Sunday, July 28, 2013

Dealing with problem pronunciation? Gesticulate!

Clip art;
This from a Science Daily summary of new research by Miller and O'Neil of San Francisco State University on the role of gesture in problem solving variability in young children. The basic finding was that the more "gesticular" were better at solving problems. Furthermore: 

"There is a growing body of research that suggests gesturing may play a significant role in the processes that people use to solve a problem or achieve a goal. These processes include holding information in memory, keeping the brain from choosing a course too quickly and being flexible in adding new or different information to handle a task."

So, how does that relate to haptic pronunciation teaching? 

  • Holding information in memory (by means of haptic anchoring, using movement and touch on stressed syllables and words)
  • Keeping the brain from choosing a course too quickly (managing attention, haptically, with gesture and touch, at least 3 seconds at a time!)
  • Being flexible in adding new or different information to handle a task (enabling learners to work with multiple modalities in pronunciation work simultaneously, i.e., auditory, visual, kinaesthetic, tactile, etc. )

And you have a problem with that? Good!

Friday, July 26, 2013

(Haptic) Marking for better pronunciation: Going through the motions

If you are a dancer, you'll get this one! Dance instruction and the dance "mind set" have long been two of my favourite analogues to pronunciation work. According to Warburton, Wilson, Lynch and Cuykendall of University of California, Santa Cruz, reported by Science Daily, the "conflict between the cognitive and physical aspects of dance practice" is central to highly artistic performance. A new study suggests an intriguing remedy: dance marking (where the routine was done in slow or slower motion) " . . . essentially . . . a run-through of the dance routine, but with a focus on the routine itself, rather than making the perfect movements." (emphasis, mine.) 
Clip art: Clker

Furthermore, according to the researchers, "Smaller scale movement systems with low energetic costs such as speech, sign language, and gestures may likewise accrue cognitive benefits, as might be the case in learning new multisyllabic vocabulary or working on one's accent in a foreign language."

Previous posts have reported similar "marking" systems by "power learning" practitioners,  athletes, actors and weightlifters. In haptic pronunciation work, "marking" is done by using movement and touch to in some sense rehearse and anchor any aspect of the pronunciation. To get an idea of how this works, get a copy of the Guide to AH-EPS, which is part of the Instructor's Package. (See the GETONIC tag at the top of the right hand column.) Another way to get one is to join IAHICPR for a year and I'll send you a PDF copy, free!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Inattention to pronunciation (teaching)

Why does pronunciation instruction often not "take," that is why are learners often unable to integrate new and changed sounds and words into their speaking? This new research by Drew, Vo and Wolfe of Brigham Young University, summarized by Science Daily, on "inattentional blindness," suggests something of an answer. One conclusion of the study was that "When engaged in a demanding task, attention can act like a set of blinders, making it possible for stimuli to pass, undetected, right in front of our eyes," At least in classroom-based instruction, for most, the central task in focus on pronunciation is generally linking sound to graphemes or text-based representations of speech, visual images.

Contemporary theorists and methodologists have argued strongly that such "work" should best be highly contextualized, what is termed "focus on form," where the flow of a speaking, listening, reading or writing task is momentarily frozen in time while some aspect of pronunciation is "attended" to, probably explained, drilled and then re-contextualized, back in the "story." The case for that perspective in vocabulary teaching is far stronger, although weakening with recent research as well. In other words, decontextualized work on pronunciation and vocabulary paradigms is now re-emerging as potentially much more effective than meaning, communication, narrative and fluency-biased approaches have suggested. (I realize that is quite a sweeping generalization. Research reported in previous posts has more than established that principle.)

So what is the practical implication for our work? It is this: Highly communicative and engaging tasks may not be the best venue for at least basic pronunciation training in the form of interdictions and "pointing out" errors, etc. At the very least, if we are committed to "in-line" pronunciation instruction, then the treatment must be designed to stick, without having to compete unnecessarily with the visual and experiential  process of storing in memory the main, engaging story. Now how could one do that? (The "haptic" solution in tomorrow's blogpost!)

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Haptic Pronunciation Teaching (AH-EPS) Materials and Courses!

We now have 14 AH-EPS haptic pronunciation teaching packages. They are listed below and also available at the Haptic Pronunciation Teaching blog:

1. AH-EPS Basic Instructor Package ($200)
2. AH-EPS Teaching Video DVD set ($75)
3. AH-EPS Student Workbook and DVD set ($35)
4. AH-EPS 12-pack, Student Workbook and DVD sets ($400)
5. AH-EPS 20-pack, Student Workbook and DVD sets ($640)
6. AH-EPS Independent Study package ($350)
7. AH-EPS Level-1 Student Package ($25)
8. AH-EPS Pronunciation Diagnostic ($100)
9. AH-EPS Instructor Accent Enhancement Program ($960)
10. AH-EPS Consonant DVD ($28)
11. AH-EPS Student Tutoring ($30)
12. AH-EPS Instructor Consultation ($100)
13. AH-EPS One-day on-site Professional Development Workshop ($2000 - for up to 100 participants)
14. AH-EPS One-week training and certification ($2400) at Trinity Western University

For further information, go to the teaching blog or contact us at:

Monday, July 1, 2013

(AH-EPS) Instructor Accent Enhancement Course!

Have just finished work on a new course for nonnative English-speaking instructors--or native English speaking instructors who would like to add a more "standard" (North American) dialect to their speaking repertoire. It focuses on accent, rather than general pronunciation or intelligibility. It involves the following:
  • Done individually; requires SKYPE or similar video chat technology
  • 10 modules; 4, 30-45 minute assignments per module 
  • 10, 30-minute post-module SKYPE sessions (5 with Bill Acton; 5 with one of his colleagues)
  • Includes all materials (both books and DVD sets)
  • Initial screening questionnaire submission and 5-minute narrative video speech sample required. 
  • You can begin at any time, and, with approval, may take one break in the course of up to 3 weeks.
  • Once the course commences, however, its effectiveness depends critically upon consistent regular practice. (Just like you demand of your students!) 
The main differences between this course and one we use with non-instructional professionals are that
(a) Assignments from the Instructors Guide are included with each module.
(b) More attention is paid to vowel quality, secondary and unstressed syllables, word-level segmentals, and personal, professional word list development.
(c) Completion of minimum of 3 (of 4) assignments per module is required before the post-module SKYPE video consultation. (In the professional version, only one assignment is required.)

Cost: $960 CAD. Interested?  Email us ( for further information. Enrolment is limited to 10 at any one time.