Thursday, February 28, 2013

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 . . . 

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