Thursday, October 3, 2013

The "touch-ture" of haptic pronunciation teaching

Clip art: Clker
A new study by researchers from Laboratoire de psychologie et neurocognition (LPNC) (CNRS/Université Pierre Mendès France/ Savoie University) in collaboration with Geneva University's Faculté de psychologie et des sciences de l'éducation and Les Doigts Qui Rêvent (Dreaming Fingers) in Talant (Côte-d'Or, France), reported by Science Daily, demonstrated the positive impact of variable texture on image comprehension in blind children. In essence, by providing materials with different, distinctive surface textures for the hands to survey, subjects were able to learn and recall more effectively. Research has long established that the blind develop superior touch-based senses that serve to replace visual--often in the same areas of the visual cortex as the sighted use.

The same principle should also apply to the application of touch and movement in our work. In the EHIEP (Essential haptic-integrated English pronunciation) approach, there are "roughly" a dozen distinct types of touch, each having its own texture. In principle, the "touch-tures" are related to the phonaesthetic and somatic qualities of the sound or sound process. For example:

For lax, or short vowels (such as: I, ae, a, Ə, U), the "touch-ture" is a light tap of both hands
For tense vowels+off glide (such as iy, ey, ay, ow, uw), the "touch-ture" is a brushing motion of one hand across the other as the first part of the vowel is pronounced. The moving hand then continues on to a location in the visual field associated with either glide, w or y.

We often have learners close their eyes or use eye tracking as they execute various pedagogical movement patterns across the visual field in presenting or correcting pronunciation. More focused attention to the "felt sense" or "touch-ture" of the hands in the process and the attendant vocal resonance has always been understood to be very important. Here is more evidence why. Keep in touch. 

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