Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Standing up for pronunciation teaching:12 rules
Reading (and thoroughly enjoying) Jordan Peterson's recent 2018 book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote for Chaos. Although every 'rule" could be applied to pronunciation teaching, two in particular present useful, unique "Petersonian" perspectives for us: (Ch 1: Stand up straight with your shoulders back, and Ch 10: Be precise in your speech.) Here we'll consider the application or extension of the first chapter, the idea that posture and movement could contribute importantly to effective pronunciation teaching, identity and confidence--the subject of more than a few posts in the past. Peterson adds a new, more contemporary and neuroscience twist.

Part of the focus of that first chapter is on the neurobiology of confidence and social dominance, much of it related to serotonin, which--at least in lobsters--strongly influences both upright posturing and the corresponding feeling of relative well being as correlates with the relative place of the individual in the social dominance hierarchy. Peterson's point is that the same principle applies to us all: our position in society is reflected in our biochemical makeup. Likewise, our physical posturing can affect, among other things, serotonin levels in the brain that are not easily changed or modified over time but can be by significant events or context.

What that means for haptic or more kinesthetic pronunciation teaching would be something like the following:
  1. Stand up a little straighter when you do pronunciation.
  2. Use more confident-sounding, slightly louder speech (possibly a bit higher or lower in pitch.)
  3. When doing public speaking, prepare enough so you sound confident, with planned gesture on key concepts or ideas. 
  4. (Always) use gesture for modeling or correction.
  5. Use fluid upper torso movement that naturally leads to better, upright posture and breathing.
  6. Use forward "bobbing-like" upper torso movement on main stress syllable when practicing just one word. 
  7. Position written text to be read or imitated at eye level (especially on your PC or laptop).
  8. Briefly warm up the body to activate key muscle groups.
  9. Structure homework practice to use the in-class postural and gestural principles.
  10. Oral reports should be done standing up, with clear guidance as to how to hold and position note cards, moving them at times for emphasis. 
  11. Be more precise in articulation but work on body rhythm at the same time. 
  12. Practice pronunciation using really meaningful text that has either marked or very transparent phrasal and sentence stress placement (anchored with gesture or upper torso body movement). 
How does your teaching M.O. stand up to that model?

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