Monday, October 19, 2015

The perfect body image for haptic pronunciaiton teaching!

Is haptic pronunciation teaching for you? According to research, here's a way to check. Put on your exercise clothes. Stand in front of a full length mirror. If you don't like what you see (really!) or you like what you see too much . . . maybe not. If you are not up to speed on the impact of body image, this readable, 1997 summary of research by Fox is a pretty good place to start.

We have known for over a decade that some instructors and students may find haptic pronunciation work disconcerting for a number of reasons-- including culture and personality. They can be understandably skeptical about moving their bodies and gesturing during instruction, in class or in private. Likewise, teaching, standing in front of a class, has proven in many contexts not the most effective way do initial haptic pronunciation training.

Fast forward to the age of media and the potential of body image to affect personality and performance is magnified exponentially. In a new study of the impact of body imagery presented on the website "Fitsperation"and Pinerest, Teggeman and Zaccardo of Flinders University, found that for college age-women, viewing attractive fitness models generally does nothing for body image; quite the contrary, in fact. The subjects in the study reported lower satisfaction with their body after viewing the Fitsperation images, but better, more positive sense of body image after looking at a selection of "travel" pictures.

Now there could be many explanations for that effect. (I do need to get a copy of those "travel" pictures!) Numerous other studies have found that the same goes for motivating you for long term diet and fitness persistence. Short term is another matter. Great looking models do help get you and your credit card in the door! The point is that in this kind of media-based instruction, especially haptic pronunciation work that is, in essence, training the body to control speech, the appearance of the model may be important. I'm sure it is, in fact.

In part for those reasons, the Acton-haptic English Pronunciation System (AHEPS) training videos use a relatively non-distracting model whose image could not possibly intimidate, one that should not negatively impact body image. We found one: ME, in black and white, dressed in a white, long sleeve pullover with dark grey sweater vest, wearing black beret.

I must admit that I was a bit disheartened at first when I was told by consultants that I was a near perfect model: 70+ years old, bald, no distinguishing facial features, nondescript body shape, "professor-type"--my appearance would distract no one from the gestural patterns I was doing with my hands and arms in front of my upper body. Great. So much for my plan to use a "Fitsperational" model for the 120+ videos of the system.

For a time we tried using an avatar, but he was not engaging enough to hold attention. Alas, I proved to be "avatar-enough" in the end. In addition, any number of studies have confirmed the relatively fragile nature of haptic engagement. It is exceedingly sensitive to being overridden or distracted off by visual or auditory interference. 

With a few exceptions, such as workshops at conferences, most hapticians, myself included, let the videos do the initial training, where learners and models need to do a good deal of uninhibited upper body movement of hands and arms. Later, in classroom application of the pedagogical movement patterns, instructors use a very discrete, limited range of movement in correction and modeling--generally within the "body-image-comfort-zone" of most.

Not quite ready to teach pronunciation haptically, yourself?--Let us do it for you!

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