Sunday, June 18, 2017

Good vibrations: Why the kazoo works in teaching intonation!

I frequently find reports of studies that have striking conclusions that I'd really love to believe are valid--but do not provide quite enough detail.  Here's one: Haptic learning system for learning Chinese by Jung, Hwang, and Kyung, Dept. of Digital Media, Ajou University, Korea. A neat little study, nonetheless, one that may suggest some interesting follow up.
The experiment was seemingly straightforward. Subjects in the control group were presented with a  traditional audio/visual presentation of a set of target words and asked to memorize them. (Nothing was published as to exactly what the subjects did on their own from that point.) The treatment group, in addition to the same audio/visual presentation, simultaneously were touching a device that provided them with "feel" or vibrations of different frequencies of the different phonemic tones of the Chinese words as they heard them. Not surprisingly, the "haptic" group performed far better on the subsequent recall test, (p<.05).

Have seen no previous study that used a similar procedure. The popular use of hand-held kazoos in teaching English intonation, however, provides something of the same varied tonal vibrations. Judy Gilbert has been a "Kazoo-enthusiast" for decades, using them in virtually every teacher training workshop. I have been skeptical of their use in the classroom, for a number of reasons, but in teacher training, they definitely have a place.

In haptic pronunciation teaching we use a strong focus on vocal resonance, trying to create as much rich vibration in the bones and sinus cavities as possible to enhance memory for sounds and words, along with controlled gestures, what we term: pedagogical movement patterns. One could easily design an analogous hand-held device that would provide something of the same kind of haptic/tactile input as in the Jung et al. study.  Just need to figure out how to get a similar "buzz" on in our EHIEP haptic research!

If you have an idea how to do that, let us know!

Source: Asia -pacific Proceedings of Applied Science and Engineering for Better Human Life, Vo l.5 (2016) pp.55-59,

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