Wednesday, September 11, 2019

The Schrödinger's Cat(ch) of Pronunciation Teaching
Bottom line: It’s almost impossible to LOVE pronunciation teaching unless you have seen or heard or had it done to you. And if you love it, much of your best work will be spontaneous or at least seem to be. And for the most part, up until now, there has been no “virtually” useful research or methods stuff that can take you there

Until now. . . Introducing a new podcast (working title): Teachable Moments in Pronunciation Teaching (TMPT)

Once a week or so I'll be chatting with a real, practicing master pronunciation teacher/lover, not a “non-practicing” theorist or methodologist—to learn from. Our conversations will take place as soon as possible after a good class they have just taught, where we talk about what actually happened, moment by moment . . . how and why it worked, based in part on an audio recording of the session. 

Here is what inspired it:

One of the most striking thought problems of all time, “Schrödinger's Cat”, revealed a potentially fatal flaw in a school of quantum physics. in effect it exposed a “black box” in the theory where two contradictory states had to be present, where it was logically impossible to know which condition was in effect (whether a cat in a box was dead or alive).

In pronunciation teaching, just like the (in)famous "black box" in Chomsky's early work, we have our own enigmatic box as well: What actually goes on in the classroom, the quality of the moment by moment engagement that underlies every research study but is practically never mentioned or analyzed. There were good reasons for that, a broad range of (quickly) researchable variables, cognitions, techniques and features of students' L1s to be explored and understood. 

Almost without exception, research on pronunciation teaching effectiveness that looks at classroom work reports only at the activity-level, noting which techniques were used generally, something like: presentation and then various kinds of controlled and freer practice. The data is there, however, in any number of studies where transcripts of actual class sessions were analyzed for specific features, but we do not have publicly accessible studies of the messy, thick instructional discourse itself. That is the window that the podcast will look through: recent replays of pronunciation teaching as rich conversational engagement between students and instructor.

Know somebody we should talk to? Let me know!


  1. Forgot to mention the next three haptic webinars (Haticanars) on 10/11 and 10/12 and 10/19. For details, see the notice at the top of the right column!

  2. I'm interested in learning more! I have a small business teaching accent reduction/ pronunciation to (mostly) Japanese adults, in private and group settings. I utilize the Color Vowel Approach as the basis of my work. Please contact me if you'd like to know more