Saturday, June 28, 2014

Conducing feelings and emotions with vowels!

How's this for an opening line of a new Science Daily summary of 2014 research by Rummer and Grice entitled, Mood is linked to vowel type: The role of articulatory movements: "Ground-breaking experiments have been conduced (sic) to uncover the links between language and emotions." (Love that possible typo, "conduced," by the way--maybe something of a portmanteau between conduct and conduce perhaps? That actually unpacks the study quite well! To "conduce" means to "lead to a particular result." Science can be like that, eh!

Basically what they discovered was that if you have subjects do something like bite on a pencil (so that they come up with a smile, of sorts) or just keep repeating the high front vowel /i/ that has that
Clip art:
articulatory setting while they watch a cartoon, they tend to see things as more amusing. If, on the other hand,  you have them stick the end of that pencil in their mouth so that they develop an extreme pucker, or keep repeating the vowel /o/, they tend to see things as less amusing

So? It has been known for decades that vowels do have phonaesthetic qualities. (See several previous blog posts.) The question has always been . . . but why? The conclusion: Because of what the facial muscles are doing while the vowel is articulated, especially as it relates to non-lexical (non word) emotional utterances. Could be, but they should have also tossed in some controls, some other vowels, too, such as having subjects use a mid, front unrounded vowel such as /ae/, as in "Bad!"-- or a high front rounded vowel, such as /ü/, as "Uber," the web-based taxi service, or a high back unrounded vowel. 

As much as I like the haptic pencil technique, which I use myself occasionally (using coffee stirs, however) for anchoring lip position with those vowels and others, there is obviously more going on here, such as the phonaesthetic qualities of the visual field. Also consider the fact that the researchers appear to be ethnically German, perhaps seriously compromising their ability to even perceive "amusing" in the first place, conducing them into that interpretation of the results. 
Nonetheless, an interesting and possibly useful study for us, more than mere "lip" service, to be sure. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Prompt (haptic) pronunciation prompting: Why does that work?

This post is an edited repost of a piece I posted on a list-serve recently, "The dark side of real-time, spontaneous pronunciation correction & feedback." Haptic anchoring of pronunciation change, where we have learners move and speak along with us, would probably be technically termed a type of "prompting" (Lyster and Saito, 2010). The question posed in the post is: How can you know when or why feedback works, based on research studies where what students knew or had been taught before the feedback event is not adequately specified? (In AH-EPS haptic pronunciation work, which emphasizes in-class spontaneous feedback, that connection is fundamental.) 
Have been working through the various studies and meta-analyses of corrective feedback in pronunciation teaching, (e.g., Lyster and Saito, 2010) looking for one feature: What did the students know about the feature in focus before the intervention and when did they learn about it? In other words, if learners have been introduced to the vowels system in some way, we probably will assume that in class correction or feedback on a specific vowel (or even out of class self correction) has a better chance of working. 
In all of the studies I have reviewed so far that investigate the range of feedback mechanisms, both in lab settings and in classrooms, I can find almost nothing that adequately characterizes the assumed cognitive schemata or understanding of the learners relative to that phonological feature prior to receiving some kind of feedback. It is occasionally referenced in passing, for example, that students, “had been introduced to X earlier, etc.,” but never in any systematic analysis.  The irony of contemporary theory giving such credence, prima facie, to “behaviours” without reference to what learners may be bringing to the party, must be enough to make the ghosts of Skinner, Lado and friends smile.

Haptic pronunciation work is based on prior, systematic introduction of specific features of the sound system before classroom intervention.  (Some of that is very much “Gilbertesque” in nature.) 

Do you know of an accessible study of classroom correction/feedback where the description of the formal pedagogical approach in place prior to the classroom “event” (or just what students are assumed to have known about the target) is sufficiently detailed and explicit so that the connection between formal (or even informal) presentation/knowledge – intervention--and effect or change is at least traceable? 
I didn't think so . . .  

Friday, June 20, 2014

Up standing (haptic) pronunciation teaching!

Early on we realized that at least for orientation and training where the primary goal of instruction is improved oral production of English, having adult or young adult students standing up for haptic pronunciation work is at least better, probably essential in most cases. If the focus is vocabulary development or when working with children, explicit training in the pedagogical movement patterns may not be critical. (See earlier posts on "kinesthetic/kinaesthetic listening," for example.)

