Monday, April 29, 2013

Aerobic Haptic Breakout #3

Here is the 3rd of 3 "Aerobic Haptic" break out sessions done last weekend at the BCTEAL conference.  Here is the Rhythm Fight Club presentation and the outline of what is going on from the conference handout:

  • ·      Increased speed of delivery
  • ·      Produces greater processing time
  • ·      Unstressed Syllable "compacting" (stressed syllable lengthening)
  • ·      Contrast between stressed and unstressed syllables

Common sense
  • ·      Releases frustration, tension, aggression!
  • ·      Enhanced assertiveness
  • ·      Confidence builder; creates a new "persona" for some
  • ·      Impacts conversational delivery rapidly, within days
  • ·      Energizing, just "fun!"

  • ·      Bilateral stimulation
  • ·      Switching effect on hemispheric interaction
  • ·      Executed in lower visual field (affective loading)
  • ·      Synchronizes body rhythm with syllable rhythm
  • ·      Strong textural anchoring (wadded paper in hand) with crushing, fist

Aerobic Haptic Break Out #2

Here is the 2nd of 3 "Aerobic Haptic" break out sessions done last weekend at the BCTEAL conference.  Here is the Butterfly presentation and the outline of what is going on from the conference handout:

  • ·    Syllable focus
  • ·     Contrast between stressed and unstressed syllables
  • ·     Basic rhythm groups
  • ·     Phrasal group focus

Common sense
  • ·     Relaxing
  • ·    Attention grabbing
  • ·      Feeling in the upper body of English rhythm
  • ·      Strong core body stimulation and impact
  • ·      Leads toward fluency

  • ·      Bilateral engagement
  • ·      Curtails multitasking (switching effect on alternating hemispheres)
  • ·      "Butterfly" is common technique in psychotherapy, used to bring the client "back to the present moment"
  • ·      Switching forces "inner" focus, "grounding"

Thursday, April 25, 2013

More hard hitting evidence as to why haptic pronunciation teaching has so much punch!

Clip art by
This is really cool. At the BC TEAL conference on Saturday we'll be doing a presentation on the neurological case for why haptic pronunciation teaching works. This will be one of the highlighted studies. First check out this AH-EPS video and then review this summary of research by Propper, McGraw, Brunye and Weiss of Montclair State University, published in PLos ONE, as reported by Science Daily. In essence, the study found that subjects could remember words better if they just clenched their right fist after concentrating on them. It is a bit simplistic and leaves open some obvious loose ends, but it certainly works for us! An earlier study (also summarized by Science Daily), reported earlier on this blog, found that clenching your left hand keeps you from clenching under pressure as well. (Clench both and you are unbeatable?)

The Rhythm Fight Club, the one in the Vimeo video, from the time it was created in 2007, has been the most immediately effective of the AH-EPS pedagogical movement patterns in the system. It looks now like the entire AH-EPS system, including the "knock out" Rhythm Fight Club, will be available for purchase in about a month. Check the new AH-EPS page or the ESLEnglish feature on AH-EPS occasionally. Even better, please go there and LIKE the  page so we can get the word out more successfully.

Monday, April 22, 2013

New "Acton-Haptic" Facebook page and beyond!

We are about to move and open up new social media:

  • Facebook: actonhaptic (That is  up now and will be "embellished" in the next few days! When you get a chance, please go "like" it when you have a chance!) 
  • Twitter: @actonhaptic (Will kick that off at the BCTEAL conference later this week where we are doing four haptic presentations!) 
  • email: (We'll use that for all business communications, beginning immediately.)
  • Website: and (Those will go up as the streaming and download components come online.) For now our "home" for access to the demonstration videos and general information on AH-EPS will remain where it is now at Fiona Bramble's website
  • Blog: We'll stay with HICPR for more general haptic research, but the pedagogical work, especially that related to general haptic pronunciation teaching, will move over to 

