I’m sure many of you have read about the ambitious but fascinating proposal of building a Hyperloop transportation system between LA and SF (see http://tinyurl.com/myaxjrp). How often have I wished I could put my second language (L2) learners on a Hyperloop to help them with instant improvement, especially in regards to pronunciation and intelligibility. Do you feel the same? Pronunciation work is often perceived as being extremely challenging, tedious and even boring for students as well as teachers (Baker, 2013). It can take weeks, sometimes months, for any sign of improvement to occur. No wonder many teachers are hesitant or event reluctant to teach pronunciation (Macdonald, 2002)! So, is there a Hyperloop for us L2 teachers when it comes to pronunciation instruction? Haptic pronunciation teaching (i.e. a systematic combination of movement and touch) might be the answer (Acton, 2013), but besides some anecdotal evidence (Acton, Baker, Burri & Teaman, in press) little empirical evidence is currently available to support this claim. That’s what a colleague and I have been exploring in a classroom-based study in the past few weeks (see blog post below) and I’m quite positive that the research project will yield some answers and interesting insights into the effectiveness of pronunciation instruction. Stay tuned! More to come soon.......
Acton, W. (2013). Haptic-integrated clinical pronunciation research. Retrieved August 22, 2013, from http://hipoeces.blogspot.com.au/
Acton, W., Baker, A. A., Burri, M., & Teaman, B. (in press). Preliminaries to haptic-integrated pronunciation instruction. In J. Levis & K. LeVelle (Eds.), PSLLT Conference Proceedings. Vancouver, BC.
Baker, A. A. (2013). Exploring teachers' knowledge of L2 pronunciation techniques: Teacher cognitions, observed classroom practices and student perceptions. TESOL Quarterly, Advance online publication. doi:10.1002/tesq.99
Macdonald, S. (2002). Pronunciation – views and practices of reluctant teachers. Prospect, 17(3), 3-18
A colleague and I are currently conducting a four-week quasi-experimental second language (L2) classroom-based intervention study in which I’m teaching four (intact) control and four (intact) intervention groups. We were able to match each of the intervention groups with a more-or-less equivalent control group in terms of class size and proficiency level, but it soon became apparent that matching the groups was the easy part, teaching them is a different game altogether. We designed lessons in which both of the groups receive the same content, but with the intervention groups getting exposed to two additional techniques. The aim is to examine and, ultimately, measure the impact these two techniques have on L2 learner pronunciation. This can only be done if the teaching in all eight groups (except for the two additional techniques, of course) is synchronized so that any potential improvement can be attributed to the techniques used in the intervention groups. However, this is easier said than done and probably one of the main reasons that this type of research has not been conducted much in pronunciation research. A plethora of variables seem to work constantly against what I’m trying to do in the classroom, and, ultimately, against the validity of the study. One issue, for example, is student attendance. If a student misses one class, the speech samples he or she provides at the end of the study won’t be useable. Or, my energy level in the classroom may not be the same on Thursday as it was on Monday and therefore the study’s pedagogical aspect (or validity of the data) is compromised. I suppose what I’m trying to say is that the last three weeks have given me a renewed understanding and appreciation of the complexity of L2 teaching and research! This whole process has been a fantastic experience and I can’t wait to analyse the many speech samples we’ll have collected by the end of the study.
I am a Senior Lecturer in TESOL at the University of Wollongong in Australia. This blog is a reflection of my journey as a researcher, L2 teacher educator, and language teacher.