domenica 18 settembre 2011

Palatography for the People

I read in David Crystal's tome on Language about palatography.  It's when you measure the pressure on your palate.  So when you say an "S" where is your tongue touching?  My tongue doesn't usually touch the back of my two front teeth when I say the D in "dollars," but Tony Soprano's henchmen do.  I know this because I listen for tongue placement.  I connect it to the sounds that get made by my EFL students. I don't attribute their sounds to their nationality I attribute it to the physics and I think I'm a really cool speech scientist because I have made this one connection.

I usually make it my goal to convert my students and fellow teachers to observing these things.  Convincing them is sometimes more difficult than it should be.  But I'm a great communicator, so I can do it.  I've always wanted to demonstrate that tongue placement is key to consonant production especially those liquids and sibilants.  Palatography is something that I could access in the university setting of speech analysis or processing but as Ailbhe Ní Chasaide says- You're still trying to get people to talk- we're trying to get computers to talk.  So most of the very expensive equipment, so popular once, is now gathering dust, I'll bet.  And as usual anything that is not being taught well to people is being or has been taught well to computers.  Some brilliant programmers have brought Speech Analysis (arguably one of the most important issues in one-to-one EFL lessons) to the people through accessible technology. And it was about time.

Obviously this is for a different profession (Speech and Language Pathologists) but the majority of my "problem" learners just need to believe that their issue is physical in order to give them a workable solution.  They generally have no motor problems just socio-cultural identity issues.  (And we can quash those with some good old-fashioned science)

I want one of these SmartPalate things.  It appears that there are two different companies, but it's the same product.  This will speed learning about how your mouth works, by taking the "if you just imagine" moments out.

But it's expensive!  Three thousand is a lot more than a copy of English Pronunciation in Use.  That will have to come down.  The cost of fitting each student will doubtless take the price out of Part-Time EFL Teacher range and into Hereditary Lord of London Solicitor range. ( Maybe I can find a starving dentist who will fit these for a lower price... )

If I set up an accent reduction practice it will be based around using this.  If your school has one, it could turn it into a very small but unique revenue stream.  Expect to see phonological charts popping up as "can-do checklists" in hoity-toity schools in 300 days or less.

Special Note
*I also look forward to seeing how this tech is accepted by SLPs.  It will be a good predictor of how EFL teachers will react to things like ExamSpeak and EnglishCentral as they go mainstream in the learner's world.

Resources which can bring the learning to the learner without the teacher:  A teacher may see the advantage for the learner as revolutionary. But inevitably they will feel their own craft of explaining those things which were difficult to observe (or value) slightly less needed in a world which seemed as if it could never have changed.

I kind of feel that now.  ...I feel like a lighthouse in a GPS world...

Wow. Emotional nonsense at its best.  Guess who quit smoking this week.

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