Tuesday, March 19, 2013

New AH-EPS, special TESOL demonstration and test run available!

Ready for Haptic Pronunciation Teaching?

Acton Haptic
English Pronunciation SystemTM
  (A revolutionary, new approach to L2 intelligibility)

For a free, moving and touching, online, experiential
"haptic video" demonstration or test run, go here!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

HICPT! (Hapticians of the world, connect!)

Clip art: Clker
As announced some time ago, one of my goals at the TESOL Convention is to begin a new international organization for those "hapticians" among us and those who are interested in haptic-integrated clinical pronunciation teaching, working title: HICPT! (Pronounced: Hiccupped!) Have several (half serious) ideas for a organizational bi-line, such as:

HICPT: Getting in touch with pronunciation teaching
HICPT: Hands on pronunciation teaching
HICPT: Moving and touching pronunciation teaching
HICPT: Post-pronunciation, pronunciation teaching
HICPT: From text to texture
HICPT: Hands up!
HICPT: What? Me? Homework?
HICPT: I like the way you move there . . .
HICPT: Haptictalk!
HICPT: The felt sense of how spontaneous speaking happens

Will begin to get out the word at the Convention. After the Convention we'll look into getting some kind of forum set up, other than these two blogs. If you are interested in joining, keep in touch!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Vigilance decrement during pronunciation work?

clip art:
I knew there had to be a scientific term for why students lose interest in pronunciation work occasionally . . . and a cure! The term is used in relation to yet another study that discovered that gum chewing can be good for things "cognitive." In this case, in the study by Morgan, Johnson and Miles of Cardiff University, summarized by Science Daily, it was found that "Gummies" were able to persist longer on an audio recognition task than the "gum-less." The Gum-less started out stronger but were overtaken and passed by the Gummies near the end. And the reason that the Gummies did better? They were more immune to "vigilance decrement" during the task. I have yet to read a cogent explanation as to WHY gum works the way it does. (If you know of that research, please link it here.)

Because of surgery a few years ago cutting out a saliva gland, I have to chew gum to function effectively. I had never done gum before and very much dislike it now, but I do have some "haptic' felt sense of what they are talking about, how it combats "vigilance decrementia." It at least gives me something to do during interminable harangues during faculty meetings.

My guess, however, is that it has something to do with keeping the wiring that goes from the brain to the articulatory equipment energized, in effect working in the opposite direction, very much like haptic technology drives feedback back to the brain through the hands. Not sure I'm in for having students do gum during work that is basically oral production-oriented, but next time your class has to just sit and do nothing but listen, give it a try. "Gum up the work a bit, eh!"

Journal reference (compliments of Science Daily): Kate Morgan, Andrew J. Johnson and Christopher Miles. Chewing gum moderates the vigilance decrement.British Journal of Psychology, 8 MAR 2013. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Gesture enhances foreign language (pronunciation) learning

The first question I often get after a presentation is something like, "So what is the evidence that systematic use of gesture (or pedagogical movement patterns, as we call them) can enhance pronunciation?" It is around, to be sure, but--outside of our personal experience and action-research-based studies--it takes about four or five minutes to orally cover the background from half a dozen other disciplines that makes the approach as compelling as it is. Here is a readable,  2012 article, by Macedonia and Kriegstein, published in Biolinguistics (one of my favorite, "newer" sources) that does a decent job of summarizing the research literature on the question as it relates to language learning in general and acquisition of lexical material, not pronunciation specifically. It'll get you close, however.

Love the last line of the abstract: "Thus, we propose the use of gesture as a facilitating educational tool that integrates body and mind."

I know that is perilously close to making the "Well . . . duh" file, but what is worth noting about this research summary is that, coming from two "bio-linguists," (not pedagogical apologists),  it brings together an impressive number of studies from related fields to reach that conclusion. (I'll probably use this reference in the future for those that need to get up to speed on what HICP(R) is about. Constructing that kind of case for haptic-integrated pronunciation teaching--until the empirical studies are in later--represents the essence of theory and method development not only in our work but in applied linguistics generally.

