Thursday, February 28, 2013

AH-EPS Test Drive package

This is also on the Haptic pronunciation teaching blog, but thought it essential to get out the word here as well. Here is the current plan: (Still subject to change and tweak, of course!) 

Here is the current plan: 

Test drive package-Part A: Instructional videos for Intro, M1 and M2 (either whole tamales or parts) will be accessible for free with password access on Vimeo. (Includes student practice videos for M2 as well.)
Registration required to get password and pdf of materials. 

 Test drive package-Part B: Student Materials for Intro, M1 and M2 be sent along w/password upon registration by a student or a school.  
            A. Intro workbook pages
            B. M1 and M2 Workbook pages
            C. Practice videos for workbook sections
            D. Training videos for two or three consonants
Registration required to get password and pdf of materials. 

The real stuff: 
1. Instructors Manual be available for sale or download.
2. Complete set of Instructional videos (10) as DVD or download set be available for sale. (Necessary also for learner doing independent study.) 
3. Complete Student Work Book and practice videos will be available for sale as DVD or download.

Ready for a test drive? Complete information on how to do that will be posted here and on the haptic pronunciation teaching blog before the TESOL Convention. 

Improving pronunciation in your sleep?

Clip art: Clker
For any number of reasons, I have always advised students to do their regular pronunciation practice in the morning. I may have to rethink that. Based on a study comparing adults and children in developing explicit knowledge of the structure and sequencing of a complex motor task (pushing up to 16 buttons in the right order), it was demonstrated that in both adults and children, but especially in children, that knowledge emerges much faster and consistently after a night's sleep.

 As reported in Science Daily--and what I could get from looking over a pdf of the tables in the $32 article in the journal, Nature Neuroscience--the study by Wilhelm, of the University of Tübingen and colleagues, demonstrates convincingly that sleep after motor training significantly enhances both facility in doing the motor sequence task later but also development of an explicit, conscious understanding of the patterning involved That kids are better than adults is no surprise, but the additional finding that a night's sleep, as opposed to an intervening day of normal activities in living, was significantly better in facilitating development of a conscious understanding of the underlying patterning is big. (No hint of that was provided during the motor training.)

The interplay in pronunciation work between providing explicit rules for sound change and doing various kinds of implicit oral practice is central to the process. Especially in HICP work, where motor routines are associated with the targeted sounds and linguistic structures, this research has interesting implications, to be sure. Bottom line: At least in some phases of haptic pronunciation work, the time of day when practice is done may make a difference. Will work on that concept and get back to you. Something to sleep on . . . 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

More on AH-EPS Introductory Video demo on Vimeo

Let me answer a couple of questions that came as email relating to the introductory Vimeo demo of AH-EPS

(1) AH-EPS does not in any way replace doing Judy Gilbert in class, especially in any kind of EAP class where rules and explanation rule. As I comment on in the video, it picks up where regular instruction generally leaves off, aiming to facilitate integration into spontaneous production. This is in a very real sense, a clinical approach, closer to "clinical phonetics," what my blog refers to as "haptic-integrated clinical pronunciation." Will be starting a new organization for us HICPRs, pronounced "hiccupers" which your are welcome to join--as long as you don't begin analyzing things until you have experienced them. (Be sure to read the fine print about excommunication for lack of experiential, common sense evidence supporting comments on the organizational blog.)  

(2) The real focus of the work is on something for the relatively inexperienced  and untrained (in pronunciation) instructor or the student who wants or needs to work on their own . . . on their own. The technology is finally available to make that happen. DVD or USB hard media is still an option, and will be available, but streaming and web/cloud access for most is going to be the only option. 

The possibilities for doing the same kind of haptic (and virtual reality) embodiment of the sound system with any language, are limitless. It is, as I have said for some time, integral to the future of the field. In principle, most initial "instruction" or training can go on outside of class with haptic video. In many instances that is the preferred approach, in fact. Practice will then either be with the instructor in integrated instruction in the classroom, using the techniques and patterns,  or with the three student practice videos per module. In fact, our experience is that it is imperative that if the 6 video clips of a module are done in a classroom setting, that the instructor must not interfere or comment in any way until all 6 have played. Best case, the instructor just "becomes" one of students and doesn't mess things up with impromptu comments or corrections, unless absolutely necessary! Instructor meddling and hyper-metacommentary may be the biggest threat to things working right!

