Saturday, March 30, 2019

Under (or between) cover pronunciation teaching: CHIP
Here is an instructive tale, describing a situation that may actually be becoming even more common, ironically, as textbooks "improve" and demands on teachers to do more and more "book keeping"--as opposed to teaching--increase.

Heard recently from a reliable source at a well-paying language school where there is (a) an unbelievably detailed curriculum, right down to near minute-by-minute classroom instructions and draconian oversight, (b) all books provided, no teacher-choice or adaptation allowed, and (c) at least three core, nonnegotiable methodological principles: No grammar, No vocabulary and No pronunciation. (There are virtually none of those in the lesson plans.) The curriculum, although basically English for Academic purposes is essentially extensive reading, free conversation and writing-centered. And when they say "no pronunciation" . . .  they mean it!

Now, granted that is a little extreme, even for a profitable North American sweat shop, but around the rest of the world, it isn't at all. The root cause may be different, of course, but the result is the same: Teach the book or you are gone!

So . . .  if you were teaching there and you believed that pronunciation work is essential (to both
intelligibility and. well . . . encoding and memory recall) what would you do and not lose you job in the process? Seriously, if you have an effective workaround where you teach (anonymously, of course), comment on this post and tell us. I have my grad students working on it, too, and will report back after they finish their  research papers.

Not surprisingly, we have one answer: Covert Haptic-Integrated Pronunciation or CHIP. It works like this: systematically, map onto any language used in the classroom some kind of gesture or body-synchronized movement. In the covert version, you can't talk about pronunciation or explain too much without giving away the game, but if it is apparently spontaneous and done consistently, there are ways.

In the "regular" version Haptic Pronunciation Teaching (HaPT-Eng), v5.0:

(a) We begin with  some kind of very brief mini-lesson (~5 minutes) where learners are introduced to sound(s) or sound process and then briefly embody/practice it accompanied by specifically designed pedagogical gestures. That is just to introduce mind and body to the "embodied pronunciation schema" (EPS).

(b) Next, either by design or when an obvious opportunity or need comes up in the lesson plan, the gestural set is mapped on to language being learned or practiced. That may or may not involve a little explicit, verbal explanation or reminder, pointing back to the EPS mini-module. The "learning" in a very real sense, happens here, with embodied practice, in what we call "initial interdictions" or IIDs, pronounced: I-Ds.

(c) From then on, anytime pronunciation feedback, modelling or correction will be advantageous, the gestural mapping is used, without accompanying explanation or focus, in "subsequent interdictions" or SIDs, pronounced: sids.

(d) Ideally, best case, pronunciation that is "body-lighted" in class is then automatically or routinely  assigned to homework practice, using the same gestural complex in practice. In other words, speaking out loud with accompanying gesture.

In one way or another, however, the key is still EPS, the initial, embodied understanding of how (and with what) to change pronunciation, consistently, over time. The general model is termed: EPS*AIC (embodied pronunciation schema, applied in the integrated classroom).

The covert version, not recorded in lesson plans or done when hostile observers are in the room, begins with a basic IID, done with as little verbal rationale as possible, and is followed up with SIDs, whenever. For most learners, just mapping on gesture, either modeling it with no comment or having them do it with the instructor is good, especially with kids. That relationship is, of course, something of the core of empathetic communication in all cultures and face to face interaction. (See forthcoming blogpost on that!)

Good, I-D, eh? Tell us how you teach pronunciation successfully, covertly. 

And . . . remember to sign up for next Haptic Webinar, May 17th and 18th (email:

Monday, March 18, 2019

TESOL 2019 Report - from a haptic perspective!

Every year after attending the TESOL convention, I do a slightly tongue in cheek report back to my program and friends. Here are some excerpts from this year's:

Next year it is in Denver. Denver was snowed in while we were in Atlanta two days. 8 years ago Denver was snowed in during the TESOL convention while we were there . . .

Our haptic workshop went really well. Especially nice doing it with two of TWU MATESOL’s most distinguished and successful grads, Amanda Baker and Mike .Burri! Had about 50 participants. My favorite feedback/comment: “Pronunciation teaching cannot possibly be this much fun.” It can . . . 

The Electronic Village, the area where eLearning and software ideas are hatched every year, continues to appear to be something of a bellwetter of where we are going. If we assume that is the case:
  • The future is in our hand(held)s.
  • Anyone not highly visual with short attention span need not apply.
  • Vetting of presentations is really not that critical (caveat emptor . . . )
  • The “dead tree” textbook is . . . dead.
There were about 6500 at the conference. (Down about 3500 from two years ago in Seattle.) TESOL is beginning to suffer from the maturation of the field. There are probably a dozen specialization, beginning with Applied Linguistics about 20 years ago, that have spun off and have their own conferences annually now. 

What that means is if you are more experienced and are looking for more advanced thinking in any skill area—you will probably find less and less of it at TESOL. Heard several reports that what is being presented is (understandably)  aimed more and more at beginners in the field. The same thing has happened to every discipline, of course. For some, like MLA or APA, however, the conferences just keep getting bigger to accommodate all interests and strands.

The convention is also getting expensive, too much for many, I’m sure (around $400 US, in addition to special events, etc.) We had ordered the same booth in the exhibition area for what (we thought) was about the same price as two years ago. Different this time, however. Everything else was al a carte, to the tune of about $1000 US. Ouch . . .

(#@&!%) Mac users. One of the tech support people commented to me that the TESOLers, almost exclusively MAC, were amazingly clueless about working with the projection and sound interfaces, compared to the previous “business” conference people who were all PC. The fact that I use a PC and didn’t need hand holding—and probably seemed like one of the really “old” guard, made me something of a celeb . . . “

Some of my TESOL friends my age looked REALLY old and wrinkled . . . They all recognized me but I didn’t recognize many of them. May be time for me to either make new friends or get new glasses!

Put the next Haptic Pronunciation Teaching webinars (May 17th and 18th) on your calendar. To reserve a spot, contact:

Keep in touch!

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Dr Bill's Vowel and Consonant Repair Shop at the 2019 TESOL Convention!

If you are going to be in Atlanta for the 2019 Convention next week, stop by the Trinity Western University booth in the exhibition area to at least say "Hi!" In addition to promoting the TWU MATESOL, we'll be offering free, quick, and effective haptic pronunciation teaching "repair" of a vowel or consonant.

In general that only applies to students or student-teachers, but if you speak some English other than North American and would like a minor upgrade, we can probably do that, too.  (Limit: one segmental per day, by appointment, so you could, in principle, get three fixed during the conference.) This is, of course a bit "tongue and teeth and lips and vocal apparatus" in cheek, but for minor, relatively easy fixes like "th" or "r" or "l" or "syllable-final voiced consonants", a quick, 10-minute repair is really quite feasible, as long as you follow up with practice for the next 2 weeks or so.

If you want to know HOW to do such quick, haptic repairs, we will also have information on the basic Haptic Pronunciation Teaching workshop on Friday at the conference (with Baker and Burri), the upcoming Haptic Pronunciation Teaching webinars, May 17th and 18th, and the 4-week, online Haptic Pronunciation Teaching course in July in conjunction with the TWU MATESOL program seminar in Applied Phonology. (More on that shortly!)

Keep in Touch!