Friday, March 7, 2014

Great moments in pronunciation teaching - "Undercover" haptic burqa work!

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I'm sure that at least some of you have encountered this potential problem. You walk into a room to do some pronunciation work and discover that a significant number of the students are wearing a burqa. That happened to me recently doing 2-hour workshops on basics of haptic pronunciation teaching. The "students" were experienced or in-training teachers. I have often commented that Essential Haptic-integrated English Pronunciation (EHIEP) can be especially effective in large classes where you cannot see the lips or even the faces of students clearly. The gestures themselves, in essence, grab hold of the vocal apparatus and guide the learner's facial muscles, jaw, diaphragm and vocal cords in approximating the target sounds. This was a good field test of that idea.

In that 2-hour workshop format, I did a general orientation to a haptic (gesture + touch) approach to English pronunciation, including: (a) a warm up, (b) lax vowels, (c) tense vowels, (d) tense vowels w/off glides and diphthongs, (e) basic English rhythm, and (f) basic English intonation. For all 6 of those topics, the pedagogical movement patterns (PMP) related to sounds or sound patterns are done with arms and hands touching such that the contrast between any two sounds or sound patterns is both physically and visually very distinct.

All burqas involved snug wrist bands that kept the lower arms of the student covered, even when reaching above the head. The visual effect of several covered students following the PMPs during the session, the synchronized, flowing black burqas was stunning. The degree of abandon in moving with the exercises evidenced by some of them was very much unexpected.

In retrospect, it really shouldn't have been. From both inside and outside the burqa, the attention to motion and touch, not just rich, resonant articulation of the sounds, seemed to be greatly enhanced. For whatever reason, they seemed to readily and enthusiastically "get" or (to use our favourite haptic metaphor) "grasp" what the system was about and its potential application to modelling. anchoring vocabulary and correcting student pronunciation.

Obviously have do more research on what is behind the "haptic burqa" effect!

1 comment:

Angelina Van Dyke said...

Very interesting, indeed!

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