Some version of the 10, 30-minute instructional videos will probably be free to the public. Ultimately, it all will.  (There'll be a small charge, at least for the time being,  for the 40 or so the student practice and consonant videos, like iTunes,  and the books will probably be available at minimal cost via Amazon. Teacher training, webcam consultations and haptic dinner with me will cost something as well, of course. 

At this point, I'm not as interested in making money from AH-EPS (that'll come later, of course) as I am in starting something that is high quality, accessible to most everyone, especially nonnative speaking colleagues-- and is very inexpensive. (I'll make a draft version of the instructor's book available free to everybody on this list after TESOL.)

Keep in touch.


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Acton Haptic - English Pronunciation System

If you would like to see a preview of what the system will look like, here is a short Vimeo collection of 6 video clips from one module that will give you the general idea of what the complete system will look like when in comes out next month. If you are interested, check it out soon. This demo will only be up for a few days as I get feedback from friends and colleagues. Keep in touch. 

Positive pronunciation anchors and pronunciation practice word lists

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Generally, when I refer to "anchoring" in HICP work, the focus is the multiple modality "hexus" of (a) the graphic representation of the word, (b) the linguistic context, that is the phrase or sentence in which the word appears, (c) the articulatory movements involved in producing it, (d) the pedagogical movement pattern we use in anchoring it, (e) the "sound" coming in through the ears and (f) the body resonance generated in producing it.

Likewise, the concept of "embodiment" in language teaching, as elaborated by Holme (2012) in a recent TESOL quarterly article, focuses, in effect, on new language ending up "in the body," or thoroughly absorbed and integrated with all senses (pick your metaphor there!) How it gets there can be in any number ways, including visual imagery, word association, meaning association, context dependency of a text--even "physical" approaches such as HICP to some extent. (Holme at least pays lip service to the clinical side of the field. For a cognitive linguist, that is big!)

A few earlier posts have alluded to the potential impact of relative positive or negative context on anchoring as well. For example, trying to anchor a new sound in a deadly boring, decontextualized, monotonous, mindless, pointless repetition drill, at the end of the day may not be the most effective setting for that. In fact, that sounds downright depressing.

This research by Dalgleish, Navrady, Bird, Hill, Dunn, and Golden of the Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, according to the Science Daily Summary, suggests an additional perspective in working with anchoring. In a study done with the chronically depressed, subjects were to use the "method-of-loci" strategy:

"The method-of-loci strategy consists of associating vivid (positive) memories with physical objects or locations -- buildings you see on your commute to work every day, for instance. To recall the memories, all you have to do is imagine going through your commute." 

The idea, apparently was to get the subjects to think "happy thoughts" more often, connecting them to physical objects or places, thus easing their depression. Here's a thought: Instead of working with haptic integration and embodiment to help students with remembering changed sounds . . . Actually, I am working with the "method-of-loci" strategy, exploring how to "embody" it with pronunciation of the Academic Word List in a workshop at the upcoming TESOL 2013 Convention in Dallas. A great venue to generate some pleasant memories at! 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Grafting melodious bird song on to animal, utilitarian pronunciation

This is just too much to resist. Miyagawa, Berwick and Okanoya of MIT make an interesting observation, following on from comments by Darwin, summarized by Science Daily: " . . . human language is a grafting of two communication forms found elsewhere in the animal kingdom: first, the elaborate songs of birds, and second, the more utilitarian, information-bearing types of expression seen in a diversity of other animals." The choice of term there, the "grafting" metaphor, is worth unpacking a little. It is one used frequently by theorists who focus on a narrow piece of a process and then leave the clean up to somebody else, the implication being that something is inserted into or combined in the organism and then we just step back and watch it morph! I do want to get the full article and see where that line of argument goes.

