sabato 7 settembre 2013

Broadening their sound spectrum

Teaching pronunciation is teaching listening to speech to hear new sounds and patterns so that we can change the learner's values of perception to enable a better understanding of the voices they hear.

It's a process of helping a learner adjust their values.

It's broadening their sound spectrum just a bit with every lesson so they are more independent and more conscious of the choices they make.

Listening and comparing are the chief activities.  Output should be used as a means of communicating a change in the learner's ability to perceive.

Richard Schmidt wrote nicely about consciousness in the language learning process.  Here's a link to one his papers I like.

So a lesson can be judged as successful if a learner can distinguish between two versions of a speech signal.  It can be judged as having been beneficial because they have developed a new awareness. New awareness is the first step in learning.

And learning is not changing but thinking in a new and more useful way about a task.


Record those learners.  And let them listen to recordings.  Let them listen to recordings of other students.

Aid the listen process with visuals and interactivities.  And by having conversations and encouraging play with how people speak.

It's all still unexplored.  Try something this week.

Remember that the goal is not a native like accent but simply clear communication.

martedì 6 agosto 2013

MRI Music Video? Scantastic.

Well if you can't use this in an English lesson, then all hope is lost for the world.

Sivu - Better Man Than He. from Adam Powell on Vimeo.

Sivu's video is my new favourite pronunciation video.  It uses footage that would have been impossible to collect 25 years ago. MRI and digital video. I'll have to thank Claire Fitzgerald at DCU Language Services for it.  It's a great way to start the conversation about how our mouth works.

I'd suggest using it straight away to ask students about the parts of the mouth that move and ask how we make our /l/.

Maybe before showing the video have learners fold a piece of paper in half and draw what they think the mouth looks like from this split-head perspective. Do this before they watch the video and after you've used it, perhaps at the very end of the lesson or for homework, ask them to draw the same view on the other half including more detail.

As a teacher and a learner it's always nice to make the progress obvious and visual and to buck the trend and make the progress non-numeric.  No one knows it all about how the mouth works, but this page will be an artifact which proves some progress in learning about how our mouth works to produce speech.

"What a piece of work is man..."

martedì 28 maggio 2013

We should record our learners' voices, Nokia 3210s and William Carlos Williams

(It's been a while.  I don't want to get into it but it suffices to say 'I'm back'.  I hope. Let me know if that's not enough)

I still teach English.  I still go on about pronunciation being malleable.  I think we can consciously affect it in some ways.  Recording your learner's voices is one of them.

Richard Schmidt says that before anyone can learn to change anything they have to notice it.  This is his noticing hypothesis.  This has been applied to grammar teaching which is the majority of ELT from how the research stands: if you search 2009-2013 "noticing hypothesis grammar elt" versus the same years for "noticing hypothesis pronunciation elt" you'll see what I mean.  The number of papers pulling these three topics together is 1860 for the grammar group and just over 800 for the pronunciation part.

So I think we can affect what our learners notice by asking them to listen to recordings of themselves.  Is this too far out?  We may keep written artifacts as evidence of learners written abilities (papers they've written etc.) for planning and assessment.  Wouldn't a little Mp3 be just as useful when planning out the week or the month?

Nokia 3210: possibly the most popular phone in history. No recorder.
TechRepublic had a review of four voice recorder apps this morning. But there's no need to go download yet: if you have a phone more recent than this one you probably have a voice recorder to hand.  And your learners have enough money to pay for English lessons... so they probably have a phone which is better than this one too.

So how do we do this?  Well ask your students to record themselves reading scripted piece.

Make it something useful, beautiful or at least true because they will listen to it or at least stumble upon it at some point again in the future.  In a way this choice of what they should read or repeat is as important as those choices your teachers made when they had you learn things off by heart.  Maybe the first paragraph of a book you think everyone should read.  Maybe a description of your city.  Maybe a poem which doesn't force a reading like The Red Wheelbarrow by William Carlos Williams.

But make it and then make them listen to it with another student or with yourself and make some notes.

Sure you could make a little grammar lesson to tie in with the piece you've chosen and extract the vocabulary for pre-teaching.  But my recommendation is to make the subject matter worthy of native speakers and as usual to take the pronunciation as seriously as the spelling.  Recording is one of the best ways to include the learner in your process of noticing so that soon it becomes their process too.

giovedì 31 gennaio 2013

I use fb enough to call it fb and for you to understand that.

I follow a couple of ELT things- one was

Keeping this blog I am amazed at how little comes up on pronunciation, but I am *special* I guess.

BusyTeacher, run by yet another exhausted but optimistic ex-English language teacher trying to somehow salvage those good, underappreciated years spent teaching, had a "three good websites for..." this week post.  So naturally I went to check it out.

My thoughts:
~Merriam-Webster?! you must be joking... it does have some suggestions and models but it doesn't teach or help it refers you to a model.  That's like the easiest part of teaching.  What kind of...~ howjsay.  I remember when I found that site.  That was a good reference: uncluttered, single focus, obviously made by someone what knew what they were after was a clear student friendly reference-Not world domination.~
~...and what's this three character?  Rachel's English?  Probably some set of 21 accents videos, if it's anything like the quality of the last two there's nothing new...~

And that's how I left it for 12 hours, after posting it to a couple of folks who might find all three sites worthwhile.

This morning I went back to that link and checked out Rachel's English... and actually it gave me a little fright.  It was a very nice if templated design.  I watched the intro video.  Then as usual went straight to the about section to see who made it and why and of course how.

Here's a link and the text if you don't want to get up:
Rachel has been working on Rachel's English for over 4 years.  Having taught ESL off and on since 1999, she became interested in developing a pronunciation-focused resource while living in Germany under the Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship program in 2008. 
Rachel's initial idea in developing Rachel's English was to make the kind of resource for self-study that she wished she could find for her own foreign language study.  As a classical singer, Rachel has spent much time immersed in singing in German, French, Italian, and Spanish.  She studied with highly acclaimed vocal teachers and coaches and brings a body of detailed knowledge connected to the voice, placement, and the musical nature of speech to her work as a pronunciation coach. 
Rachel lives in New York City.  She was born and raised in Florida, went to college in Indiana where she studied Applied Math, Computer Science, and Music, and graduate school for Opera Performance in Boston. She loves being connected to people throughout the world through Rachel's English. 

Well that's nice bu
actually this one is good:  It's a new website. We can see that  the Rachel'sEnglish American English Pronunciation site has paid BusyTeacher for the article as a kind of infomercial.  It presents 3 websites: 2 very old websites which are not user-friendly or authentically different from what a novice teacher can offer their students, and 1 which is better (and shinier!).  We saw the same "we'll choose what to compare for you"  sales pitch method used by the head of IATEFL last year but sometimes the thing they are selling is honestly pretty good.  It does make me wonder what the factors are which help presenters choose this method of presentation.