Friday, May 3, 2013

Better pronunciation with grit, tenacity and perseverance!

Clip art: Clker
If getting the pronunciation of your L2 does not come easy (or accomplishing anything that requires mobilization of all your "noncognitive" resources--according to a US Department of Education 2013 study)--you have another option: grit, tenacity and perseverance. A while back (1997) I did a paper on a related topic, looking at the optimal classroom environment for pronunciation learning, that began with this great quote from a popular student pronunciation textbook of the time:

"Acquiring good pronunciation is the most difficult part of learning a new language. As you improve your articulation you have to learn to listen and imitate all over again. As with any activity you wish to do well, you have to practice, practice, practice, and then practice some more. Remember that you cannot accomplish good pronunciation overnight; improvement takes time. Some students may find it more difficult than others and will need more time than others to improve." (Orion, 1997, pp. xxiii-iv).

My point at the time was to "suggest," ways of using techniques derived from hypnosis (e.g., Suggestopedia) and related disciplines that appear to require less GTP on the part of the learner, allowing the learning to go on either subconsciously or at least with less overt "practice, practice, practice . . . " The quote from Orion (1997) was supposed to represent the wrong way to set up the class or students for what was ahead for them. According to the study, which identifies GTP as "critical factors for succes in the 21st century," I may have been wrong . . . or at least not doing justice to a key dimension of the process.

The more I work at developing a good system for promoting, monitoring and compelling essential pronunciation homework in AH-EPS, the more "Orion-esque" I have become. If learners do not have intrinsic GTP, the system has to provide it for them. The research on exercise persistence is full of guidelines on how to do that. It is not easy to figure out, but with a just a little GTP . . . 

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