Clip art: Clker
Let's run with that metaphor a bit and see how it relates to pronunciation teaching . . . Perhaps the way to approach pronunciation should, indeed, be to address the two functions, the melodic and "informational," more independently, from a "grafting" perspective in the learner, rather than seeking to actively integrate them. In other words, we should not be so concerned with how or whether the learner manages to wind up using the sounds or terms in spontaneous speaking or writing. (That is apparently somebody else's bailiwick.) We are probably talking prosody vs lexical-level word stress and related grammatical-morpho-phonemic changes in the pronunciation of a word. I recently got an email from a well-known colleague, that, in effect said precisely that: Our job is to provide guidance, rules and opportunity for practice--not get "all worked up about" integration into spontaneous speech.

In reality, that is what goes on in much of pronunciation instruction anyway: the two "levels" are treated in relative isolation; conscious practice and explanation of the two "communication forms" are integrated in the syllabus but not in the moment-by-moment in the classroom. Those that assume that the learner will then just go ahead and integrate things in his/her spare time or cognitive processing may be right. But I doubt it still.

Got to be a way to better graft our song and dance into our clinical practice . . .  

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Thinking (and learning pronunciation) outside the brain

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Dynamic or "external" imagery (imagery accompanied by synchronized, related body movement rehearsal) boosted high jumpers' jumping by an amazing 45%, according to a study by Guillot, Moschberger and Collet. of the Centre de Recherche et d'Innovation sur le Sport of Université Claude Bernard Lyon, summarized in Science Daily. This is a very relevant study for HICP work. Here you have the cognitive/visual "object" or process, in this case jumping over a bar positioned about 7 feet above the ground, explicitly coordinated with external physical "practice."

That is the essence of how effective, haptic-integrated or embodied change in pronunciation in general,  should happen as well. The concept, a sound or word or expression, is well linked to its "felt sense" (what it feels like in the body to say or produce it) and a pedagogical movement pattern that haptically (with movement and touch) not only helps coordinate or link the brain and body, but also, itself, in some way embodies the fundamental character or essence of the target.

For example, the rising pitch of a yes/no question would be accompanied by 
  • not just by an ascending gesture 
  • but one that is positioned in the visual field by movement and touch 
  • such that the height corresponds to relative pitch of the utterance. 
In addition, the prominent vowel in the stressed word in the phrase 

  • would have been previously somatically grounded (so that the physical sensations involved are brought strongly to awareness
  • and can be described in terms of location and intensity) 
  • and practiced,  focusing on its textural quality, e.g., roughness, softness, smoothness, stickiness.  

Not to "raise the bar" too high when it comes to integrated pronunciation teaching, but this is one time when being a bit outside the current, generally "disembodied" approach to what we do is actually something of a "no-brainer!" 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The future of pronunciation teaching: It's simple, Haptics!

Clip art: Clker
Well . . . actually what Moussette proposed in a 2012 doctoral thesis at Umeå University, Sweden, reported by Science Daily, is the term "Simple Haptics," which " . . . advances that haptic attributes (how things feel through touch) are increasingly part of the qualities that make up the interactions and the experiences we have with objects and the interfaces that surround us, and that these considerations can and ought to be knowingly and explicitly designed by designers." This is from the abstract: "The main knowledge contribution relates to the massification of haptics, i.e. the intentional realization and appropriation of haptics—with its dimensions and qualities—as a non-visual interaction design material." Now I'm not exactly sure what "massification" means in that context but I like it, especially as it is used in this example by Wordnik online dictionary--which couldn't locate a definition apparently--quoting ANC Daily News Briefing: “This process, known as massification, would have to be accompanied by changes in curriculums and qualifications and the introduction of multiple entry and exit points.” (Italics, mine.)

That is us; that is Haptic-integrated Clinical Pronunciation! Along with Moussette, now we "simply" need to get the word out to the "masses" of language teachers and curriculum designers who have yet to be "touched" by haptics in pronunciation teaching!