Saturday, April 13, 2013


Clip art: 
Over the course of the last five years or so the acronyms we have been using, along with the theory, models and methods have evolved.
Here is a brief tour:

  • HICP (Haptic-integrated Clinical Pronunciation)  – The term we use now for the general approach, especially the "clinical" side that focuses on integration into spontaneous speech and systematic,  invasive management of homework practice
  • HICPR (Haptic-integrated Clinical Pronunciation Research)  – The mother blog; can also be "Haptic-integrated Clinical Pronunciation Researcher"
  • HPT (Haptic pronunciation teaching) – The other blog
  • EHIEP – The application of HICP to English. Each of us really has our own take on that. EHIEP doesn't require haptic video, per se. AH-EPS does. We have been training people at workshops in the non-video-based use of some of the protocols for five years or so.  
  • AH-EPS (Acton Haptic - English Pronunciation System) – The haptic video system that is coming on the market now. 
  • HIPOECES (Haptic-integrated Pronunciation for other- and extended circle- English Speakers) Name of the blog when it started in 2010. It made sense at the time . . .
  • IAHICPR (International Association of Haptic-integrated Clinical Pronunciation Researchers). Have list of people who will become charter members of that later this fall when I kick it off officially. 
  • HIC (Haptician-in-Chief) A term referring to me on occasion
  • Clker
  • KIT (Keep in touch!) Our favorite sign off. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Face it . . . Your pronunciation could look better!

According to research by Lander and Caper at the University of Lancaster, a little  more lipstick and work on your speech style may be in order. (Watched yourself on video lately when you ask a student "look at my mouth" as you provide a model?) Their study demonstrated unequivocally that your listeners' ability to understand you if they can see you can be enhanced considerably with a little tweaking. One feature that made words more easily understood, not surprisingly, was backing off from conversation style toward more declarative articulation, especially in times of potentially disruptive background noise. In addition, although other movement of facial muscles does play a supporting role or is synchronized with mouth and lip movement, it was the mouth that carried the functional load primarily. 

Clip art: Clker
This is a particularly interesting problem in haptic work, in part because the eyes of the student are naturally drawn to the hand and arm movements. Consequently, you must be a bit more conscientious about how you articulate a model word, for example, as you do the corresponding pedagogical movement pattern, to be sure that students can also read you lip patterning as well. Record some of your work, turn off the sound and spend a little time trying to figure out what you were saying . . . 

Obviously nothing to just "pay lip service to!" 

Citation: Investigating the impact of lip visibility and talking style on speechreading performance -

Thursday, April 11, 2013

AH-EPS Instructor's package!

We'll will be selling the preliminary version of  the AH-EPS Instructor's Package for the first time on April 25th at the BCTEAL annual conference in Vancouver, British Columbia. The conference theme could not be more appropriate, "Brain-compatible language learning." Here is what it will include:
  • 10 Teaching Videos (10 video lessons) on 4 DVDs
  •  2, 1-hour webcam consultations with AH-EPS consultants (You have to pay for it, even if you don't use w/in 60 days.)
  • 1 Instructors Guide (about 70 pages)
  • 1 Student Practice Video set (3 DVDs). That is enough DVDs for 3 students. (It is recommended that students do the homework practice together, in groups of 2 or 3.) 
  • 3 Student Workbooks (The workbook is about 120 pages in length. You can pass that out in pieces or all at once.)
  • 14 consonant video mini-modules (on 1 DVD)
Cost is $400 plus shipping. 

Additional Student Practice Video sets will cost about $100 (for a DVD set and 3 hard copies of the workbook.) We'll begin shipping orders beginning in June. Ordering information will be available May 1st here and  at

Once the final version comes out by the end of the summer, the cost will go up by about $100. Sometime in the fall also the downloadable (and possibly streaming) versions of the package will be available as well. 

If you'd like to get your name on the list now for a set, email me at: 

Keep in touch! 

