Friday, December 21, 2012

Musings around Session 12

I keep imagining what it would be like to be doing the first 100 hours without my being I. I can see how some people who have never done such things might be puzzled. Where this is all leading? And why am I learning all these animal names? Or body parts? For such people, more commentary would be helpful. For others, though, there is too much commentary already.

Some, like me, find it exciting to be understanding such long and complex utterances. Others are thinking, "But I don't want to know how to say, 'Kill the spider with the book,' and even if I did want to say that, I wouldn't be able to recall it anyway." How to help everyone to be excited about where killing things with other things is taking them, and about how quickly it is taking them there?

I wrote before about things "coming clear". More and more most I hear is clear right off. Some real phonetic learning must be behind the increasing ease with which I hear and remember.

Speaking of phonetic learning, as we're in Session 12, we've started some sound discrimination activities. One pair of highly similar words was "braid" and "corner". I fairly quickly zeroed in on the difference. Angela couldn't hear it, though she said the difference seemed to be in the final consonant. Good. I said that the tongue body is withdrawn for retroflex consonants, and forward for dental ones, which was also changing the quality of the high back rounded vowel in the syllable, from more close to open. That was all it took. As soon as I said that, she could discriminate between the two words with few or no errors. We've alway said knowing some phonetics is useful. Fortunately, I am able to explain such an issue to most people, just not quite so compactly (well, what I actually said was a tad less technical than what I just wrote).

We're also doing structured input using picture selection to highlight person/number/gender marking on verbs: "In which picture am I running? In which picture are you running?" By omitting the independent pronouns (the "I" and the "you" etc.) we force ourselves to rely on agreement marking to choose the correct picture. What is amazing to me is how that even when we limit the choice to two forms, and those forms are substantially different, nevertheless learning to hear the difference and tie it to the correct picture can be enormously difficult for some people. Inflectional morphology wasn't meant to be acquired easily! That puzzle led to my dissertation research.

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