Phase 1A: Lesson 11 (English)
Emotions and Power Tools!
Session 11 at-a-Glance
This session may seem a bit sparse. However, experience has shown that emotion words are not learned as quickly as names of objects and actions.
Gradually, GPs should be hearing the speech sounds of their new language more and more precisely. Some crucial differences between speech sounds may be very slight, and so the GP needs to spend some time listening with great acuity. GPs should find that they begin to focus on details of sound more precisely when trying to pronounce the words. The need to remember to base their pronunciation on what they hear, not on what they see written. Accurate perception of what words sound like develops only through the ears, not through the eyes!
There is a need to begin to develop new "concepts" of new sounds. That is, a GP may not yet have a concept of the sound represented in writing by the letter X. Having the letter available, in a sense, gives a "name" to this new concept (by "the concept" is meant one’s memory of what the new sound sounds like).
Many GPs are convinced that seeing how a word is spelled improves their ability to perceive the details of the word through their ears. In fact, in spite of the genuineness of their impression (and the passion with they may affirm it), this claim is quite doubtful, as has been demonstrated by a simple experiment: Start with two words that a GP cannot discriminate between. Show the GP how those words are spelled (or point out to her that she is already well aware of how they are spelled). Then test again to see if the GP is able to discriminate them. When we have done this, we have found that knowing how the words were spelled had no effect on the ability to hear which was which.
When it comes to pronunciation, knowing what words sound like, and pronouncing them accordingly, is a very different matter from developing one’s own system for pronouncing them based on their spelling. A GP may be able to pronounce two similar words differently on the basis of knowing how they are spelled. However, consider the implications of the following fact: The GP can hear the difference between the ways she pronounces the two words, but cannot hear the difference between how native speakers pronounce them.
It is a good idea not to rush into abandoning our ears as the means of learning to hear details of sound. If we persist until we can consistently hear all sound distinctions without relying on spelling, the rewards may be considerable. Besides that, there are many levels of language processing starting from the ears, and these too cannot be developed through the eyes. The whole process of listening comprehension needs to be developed starting with the ears!
There are helpful listening activities that can, and in many cases should, be used to increase acuity in hearing the different sounds of the language.
Listening Contrast Activity
Sample phonetic activity: GPs may confuse two words that sound very similar. (In some cases GPs may not discover this until later when they begin talking, and find they said “jump” when they meant to say “cat”—they thus discover that there is a phonetic distinction that they were not aware of.) This provides a wonderful opportunity for a listening contrast activity, as follows. If the confusion was between the words for "jump" and "cat", the Nurturer can simply pronounce the words repeatedly in random order. When she says "cat" the GP points at the (toy) cat, and when she says "jump" he jumps. Or at least this is what he attempts to do. He may not be too successful at first.
Perhaps the GPs can take some time to glean from their language learning journals any times they’ve noticed that they experienced a problem with hearing sounds accurately. As the GP’s hearing improves, his pronunciation can improve on the basis of better mimicry of what is better heard. As hinted at above, premature dependence on written letters may discourage the GP from developing accurate hearing.
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