Accuracy, complexity and fluency: the Schrödinger's cat of pronunciation teaching

Clip art: 
The concept of "Schrödinger's cat" seems to be everywhere you look in contemporary culture, let alone quantum physics. The idea or paradox relates to two seemingly opposite conditions or demands  existing simultaneously. In pronunciation teaching we have a few as well. None is more obvious than the requirement that instruction focus on both accuracy and fluency "simultaneously,' or at least from a curriculum perspective. The "complexity" there, of course, is that for even the most experienced of us, balancing those seemingly irreconcilable demands can be  . . . well . . . demanding. One of my favorite test questions in graduate methods is, in fact, "How do you balance the need for fluency with accuracy?" How would you answer that?

Found an interesting piece of research that at least articulates the question well by Hunger (2011). (The linked source is a pdf from something called, "ELT Journal Advanced Access, March 15, 2011.) Hunter did a small study using a system called, "Small Talk," that seemed to suggest some preliminary technology-based strategies that is worth a look sometime.

The "problem," of course, is trying to figure out whether accuracy and fluency need to be addressed at the same time, within the same class period, for example, or whether focused doses of each at different times, in different classes is sufficient. Most theorists opt for the latter in very general terms, the assumption being that from there it is the learner's job to integrate and reconcile the two.

"Haptic-integrated clinical pronunciation" (HICP) assumes, on the other hand, that it is the responsibility of the instructional program to provide practice that do both simultaneously. In part the way that is done is by having set up "kinaesthetic monitoring" of targeted sounds prior to engagement in conversational practice, somewhat analogous to that done visual/auditory in "Small talk."  See this blog post and the links to several others on the use of different "channels" in HIPC work. The idea is to allow both accuracy and fluency work to be relegated to control and monitoring by "the body" in a less conscious channel that will not interfere with conscious thought any more than absolutely necessary.

There is, of course, more than one way to "skin this cat," but none more moving and touching, to be sure.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Why practicing pronunciation in a group is better than doing it just in your head or alone in the lab

Clip art
For over 40 years I have done what I could to create social experiences for students for pronunciation practice. For a time I played with ways of sending them out into the neighborhood for conversation or ersatz research projects, etc., but ultimately it came back to either practicing in class or having them assemble outside of class in small groups, pairs, trios or quartets, to practice together. We're not talking here about preliminary training with vocal sound resonance and practice word lists used for basic change, as prescribed by Lessac (1967) and others (e.g., Acton, 1984).

Social learning theory or "social cognitive" learning theory as it is now referred to has always been the theoretical basis for that from my perspective. (Nice web-based source there from the University of Southern Alabama.) Granted there are students, maybe 5% or less, who can somehow repeat a new sound or lexical item over to themselves a few times and then it almost magically begins to show up in spontaneous speech. (Have done some blog posts in the past on those "freaks" of linguistic nature. If you are one, my condolences.)

SCLT argues that learning in social context is critical to subsequent efficient functioning. (Notice that I said "efficient," not "effective.") The "behaviours," in our case, new or changed pronunciation, are so intimately tied to the learner's social and psychological make up and identity that socially appropriate performance of them later is predominately a question of experientially  "returning" to scene of the initial practice (emotionally, at least) for access to the new skills or words.

In the new AH-EPS framework, it is recommended that students do homework in groups if at all possible, viewing and moving along with (mirroring)  the 30-minute haptic video homework practice lessons. As powerful as the video experience is, the impact of being capable of or learning to move and speak comfortably in public is enormously important. That is part of the reason that I do not recommend working on advanced pronunciation and accent in one-on-one settings, but preferably in groups of six or more.

See Acton (1984) and the--VERY SOON FORTHCOMING LATER THIS MONTH--AH-EPS Instructor's Guide and Student Workbook for more on the specifics of that and how to build it in systematically into pronunciation homework assignments.

Keep in touch . . . especially as you practice your new pronunciation! 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Perfect pronunciation?

