Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Got the perfect personality style for teaching pronunciation? Probably!

Have often heard it said (and even remarked, myself) that some people are just natural pronunciation teachers and others are not. There was a time when that might have been true or have actually made a more significant difference in the classroom. It should not be today, for a number of reasons.

One of the "problems" with referring to, or overgeneralizing about, personality in such contexts is that the so-called "classic 5 personality traits" (neuroticism, extraversion, openess, agreeableness and conscientiousness) have long since been supplanted or greatly elaborated by a myriad of more complex and individualized theories, models--and products. In other words, unless you are paying somebody to tell you about yourself, you, as an individual really have no chance of genuine or useful insight.

New study by Gerlach, Farb, Revelle and Amaral, reported by ScienceDaily.com, A robust data-driven approach identifies four personality types across four large data sets. offers a different, and I think very useful, perspective. Taking those 5 classic traits and applying a number of statistical "clustering" procedures, they discovered what appear to be four basic personality clusters derived from the relationship between each of the 5 for that type of individual. Here they are. (The teaching-oriented commentary in the boxes is my rough--but accurate--interpretation of their findings.) Find yourself there?

Classic Personality Traits

New (Pronunciation teaching) Personality Clusters/Types



and Conscientiousness

1. Average (Most of us!)

Good teacher,  maybe great

Outgoing, relatively emotional; responsive, relates well, (more likely to be female)



2. Reserved

Librarian-ish/ Ed tech-ish?

Emotionally stable but may be a bit boring, reliable; (more likely to be male.)




3. Role model

 Team leader, developer, owner?

Dependable, in-charge, take-charge type. (More likely to be women than men . . .)

4. Self-centered 

Show off, new MA?

Very high in extra-version; not always fun to be w/ but can sing (cluster style often decreases w/age and experience.)




So, which of those styles probably DON'T fit pronunciation teaching as well? Which are you?

My perspective would be that
  • Styles 2 and 3 certainly have valuable niches in our schools. 
  • Style 4 is always a wild card and can wind up most anyplace. In the past many of them, trained in drama and the arts, wound up in the pronunciation class. Their unique styles and personas are often a great mix and very successfully conducted, but their methodologies and techniques are often well beyond the reach of the "average" rest of us. 
  • Style 1 with perhaps a little more "Openness" looks almost ideal--which is most teachers anyway. More importantly, that "cluster" of skills and dispositions is much easier to enhance, as opposed to attempting to "fix" the other 3 styles. 
And what is it that makes Style 1 pretty much ideal today? Ability to comfortably engage in class, work from a consistent empathetic perspective and be relatively animated and "cheerleader-ish", at times. That general skill set is especially important in providing spontaneous feedback on speaking, including the ability to model.

Just did a quick look at the teacher trainees in our program who will be taking applied phonology with me in the spring: about 80% Style 1; 10% Style 2; 5% Style 3; 5% Style 4! (May have them take some kind of inventory questionnaire that provides similar cluster data.) Haptic pronunciation training is very much a Style 1 method--with some required, additional conscientiousness drilled in. Our experience has been that about 5% do find the training very demanding, at best. Will report back in April if our hypothesis was correct!


Clip Art credit: Clker.com

Northwestern University. (2018, September 17). Scientists determine four personality types based on new data: Comprehensive data analysis dispels established paradigms in psychology. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 24, 2018 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/09/180917111612.htm

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Affluent pronunciation: not so fast!

Will improving your accent or pronunciation enhance your chances of making more money later? That is a study that has not been done to my knowledge. but just ask anybody other than a prominent pronunciation researcher or methodologist (or one of their students) and the answer is a resounding: Well, of course! I did just that, in fact, an informal poll around the building last week: Yes (22) No (0).

The distinction between "accent" and "pronunciation" instruction is important in the field today. It is essentially this: The goal of pronunciation instruction should be intelligible speech; the speaker is understandable without unduly taxing the ear of the listener. Accent reduction, on the other hand, appears to go beyond this "intelligibility threshold" aiming at more and more native-like pronunciation. There may be any number of reasons to "go near there," of course, including working at an international call center, managerial or executive positions where public speaking persona may still require a certain degree of conformity, such as consular representatives--or, of course, secret agent types!

So, how fast can a learner's accent or pronunciation change and get to a goal or model?

Purely anecdotal evidence from about 40 years of working with accent, suggests that for most students it is a relatively long and incremental process--if attempted at all. There are those of amazing natural ability who almost chameleon-like appear to absorb the second language in all its multifaceted dimensions, accent being just part of the picture, of course. In truth, however, most of those who approach a native-like accent work at it, often for years--or longer. If it is worth doing, for only some, mind you, how do you get there?

One way, of course, could be to go to SpeakMoreClearly and help them become more affluent in getting you there quickly. Or . . . you might, however, want to consider this new research by Hampton, Asadi and Olson at Temple University, Good Things for Those Who Wait: Predictive Modeling Highlights Importance of Delay Discounting for Income Attainment." (Summarized by ScienceDaily.com.)

What their research demonstrated was some validation of the old saw, Good things come to those that wait! In essence, children who were trained to postpone the natural drive for more instant gratification (had more self control), later in life made significantly more money. From the ScienceDaily summary:

"Unsurprisingly, the models indicated that occupation and education were the best predictors of high income, followed by location (as determined by zip code) and gender -- with males earning more than females. Delay discounting was the next most-important factor, being more predictive than age, race, ethnicity or height."

So how does that work for predicting success at obtaining great pronunciation or accent?

(occupation and education) -- (zip code and gender) -- delay discounting. i.e., self control/delayed gratification -- (age, race, ethnicity or height)

That actually might work, as long as you flip the gender (from male in the affluence study to female!) and begin the study at age 12 or so. That would be particularly the case if you factor in DD.  

When it comes to training the body in the gym, the DD principle is a given. Self control and persistence is the only way to get to excellence--and stay there. And what that entails is adopting a commitment to the process, over time, not some abstract goal in the future. In most respects, quick fixes are only temporary, at best. For a great perspective on that, check with my favorite source on such topics, James Clear, here or here!

So, what is your best plan to achieve "a fluent" accent or pronunciation?

DD-based practice over time (done as embodied and
haptically as possible, of course!) . . . and you can take that to the bank!