Thursday, November 7, 2013

Pronunciation anxiety? Don't worry, be "haptic!"

Have done several previous posts that "touch" on the effects of interpersonal touch, such as "healing touch." In our kind of haptic pronunciation teaching, for a number of reasons, we use only "intra-personal" touch, typically the hands touching or hands touching the arms and shoulders or the outside of the hips. Generally, that's it. A new study by Koole and colleagues at the University of Amsterdam, reported in Science Daily in a summary entitled, "Touch may alleviate existential fears in people with low self esteem," re-opens that intriguing area of research and development for me.

Credit: AMPISys, Inc. 
I earlier explored interpersonal touch in private work, for example where a couple or two female learners practiced the EHIEP pedagogical movement patterns together, where one touched the hand of the other on stressed syllables in anchoring new pronunciation. (Have also had reports from instructors who work with child L2 learners that various group-based hand clapping or "give-me-five" gestures seem to work well, too.) The reports from the students were quite positive. Have always wanted to get back to figuring out culturally and interpersonally appropriate use of interpersonal touch.

There are certainly good reasons for that. Koole's work suggests that even our "intra-personal" touch gesture work may "work" better than we thought! Although this is close to being filed in our "Well . . . duh! file" (a study that empirically validates common sense), in essence, interpersonal touch, even touching inanimate objects, for some people, lowered anxiety--and anxiety can easily cancel out any kind of instruction, let along haptic engagement. What caught my eye was the last sentence: "The researchers are currently exploring the possibilities of simulated interpersonal touch through the use of a "haptic jacket," which can electronically give people the feeling that they are being hugged."

Hug your local haptician . . . and bring your teddy bear to class today. 

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