Once the pedagogical movement patterns are introduced, whether using the AH-EPS haptic videos or done by the instructor "in person," using them for subsequent modelling, feedback and correction can be very effective.

Clip art:
A new study by Knight and Baer of Washington University,  as reported in Science Daily,* adds support to such "up standing" practice. In essence, during a problem solving task, teams of subjects were assigned to teams such that they, " . . . worked in rooms that either had chairs arranged around a table or with no chairs at all." Not surprisingly--from our perspective at least-- " . . . team members were less protective of their ideas; this reduced territoriality and led to more information sharing . . . (they) also seemed more efficient and purposeful."

A good opportunity to experience the "vertical" side of haptic pronunciation teaching, of course, would be the upcoming August workshop!

*I have had several inquires as to why I cite Science Daily summaries, rather than the research publication itself. Three reasons: First, many of the studies are inaccessible if you are not at an institution that subscribes to the journal. I will not ask a reader to simply trust my interpretation of research at face value without being able to get to it independently. Second, many newly published articles cost at least the equivalent of 7 Starbucks Vente Carmel Frappuccinos--where I draw the line. Third, the SD summaries are not always deadly accurate but are generally very readable, often entertaining and understandable to the non-technical reader. As always, Science Daily, caveat emptor!

Monday, June 16, 2014

9 ways to add more confidence to your pronunciation teaching!

There have been several earlier posts focusing from different perspectives on the role of confidence in pronunciation learning and teaching. Most of the research cited involved some type of physical action or physical response that functioned to make the speaker immediately more confident. You may start off with something of a gender gap, but here are some possibilities:

Any other suggestions to add to the list?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

One-day, Haptic Pronunciation Teaching Workshop in Vancouver! - CANCELLED!

Due to scheduling conflicts, we have cancelled the workshop. (For those who registered earlier, you should have received your refund by now. If not, please let me know asap!) There is a good chance that the workshop will, instead, be offered as 2, 3-hour webinars. An announcement on that should be out sometime next month!

Here is the description of the workshop:

How long does it take your body to learn how to teach pronunciation more haptically? About 8 hours! The first of the new one-day, Acton Haptic English Pronunciation System (AH-EPS), training sessions for instructors will take place on August 9th in Vancouver, BC.

Morning (9~12)
A. Haptic learning preliminaries
B. Vowels and word stress
C. Rhythm and phrase grouping
D. Intonation
Afternoon (1~6)
E. Fluency and linking
F. Expressiveness
G. Consonants
H. Haptic-integrated teaching method

$100 fee includes Seminar workbook (as PDF download) and web access to model videos of techniques presented.  Venue: Sandman Signature Hotel, Langley, BC. Depending on number of registrants, hardcopies of handouts and lunch may be included as well. Training and practice videos, AH-EPS Student work and Instructor Guide available after the Workshop at discount prices.

For more information or if you'd like to host one in your neighbourhood, too:

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Visual "Socailization" and visual pronunciation teaching methods

In a recent interview, Robert Thomson, chief executive officer of News Corp, commented on the far reaching impact of "visual socialization" on today's media and news organizations. One observation was that we are only beginning to understand the new,  overwhelming dominance of visual learning, what that means to both social connectedness and education. To get a feel for what visual connectedness and "Socail media" may be like, watch this "Socail Cave" video by Tiazzoldi or even check it out on Pinerest.
Photo credit: Moses Lam

Well . . . yes, there may be a bit of  random "dys-graphia" involved there, but the two pieces together do underscore Thomson's point, the all consuming influence of visual media. I may just adopt that acronym: SOCAIL? (So, Over-the-top  visual-Cognitive pronunciation teaching really Ain't It, Lads?) 

It is easy to underestimate the impact on our work. There are several methods or companies that appear to be more explicitly visual, such as "" How well the new "visually socialized" generations of learners (VSLs) can learn pronunciation, can connect up sound and movement to their primary learning modality, visual imagery, is, of course, the question. In general, research and practice up to this point suggests that visual dominance simply overrides not only auditory but tactile as well. (See--literally--dozens of previous blog posts here on that topic!) 