They conclude their summary as follows, "Nevertheless, controlled laboratory research is lacking and is needed in order to collect empirical evidence for the use of gestures in these language domains." (E.g., syntax, morphology, pronunciation.) That is where we typically  part company with the biologists, on the way to the lab, but their point is well taken. Probably half the blogposts here take on the same form, of arguing from basic research frameworks in "neuro- and physio-" sciences, not from "hard evidence" . . . yet.
Clip art: Clker

Nice piece, nonetheless. "Hat tip" to M & K. (One of my favorite haptic gestures here, BTW!)

Macedonia, M & K. Kriegstein, Gestures enhance foreign language learning. Biolinguistics 6.3–4: 393–416, 2012 - http://www.biolinguistics.eu

Friday, March 8, 2013

A nose for pronunciation? Nothing to sniff at!

Clip art: Clker
I love Science Daily. They throw up some of the wackiest or most politically loaded stuff consistently in the form of summaries, but there are almost always gems like this one: a study that figured out the social/communicative function of sniffing in rats, by Wesson of Case Western Reserve. (To do "haptic" you just have to look outside the field of pronunciation teaching--at least for the time being.) The subordinate rat sniffs more; the dominant, less.

Relevance? There have been a few other posts that dealt with the role of breathing in voice training and anchoring--especially nose breathing, taking in air before doing a pedagogical movement pattern as you articulate a sound or word or phrase. The physical benefits of getting all that extra oxygen into your brain and relaxing your upper body are enough, of course, but now, from this research we see the bigger picture. It is, of course, important that students do the PMPs along w/you when doing corrections or presenting new stuff. (We do not use the expression or technique "repeat after me." The operative term is: "Do that with me, " or more simply: "Together.")

Observers of my classes have often asked, "Why all the sniffing?" Now we know. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Intrusive and proactive pronunciation instruction (IPPI!)

Clip art: Clker
Love that acronym! Over the life of the blog there have been several posts that relate to exercise persistence. What comes out of that research, from several disciplines, is the idea that advising and helping students managing their time is a very good idea. In this Science Digest summary of MA thesis research by Kansas State student, Tennant, the effect of intrusive and proactive advising and engagement with freshman college students is striking. (US universities are rediscovering the importance of student retention in these difficult economic times, apparently.)  Although Tennant's work focuses primarily on at-risk students, the implications for our work are clear: resources and energy spent on assisting students in mangage life and study outside of class pay off.

What do you know about how your students study and practice of pronunciation on their own? (For that matter, what do you know about their life outside of class?) The ambivalence that we all deal with between learner autonomy and empowerment on one hand-and motivating (or cajoling) them to do their homework that you have assigned for their own good on the other . . . reflects where the field is today. The position that there could possibly be one basic pronunciation program that "fits all"--and that it could be integrated into general speaking and listening instruction--seems very much a throw back to earlier structuralist language teaching.

We have learned a great deal since the 50s about method design and what constitutes the range of strategies and technologies that can be applied to the process. The AH-EPS approach is to (A) use the basic phonological structures of the language as a standard point of departure for enhancing and integrating learners' ability to learn new sounds and vocabulary, and (B) to carefully prescribe a framework for what should go on between formal classes (or working with a haptic video independently.) That framework involves both fixed warm ups and pedagogical-movement routines associated with L2 sound features, and, most importantly, staged extension to learners' individual needs and current program of study.

In a classroom setting that means training both instructors and learners to use a set of techniques for presenting, correcting, remembering and recalling what should be integrated into spontaneous speaking, listening, reading and writing. IPPI! (or perhaps, H-IPPI!)  

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

New Introduction to AH-EPS for students

Inserted below is an excerpt from the beginning of the AH-EPS Student Workbook. If you do consider doing the free "TEST DRIVE" of the Introduction and Modules 1 and 2, this description for students might be helpful in preparing them. The video excerpts of the actual instructional stuff on Vimeo would also be helpful (https://vimeo.com/channels/479545). Not my 12-minute introductory chat with you at the beginning, of course.! 
AH-EPS (Acton Haptic - English Pronunciation System) is a new, faster way to improve your pronunciation. (The word “haptic” means “movement + touch.” "Acton" is the last name of the Professor at Trinity Western University who created it.)

