contextualizing those "bizarre" behaviours and what they communicate requires a coherent system to use them in. As we have seen in research in dozens of blog posts, it can go either way. (The EHIEP "way" is a good start, of course!) So, climb in your Karaoke Affect Box, affect your best your Eliza Doolittle, and  Show me

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