Tuesday, April 9, 2013

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

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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! 

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