Perceived distance between or difference in accents

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Stick that in Google and you get over 9,700,000 hits. There is apparently some interest in that question. My dissertation (1979) on perceived social distance paralleled recently published research on perceived emotional distance inherent in personal relationships. What Frost of Columbia University and colleagues found in looking at "millions" of entries on blogs, according to Science Daily, was that it was not especially relevant whether an individual perceived themselves to be particularly close or distant from some other person or entity but whether that distance was seen as close to or far from what they considered "ideal", for whatever reason.

In my research it appeared that to be a good language learner (at least in the earlier stages of acculturation) it was not all that important how close or distant you perceived yourself to be from the L2 culture--as long as you saw yourself as about the same distance from your L1 culture. In other words, the ideal model of the more successful learners seemed to be a kind of equi-distance. Whether very close or quite "far" did not appear to be a factor.

So, what does that mean for our work in accent and pronunciation? Something like this: The targets learners have in their heads for the L2 sounds may not be the key factor at all--assuming that they have them. How they feel about that distance, however, is another matter. Do you have an adequate system for engaging either or both? The key notion is that you probably can't do the latter without the former being relatively well established.

One of the major innovations of haptic-integrated clinical pronunciation as realized in the AH-EPS system is the use of not just sound or color or key words or an IPA vowel chart for establishing L2 pronunciation targets, but, in addition, well-established locations in the visual field anchored by touch. Those locations, alone, assist learners in managing the effect and affect of the "distance" between L1 and L2 sound targets. Keep in touch. 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Sing first: listen later: Noticing new or different sounds in L2 pronunciation learning

Here's one for all of us who make extensive use of singing in class. (Here is yet another case where experienced practitioners know it works from experience but have been just waiting for research to catch up and tell them why!) Research by McLachlan, Marco,  Light and Wilson at Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences, summarized, as usual, by Science Daily . . . notes the following:
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 "What we found was that people needed to be familiar with sounds created by combinations of notes before they could hear the individual notes. If they couldn't find the notes they found the sound dissonant or unpleasant . . . This finding overturns centuries of theories that physical properties of the ear determine what we find appealing."
In other words, at some very basic level, appreciation of a style of music is learned. The "notes" in the study had to be first encountered in relation to others in the system before they could be identified or appreciated. Singing in language instruction--and probably to a lesser degree, listening comprehension techniques with pronunciation-- certainly serve that function. This is an important study, one with very interesting potential ramifications for our work. I will try to get the full research report and report back . . ..

Notice: Here is my annual apology for using sometimes less than reliable or politically neutral  secondary sources, such as Science Daily or The New York Times or research abstracts from studies that receive  public support but publish in journals that you can't access with out being a member of "The Guild" or can't afford to pay $32 per article for (or wouldn't just on ethical grounds if you did have the spare change lying around): Sorry about that. (There. Done.)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

"Haptic" pronunciation TESOL 2013 pre-convention institute is ON!

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Great news! TESOL is going to allow us to offer the full-day workshop on March 19th before the convention. Early enrolment is still low but I'm confident that it will be fully "embodied" by the time of the convention. Continue to spread the word, please. Cost of full-day PCIs at TESOL is "only" $205; convention cost is around $400 now. (And they wonder why attendance is not growing?) Will propose a similar, less expensive format to the PCI in a number of venues in the coming year, once the entire AH-EPS system is publicly available online. 

If you want to host one at your school or in your neighbourhood, let us know. Keep in touch. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Blame it on your Alpha: why some people don't learn pronunciation well

Clip art: Clker
According to 2013 research by Dinse from the Neural Plasticity Lab of the Ruhr-Universität Bochum and colleagues, reported in Science Daily, the answer seems to be that " . . . the main problem is not that learning processes are inefficient per se, but that the brain insufficiently processes the information to be learned." Hmmm. Now why could that be? The study is relevant in that subjects were trained to be more touch sensitive and then, using EEG technology, researchers explored why some were better at developing that heightened sensitivity. Exactly why is not clear, but there was a predictably correlation with alpha wave frequency: in an awakened state, higher alpha frequency related to better tactile learning. (Counter to that, lower Alpha in restful, semi-conscious or sleep states has long been related to more effective learning, both conscious and "unconscious" in nature.)

