Tuesday, April 23, 2019

50+ ways to touch on and remember better pronunciation

Fascinating study by Hutmacher and Kuhbandner of the University of Regensburg  (summarized by ScienceDaily.com) that helps us better understand the possibilities and potential of haptic engagement in integrated learning and recall: Long-term memory for haptically explored objects: fidelity, durability, incidental encoding, and cross-modal transfer. 

In that study, blindfolded and not blindfolded subjects were asked to consider the texture, weight and size of 168 everyday objects--by handling them. The first group were told to memorize the objects since they would be tested later. (post-test accuracy of 94% ) The second group was instructed just to evaluate each item on its aesthetic qualities without further clarification as to what that meant.

In the follow up tests a week later subjects (blindfolded) were given half the items accompanied by similar items varying in only one parameter (texture, weight or size). Both groups demonstrated remarkable ability to distinguish the targeted objects (79% ~73% respectively). The point of the study was to explore both the extent of information recall in the purely haptic condition, as opposed to the visual-haptic experience, and the relative impact across modalities.

The parallel to haptic pronunciation work is striking: identifying differences in sounds or sound patterns that are, in reality, very similar and initially difficult to both perceive and produce for the learner--based to some extent on both touch and touch plus conscious visual appreciation of the objects. 

Haptic pronunciation teaching, not surprisingly, involves extensive use of about a half dozen types of touch. If we count based on technique/type x location, there are something like 400+ actual instances of the hands touching in various ways, various other "body parts." The ability to discriminate between types of touch appears to be the key--a valuable feature of  all pronunciation teaching but especially haptic work.

It works something like this. The targeted sound, a vowel, for example, is associated with:
  • a position in the visual field 
  • a position of one hand at that point in the visual field (at a azimuth on the compass)
  • a trajectory of the other hand from in front of the larynx (voice box) to touching the other hand that varies in terms of speed and course (straight or curved) 
  • some type of touch (See description of touch types below.) That is part of the information encoded with the sound which should contribute to production and recall. 
The idea, the fundamental principle of haptic pronunciation work, is that learners can more accurately recall the sound while performing the haptic "move" that accompanies it. (Research on gesture-enabled recall is compelling and extensive in several perceptual domains.)  In fact, to be most effective, when corrective feedback is provided, generally the leaner first sees the instructor perform the gestural move, termed a "pedagogical movement pattern", without the sound before performing the "haptic complex" of sound plus movement and touch themselves.

Representative haptic (variable touch-plus-gesture) gesture types and visual properties involved:
  • light tap of finger tips in middle of palm 
  • hold (full hands touch; no movement) 
  • finger tips touch: then push in one direction 
  • open hand moves/rolls around fist 
  • finger nails scratch across palms 
  • light touch of ball in hand 
  • strong squeeze of ball in hand 
  • middle fingers slide from finger tips to heel of other hand 
  • finger tips tap deltoid muscle 
  • finger tips tap bachio-radialis above elbows 
  • feet contact with floor, either to syllable stress or heels raise on rising pitch
  • hands to various points of contact on the face, collar bones, abs, etc.
  • tongue, teeth, lips touched by wooden stick or hands to mark points of articulation
To see demonstrations of those haptic pedagogical movement patterns (PMPs) and learn more about haptic pronunciation teaching, join us at the next webinars on May 17th and 18th. For reservations: info@actonhaptic.com.

Association for Psychological Science. (2018, November 27). Touch can produce detailed, lasting memories. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 22, 2019 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/11/181127092532.htm

Monday, April 8, 2019

New Syllablettes Chorus Line at BC TEAL Conference!

This Friday (April 12th) at 3:30 at the  BCTEAL conference  at Langara College, BC, we'll roll out the 2019 version of the Syllablettes. The Syllablettes Chorus Line Technique was introduced in 1996 at the TESOL Convention in Chicago. In many teacher training programs world wide it is still a staple, a fun and effective way of introducing the importance of the syllable in English pronunciation teaching.

In essence, each student takes on the role of a syllable, performing "it" with full-body as the word, phrase or sentence is articulated by the rest of the "syllables."  The individual can be tasked with any of several features of a syllable in English:

  • Pitch (5 levels)
  • Pitch movement
  • Volume (5 levels)
  • Length (3)
  • Linking to adjacent syllables
  • Embodying consonants or glides on either side of the vowel core
  • "Falling" out, as in vowel ellipsis
  • Creating space between syllables

There is much new in this 2019 version, including attention to both suprasegmentals and internal make up of the syllable. You don't need to use ALL those features, of course, but it works for any set of learners, from beginners to phonetics classes.

The session will be recorded and available here on the blog shortly. If you are coming to the conference and are OK with being seen on video worldwide acting really "silly-able", please let me know!

And remember to sign up for the next Haptic webinar on May 17th and 18th (info@actonhaptic.com).