This participatory, experiential session presents a haptic (gesture + touch) procedure for helping learners produce and better “hear” unstressed vowels in English. In essence, as words are articulated, learners touch hands at specific points in the visual field on stressed vowels and “flick their thumbs” on the unstressed vowels.
Working with unstressed vowels in English is often neglected. The problem is often “solved” by avoiding the issue entirely or by emphasizing suprasegmentals (rhythm, stress and intonation) which, research suggests, do indeed help to determine the prominence of unstressed syllables to some extent. In addition, there may be some limited, indirect attention to unstressed vowels in oral practice of reduced forms, especially in fixed phrases (e.g., “salt ‘n pepper) and idioms.
Research has recently demonstrated that disproportionate attention to suprasegmentals (rhythm, stress and intonation) without a balanced, production-oriented treatment of key segmentals (vowels and consonants) may be very counter-productive, undermining intelligibility substantially. That is especially the case with learners whose L1 is Vietnamese, for example.
This technique helps to address that issue by facilitating more appropriate, controlled focus on the vowel quality in unstressed syllables. It involves the use of two types of pedagogical gestures, one that adds additional attention to the stressed vowel of the word and a second that helps learners to better approximate the target sound and maintain the basic syllabic structure of the word.
The session is experiential and highly participatory. Participants are provided materials and links to Youtube.com videos demonstrating the technique.