Thursday, January 4, 2018

Touching pronunciation teaching: a haptic Pas de trois
For you ballet buffs this should "touch home" . . . The traditional "Pas de trois" in ballet typically involves 3 dancers who move through 5 phases: Introduction, 3 variations, each done by at least one dancer, and then a coda of some kind with all dancing.

A recent article by Lamothe in the UK Guardian, Let's touch: why physical connection between human beings matters, reminded us of some the earliest work we did in haptic pronunciation teaching that involved students working together in pairs, "conducted" by the instructor, in effect "touching" each other on focus words or stressed syllables in various ways, on various body parts.

In today's highly "touch sensitive" milieu, any kind of interpersonal touching is potentially problematic, especially "cross-gender" or "cross-power plane", but there still is an important place for it, as Lamothe argues persuasively. Maybe even in pronunciation teaching!

Here is one example from haptic pronunciation teaching. Everything in the method can be done using intra-personal and interpersonal touch, but this one is relatively easy to "see" without a video to demonstrate the interpersonal version of it:
  • Students stand face to face about a foot apart. Instructor demonstrates a word or phrase, tapping her right shoulder (with left hand) on stressed syllables and left elbow (with right hand) on unstressed syllables--the "Butterfly technique"
As teacher and students then repeat the word or phrase together,
  • One student will lightly tap the other on the outside of the her right shoulder on stressed syllables (using her left hand).
  • The other student will lightly tap the outside of the other student's left elbow on unstressed syllables (using her right hand). 
Note: Depending on the socio-cultural context, and depending on what the general attire of the class is, having all students use some kind of hand "disinfectant" may be in order! Likewise, pairing of students obviously requires knowing well both them individually and the interpersonal dynamics of the class. Consider competition among pairs or teams using the same technique. 

If you do have the class and context for it, try a bit of it, for instance on a few short idioms. It takes a little getting used to, but the impact of touch in this relatively simple exercise format--and the close paralinguistic "communication"-- can be very dramatic and . . . touching.

Keep in touch!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing the video so we could see the butterfly technique that would be done by a learner him/herself! That's really fascinating :)