What is interesting is that the main effect, although the researchers relate it to perceptual learning in general, is at the very least touch-related: "The results, therefore, suggest that perception-based learning is highly dependent on how accessible the sensory information is. The alpha activity, as a marker of constantly changing brain states, modulates this accessibility." (Italics, mine.) So how do we make "sensory information" about pronunciation more "accessible?" The implication there is that one way is some kind of direct stimulation and management of alpha that might lead to better learning in that context.

Clip  art: Clker
Haptic-integrated clinical pronunciation work, in general, should fundamentally do just that: promote heightened sensual awareness (of physical sensation in the body) and at the same time, more relaxed, less-stressed physical/somatic (body awareness-based) states. The flowing pedagogical movement patterns (PMPs) create a sense of fluidity, rhythm and emotional coherence; simultaneously, the hands touching on stressed syllables in words, phrases and sentences evoke a very much heightened "felt sense" (balanced physical + cognitive processing) and foregrounding of the prominent elements or words in discourse.

Why some don't learn well? They may just be "out of touch!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Connecting "internal" pronunciation memory with "external" movement and vocal resonance

Clip art: Clker
Now, granted, this one is a bit of a stretch but it is certainly headed in the right direction . . . from a new study on motor memory by Smith of Harvard university, summarized by Science Daily, connecting internal (brain only) motor memory with memory for "external," physical body movement. The concept is that the neurons that actually manage physical movement are much more closely related to those that "store" or generate that action in the brain than has been generally assumed in contemporary neurological theory. Now why is potentially very big?

Clip art: Clker
In part, it suggests that in haptic-integrated clinical pronunciation work, for example, procedures that focus learners' attention more on the "physical" or "somatic" dimensions of sound production and comprehension should, correspondingly, have greater impact on memory for the sounds and later recall--than do more cognitive functions such as insight, systems "noticing" and context embedding. In other words, this seems to explain why over-reliance on metacognitive activities in pronunciation teaching such as explanation, reflection and rule schemas may not be all that effective in assisting learners in integrating new and corrected pronunciation into spontaneous speech.

Bottom line: Get connected with haptic pronunciation teaching!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Acton Haptic - English Pronunciation System™

AH-EPS (pronounced "apes") will be the official name of what we earlier referred to as "EHIEP" (pronounced: "ape"). Most of the system will be available in about 6 weeks, at the TESOL Convention in Dallas. Here is an excerpt from the Instructors Manual:

Acton Haptic – English Pronunciation System (AH-EPS) is a multi-sensory system for learning basic aspects of intelligible English pronunciation for classroom or independent study. It is appropriate for:
  • Learners of most levels
  • Classes of up to 40 students
  • Instructors with little previous training in pronunciation teaching
  • Non-native English speaking instructors
The most innovative feature of the method is the extensive use of haptic anchoring (movement plus touch.) The overall framework has been developed to provide: 
  • More effective ways of integrating new or improved pronunciation into spontaneous speech 
  • More systematic use of kinaesthetic/body engagement in pronunciation teaching 
  • Improved self-monitoring and self-correction
  • Better integration of pronunciation teaching in the curriculum and classroom 
  • An integrated system for pronunciation homework and self-study
  • AH-EPS has several components: 
    1. Set of 30-minute instructional videos (10) 
    2. Student Workbook, with accompanying 3-minute audio recordings (27) 
    3. Instructor’s Manual with annotated Student Workbook 
    4. Set of 30-minute student, independent practice videos (27 in total--requires Student Workbook package) 
    5. Video consonant mini-modules (15) - (purchased either as a set or individually, also requires Student Workbook package). 
    6. Set of classroom pronunciation integration videos (6) 
    7. Webcam or on-site consultations (for instructors or students) 
The complete AH!-EPS haptic video system (AHVS) is a set of 108 video clips that are structured so that basic instruction in pronunciation can be done just working along with the model in the videos and following up with regular practice as indicated. Classroom instructors can use the videos to lead the training and practice in each module for them or can chose to present the material themselves, using the video as a resource:

Classroom instruction typically requires at least (1) and (3).
The recommended classroom package is (1), (2), (3), (4) for each student, (5) consonant modules as relevant to the learner population, and possible (6) and (7) for the less experienced instructor.
 Independent study requires (1), (2), (3) and probably selected consonant mini-modules (5) and perhaps (7) in some contexts. 