Clip art: 
There are any number of ways to do that, of course. ("Per'fect" it, that is!) One place I would generally not begin with beginners or upper beginners, however, would be at the Merriam Websters Learner Dictionary and its "Perfect Pronunciation Exercises."  As noted in earlier posts, one place I might start however, one of my favorites, one very compatible with AH-EPS, is at English Accent Coach. The "difference" between the two sites is instructive. One begins with listening to words in sentence context; the other, begins with the sounds themselves, leads learners through a series of exercises (and games) and then extends to the sounds in words, etc. The EAC model is a good one, whether you use that specific site or do the same within your listening/pronunciation syllabus/curriculum. Most of the traditional pronunciation packages did something similar but did not have the technology available to make it fast and efficient, as does EAC.

Now EAC will probably not entirely agree with me that embodying them first gives learners a much better "touch" for the vowels of English, before they play the game there, but give Professor Thomson a break . . . he's listening.

So, once you finish Module 3 in AH-EPS, send your students over to EAC for some very fine, fine tuning. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Haptic pronunciation teaching system (AH-EPS) launch!

Have been getting many inquires on exactly when everything will be available. Soon. Here is how it looks right now:

1. Our experience with the current Vimeo streaming video has been hit and miss. Without good bandwidth, it is not all that hot. We are primarily marketing AH-EPS to those who don't have high end technology. So, we will probably keep that option fo
r the time being and but  try allowing downloads from Vimeo (including a different cost structure, etc.)

2. The current list price of Instructor's set is going to be about $300 (4 DVDs). That includes
  • An introductory video set that you use to convince students to take the course. (One you might use for a information meeting with the public, like advertising.)
  • 9, 30-minute video sets. (One for each module) 
  • A DVD with 14 consonant videos.
  • Instructor's Guide (65 pages) 
  • 1-hour webcam consultation
3. The price of the Student Workbook set (including 4 DVDs) will be about $50. That includes:
  • 27 video homework practice sets (3 for each of the 9 modules) 
  • A DVD with 14 consonant videos. 
  • The Student workbook (120 pages)
                              (The Workbook and DVD set can be purchased separately.)
Note: You need at least one Student Workbook DVD set for each 3 students that you have. It is best, of course, for every student to have his or own workbook and DVD set, but we have found that it is possible for 3 students to share the DVDs the 3 video sets in each module in one week. It takes at least a week for each module. (One 30-minute Teaching video set and then 3, 30-minute homework video sets.)  If you are going to be doing classes with AH-EPS, we can work out a deal where you just buy workbooks for everybody and one set of DVDs for each 2 or 3 students. (The workbook, by itself would cost about $25, depending on how many, etc!) Can even set up free webcam consultations with you and teachers, etc.

4. If a student wants to do the course by himself, he would also need to purchase both the Instructor's DVDs and the Student Workbook set.

More info in about a week! 

Keep in touch (KIT)

Gestures "count" in pronunciation teaching!

Clip art: 
New study by Fenn and Duffy of Michigan State University and Cook of University of Iowa, summarized by Science Daily, demonstrates that using gestures as a teacher--at least in 4th grade match--results in better learning for students. (Other research has detected the same tendency in one-on-one tutoring as well.) In the study, the focus was an algebra equation. The "gesture" group saw an instructor gesture with one hand, mirror image, to the side of the equation being talked about as it happened. The control group was just "talked to."

They (not surprisingly) offer no explanation as to what may have been behind the striking difference in post treatment testing between the groups, but they do offer three near breath-taking observations ". . . Gesturing can be a very beneficial tool that is completely free and easily employed in classrooms . . . I think it can have long-lasting effects . . . Teachers in the United States tend to use gestures less than teachers in other countries."

The study used "deictic" gestures (pointing at something physically present or conceptual). It is still an interesting piece of evidence. (They could, of course, have tested the main effect by having another group that did not see a gesturing instructor but were, instead, provided with left or right pointing graphic arrows superimposed on the screen.) Just thought I'd point that out . . .

In AH-EPS all pedagogical movement patterns involve deictic anchoring in the visual field as well. That  has to count for something, eh?