The complete AH-EPS program has three pieces:
  •  Introduction Video lesson (and worksheets) 
  • A Teachers Manual that comes with 9, 30-minute video lessons (what we call "Instructional Videos") 
  • A Student Workbook that comes with homework practice video sets (3 to be done after each Instructional Video, or 27 total.) 
For some teachers, using just the Instructional Videos are enough. Other teachers use both the Instructional Videos and the Student Practice videos. If you are doing AH-EPS by yourself, you will need both.

Doing AH-EPS exercises is sometimes a little like:
  • Sign languages used by the deaf or baseball players 
  • “Tai Chi” moves used in martial arts or boxing 
  • Dancing or workout exercise 
  • A computer or “smart phone” game 
  • Will help you learn and remember vocabulary and pronunciation better. 
  • Includes video exercises you do sitting or standing in front of a video player or a computer. 
  • If you are in a school, it is a good way for you and your instructor to correct your mistakes. 
  • If you are studying on your own, independently, AH-EPS will help you learn to be better at  correcting your pronunciation yourself. (You can also get some extra help online, by webcam, too.
So, try to:
  • Do all exercises using a strong voice. Reading out loud is very important. Find a good place to do that so you won’t disturb your neighbors and friends! 
  • Use good posture and breathing. (The video will show you how to do that!) 
  • After doing the Instructional Video, try to practice three times a week if you can. Not every day, just every other day. For example: Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday for about 30 or 40 minutes each time. 
  • Follow the directions carefully. If you are in a class, your instructor can help you check on the new sounds that you are working on. If you are doing AH-EPS by yourself, record yourself doing the conversations and then listen back to it once a week. 
  • Do all the exercises. Even stretching is important, just like in sports. You will do a stretching warm up every day. It will stretch not just your arms, hands, eyes, mouth and upper body, but your thinking, your confidence and your English! 
There are 9 modules in AH-EPS. Each one consists of five parts: (A module is a set of exercises that teaches one or two points. A module will usually take at least a week to complete.)

Part A. 30 minute work with the Instructional Video
1. Warm up
2. Review of previous lesson
3. Demonstration of a new sound learning technique (called a PMP!)
4. Training in how to do the PMP (pedagogical movement pattern)
5. Practice using the PMP
6. Introduction to using the PMP in conversation

Part B. After doing the Part A, make a list of words that have that PMP or sound in them to practice with. (There is a place in the workbook for you to write those down.) 

Part C. Homework Day #1 (30 minute work with the Workbook and Student Practice Videos) 
1. Do warm up
2. Do review of the previous lesson.
3. Practice new PMP
4. Practice new PMP in Conversation #1
5. Practice with word list
6. Do one consonant video, if it a sound that you need to improve.

Part D. Homework Day #2  (30 minute work with the Workbook and Student Practice Videos)
1. Do warm up
2. Do review of the previous lesson.
3. Practice new PMP
4. Practice new PMP in Conversation #2
5. Practice with word list
6. Do one consonant video, if it a sound that you need to improve.

Part E. Homework Day #3  (30 minute work with the Workbook and Student Practice Videos)
1. Do warm up
2. Do review of the previous lesson.
3. Practice new PMP
4. Practice new PMP in Conversation #3
5. Practice with word list
6. (Do one consonant video, if it a sound that you need to improve.

The TEST DRIVE will only require that you register to get all the materials (pdf) and free access to the videos for the Introduction and Modules I and 2, either streaming or download. (It can be done either in class or entirely as lab or homework--or some combination of both.)

To get the rest of the system will require purchase of the Instructors Manual (for access to the Instructional Videos) and  the optional Student Workbook (for access to the Student Practice videos.) Those will probably both be available through Amazon.com or Amazon.ca initially, soon-- I hope!