My guess is that many highly visual pronunciation teaching methods (that do not involve strong compensatory auditory and movement components by design) are anachronisms, at best, created before the the emergence of new media and VSLs, overcompensating for earlier attraction of "colourful" or engaging visual images on those who had not experienced them previously. 

The antidote? (And I could provide anecdotes ad infinitum, of course.) Haptic. Keep in touch. 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Great Haptic Pronunciation Teaching Proposals for TESOL 2015!

Photo credit: Clker
Toronto in March?
Here is a list of "haptic" proposals with summaries that are being submitted for TESOL this year (March 2015 in Toronto.) Very impressive, eh!
A. Haptic (English) Pronunciation Teaching Workshop
This workshop introduces a set of six haptic (movement + touch)-based techniques for presenting and correcting English L2 pronunciation, applicable for intermediate English language learners and above. Guided by research on kinaesthetic approaches to L2 pronunciation instruction, the presenters train participants to use the instructional techniques in their classrooms.
B. Haptic (movement plus touch) Pronunciation Techniques for English Consonant Repair
This workshop presents haptic-based (movement plus touch) techniques for improving pronunciation of select English consonants. Included are: th/th, f/v, l/n, r, s/z, sh/zh, y, w, n/ng, t/d, voiced final consonants, consonant clusters and initial consonant aspiration. It is appropriate for relatively inexperienced instructors of middle-school age learners and older.
C. Accented, Confident Asian Female Professional L2 Identity: Rhythm Fight Club
In this workshop, after examining current theory on L2 identity related to Asian professional women and embodiment theory, participants work through a series of haptic-based (movement and touch) exercises, including a set of speaking/rhythm-based exercises, which provides a powerful anchor for shifting into more confident and accented professional English.
D. Conducting on-the-spot Corrections of Rhythm, Stress and Intonation: Haptic Baton
This practice-orientation session focuses on a haptic (movement + touch) technique for correcting and modelling pronunciation during any classroom activity—using a pencil, like an orchestra conductor. The key is to include a set of “haptic anchors,” where the baton touches the other hand on stressed syllables of problematic words.
E. Anchoring Academic Word list “families” with Haptic-integrated Pronunciation Techniques
Haptic-integrated (movement and touch) pronunciation techniques are recognized as a valuable, engaging tool for helping learners practice and remember target vocabulary. This workshop focuses on the EAP application of that process to more efficiently learn terms from Coxhead’s Academic Word List, a core component of academic discourse. 
F. Pragmatics in Teaching Oral Skills: Haptic-Enhanced Attending Skills Training
Being able to better facilitate development of pragmatic competence with ELLs is a priority of most programs. This workshop gives participants experience in combining attending skills training with haptic (movement + touch) - based pronunciation teaching techniques to enhance use of conversational strategies and responses appropriate to a variety of socio-cultural contexts.
G. Haptic instruction and L2 fluency development
This paper presents the findings of an empirical, classroom-based research project that investigated the impact of haptic (movement and touch) pronunciation instruction on second language learners’ fluency and comprehensibility. Implications for L2 pronunciation research and pedagogy, including practical tips for enhancing learner fluency, will be discussed.
H. Teaching linking with touch and Tai Chi
In this workshop participants are trained in a set of haptic (movement + touch) techniques for helping learners better understand linking in oral speech and produce basic linking of vowels and consonants between words in English. The workshop is based on the Acton Haptic Essential English Pronunciation System.
I.  “Learning vowel sounds through haptic (movement and touch) anchoring”
This session is for English Language teachers who want to explore haptic (touch + movement) approaches to teaching the pronunciation of English vowels. Participants will experience the Matrix, the Vowel Clock, and the Unstressed Vowel Thumb War and learn how these techniques can be integrated into their own teaching contexts.
J. "Haptic phonetics for pronunciation teaching"
In this practice-oriented session, a haptic-based (movement plus touch) phonetic system is presented for use in teaching English pronunciation. Each sound pattern is represented by the sound coming from the articulatory muscles and vibrators,  position(s) in the visual field in front of the learner, and a specifically designed gesture.