Keep in touch for specifics!

Monday, February 4, 2013

TESOL 2013 Haptic Pronunciation PCI

Just heard from TESOL that as of today there aren't enough registered for the Haptic Pronunciation PCI in Dallas to offer it. Registration closes at the end of the week. We had heard last week from one of our grads that it was closed due to enrolment  and let everybody know. Not so, apparently!!! If you had planned on signing up or know somebody who might, pass on the word! This is one party that we don't want to miss! If it is cancelled, will try to figure some kind of alternative venue for at least a meeting. 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Collaborative pronunciation group work--by design!

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There is , as far as I can tell, virtually no accessible, published research on the efficacy of group work in pronunciation teaching. (If you know of some PLEASE post a comment with the link!) There are any number of informal reports and recommendations along those lines, including Gilbert (2008) (a free pdf that you should be familiar with already!) that has some good ideas for pair work on stress assignment and intelligibility of vowel and consonant articulation, a good complement to the Acton Haptic - English Pronunciation System, AH-EPS. (See earlier post  and sidebar on name changes of both our company and what was formerly the "EHIEP" or "HIPOECES" system. Change . . . )

New research by Vaquero of Hewlett-Packard and Cebrian of the University of San Diego, summarized by Science Daily, demonstrates the potential benefits of group collaborative work, as opposed to working alone. So far, so good. But, get this: " . . . almost equally interesting is the fact that these high-performing students form 'rich-clubs', which shield themselves from low-performing students, despite the significant efforts by these lower-ranking students to join them. The weaker students try hard to engage with the elite group intensively, but can't. This ends up having a marked correlation with their dropout rates."

So, in pronunciation work, especially in classes of mixed ability, how do you do effective group work, if at all? Separate out the "rich" and "poor" clubs? Integrate them? For most, the answer is "Neither!" In AH-EPS work, where developing accurate pedagogical movement patterns (PMPs) is one important feature each module--not initial phonetic accuracy, the opportunity for mixed-level group work is excellent. (In fact, many times there appears to be little or no early correlation between "haptic-ability" and proficiency.)

The nonverbal, collaborative communication centers on PMP execution--best done in groups of three or more--coordinating it with articulation of the sound, sound pattern, stress, rhythm or intonation assignment. (Note: The key "haptic"  principle here is that accurate PMP anchoring should, by itself, in short order enable more accurate articulation--without a great deal of conscious, auditory self-monitoring.)

Any pronunciation class can, in principle, be "grouped" in attending to some suprasegmental targets, such as in Gilbert (2008). For the most part AH-EPS group and (potentially) homework practice is also wonderfully stress-free and noncompetitive--and egalitarian! A "rich" source of anchored, focused noticing. Ah! (or AH!) a new acronym even: AnFoNot!

Introducing "Acton Haptic, Inc." and "Acton Haptic - English Pronunciation System"

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As noted in the right sidebar, we are about to do a little re-branding. Our company name will officially change to "Acton Haptic, Inc." (currently AMPISys., Inc. in Canada) and what we have been calling "Essential Haptic-integrated English Pronunciation (EHIIEP) will now become (version 3.0): "Acton Haptic - English Pronunciation System" (abbreviated to "Acton Haptic - EPS", AH-EPS or informally, just "EPS" for short.)

There are, as you can imagine, any number of reasons for those changes--including ease of pronunciation by those new to haptic work! Mainly the new names just more accurately reflect what we are doing and how we exist for now on the web. There will be a new logo shortly and extensive reframing of the haptic-vido-based "products" available associated with AH-EPS. (One other rationale for the "EPS" designation is that we have already done some preliminary work on analogous systems for teaching the basic sound systems of Chinese and Korean, CPS and KPS. In principle, of course, any sound system can be taught "haptically!")

Keep in touch!