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reineke
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Studies: German

 
 Message 41 of 90
08 April 2007 at 2:58pm | IP Logged 
A few very interesting arguments. I'm plopping it here for future generations as links do die and get broken.

(i) In the vicinity of the speech area in the frontal lobe (Broca's area) there are networks of nerve cells called "imitation neurons", or "mirror neurons". They are important in perception processes by matching input data with our previous experiences ("memories") of saying the same or similar things. The best studied mirror neurons are involved in visual perception. Look it up in Google and Wikipedia, and you'll find amazing reports. (Giacomo Rizzolatti is a grand name.) The most amazing thing to note about these mirror neurons is that they are _motor_ neurons! I.e., they are active when the individual _speaks_. And, obviously, when the individual _hears_ speech, if this speech is in a comprehensible form, i.e., he or she has previous experience of saying like things. Otherwise they don't mirror the input. We all have noticed that as new beginners in a language class, haven't we?!

(ii) Direct neural connections from the auditory center in the temporal lobes to the auditory mirror neuron areas have been found. These connections don't themselves pass via the speech comprehension area (Wernicke's area), so the mirroring processes begin even before the listener is aware of them or of the meaning of the input. These mirroring processes in the brain's _motor_ area will directly influence the speech organs of the listener and enable, or even _enforce_, like magically, a very accurate pronunciation as he or she speaks along with the teacher. So even a "chorus" of 2 persons, or 1 cd + 1 learner, is possible, but I have found that 8 learners is a minimum number for maximal efficiency, and 7 learners is too few;

The conclusion from these first facts is that the learners will need lots of listening practice (in active, attentive silence) before they can have a fair chance to imitate. The teacher should solo-repeat the sample sentence (seldom single words) at least 7 or 8 times at a natural rate of speech before the learners are invited or permitted to speak along. Then when they start speaking in chorus, they will have to concentrate on the rhythm of speech, which has been shown to be one of the most important, if not THE most important, factor for perception and thus also for a listener-friendly pronunciation.

Second, the chorus repetitions (with alternations as above) will have to go on for a great multitude of times. In all other practices for skilled performance, such as athletics, music, circus, type-writing, car driving, surgery etc., it goes without saying that one has to practice many, many times to acquire sufficient skill. Unfortunatly, this self-evident knowledge seems to have gone "out of fashion" in language education since decades ago, and now is almost forgotten. This is where I want to change the current routines. 20-30 repetitions is certainly too few. A hundred may be more appropriate. By the thousands must be better - but we have a limit to our patience and endurance, too, haven't we! But a toddler actually practices his speech much more than thousands of times, more closely to a zillion times. It does take some 5-6 years to acquire the very basic command of one's first language, doesn't it! Fortunately, adults can do it in a single year or less - if given appropriate instructions.

The 146 (!) speech muscles are no different than any other muscles in the way they are run by the nervous system. They have to be co-trained and co-ordinated, in our first language as well as in all our subsequent languages. In learning a new language and speech, we do need lots of repetitions. This is also due to neurophysiology, and specifically to the way neurons connect with one another with _synapses_, as they are called. Buds for new synapses are formed within seconds in a learning situation, and mature synapses within 10-15 minutes. If they are reinforced by repetitious stimuli. With too few repetitions, the buds may regress, and no synapses are permanented, and the time spent on that "pseudo-practice" will have been largely wasted. It has been shown that a new skill, e.g. one sample sentence, can be automated and permanented to perfection in about 15 minutes.

It will have to be repeated the next day, too, and the next, and the next.... But then! Unforgettable! Like we can never un-learn how to drive a car, or walk, or talk, once we have learnt it. In a simile, I say that learning and memory is like walking across a lawn: Paths will form where you walk sufficiently many times. And nowhere else!

http://www.chinese-forums.com/showpost.php?p=69241&postcount =12
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reineke
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 Message 42 of 90
08 April 2007 at 3:14pm | IP Logged 
I do have to make a quick comment that kids listen a whole lot more than they speak, or attempt to speak. They often repeat words and expressions, but certainly not as many times as he seems to suggest. Certainly not in a chorus. Often they'll pause before repeating something. Kids repeat words randomly, some of them totally invented. Isayoyo! Juhnuh! (My daughter) Maybe this helps them to work out certain sounds. Or maybe they're just fooling around. If mother nature teaches us something, it's that most things are designed for a reason. Nature is economical. Even kids' cute facial features serve a purpose. Sometimes the kid will repeat something a dozen times - so you get out of bed and get it for her. Juice! Juice! Kids definitely do not repeat whole sentences over and over again. I think that the repetition of individual words and expressions (and not of whole sentences) and the long listening periods serve as a clue. Nothing wrong about repeating sentences to accelerate the process but I believe the secret for the initial breakthrough is in listening (at least as far as kids are concerned). I would redo an audio course and play with shadowing after a certain number of hours of listening. It would be great if we could conclude that it is possible to do grammar study before listening without "polluting" the brain. The chorus theory does seem to suggest that you can follow an audio course (as long as you don't try repeating right after hearing something) without "damaging" your chances at sounding native. Unfortunately you need several people to practice. How about turning on several media players at the same time? :) Aren't there audio tricks you can do to imitate a chorus?

Edited by reineke on 08 April 2007 at 3:24pm

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slucido
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 Message 43 of 90
08 April 2007 at 3:33pm | IP Logged 
luke wrote:
reineke wrote:
when you pronounce it at the same time as the speaker

That's what Ardaschir called "shadowing". I believe slucido is using the term "chorusing" synonymously. In Ardaschir's world, shadowing can go on for several minutes straight, accompanying an audiobook or monologue/dialogue based lesson like Assimil.


I think the difference between shadowing and chorusing is the number of persons.

-Shadowing: the audio with one person.

-Chorusing: the teacher (audio) and five or more people.

I think in the two methods you pronounce at the same time as the audio,speaker, teacher and so on.



Edited by slucido on 08 April 2007 at 3:33pm

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reineke
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Studies: German

 
 Message 44 of 90
08 April 2007 at 3:41pm | IP Logged 
The best studied mirror neurons are involved in visual perception. Look it up in Google and Wikipedia, and you'll find amazing reports. (Giacomo Rizzolatti is a grand name.) The most amazing thing to note about these mirror neurons is that they are _motor_ neurons! I.e., they are active when the individual _speaks_. And, obviously, when the individual _hears_ speech, if this speech is in a comprehensible form, i.e., he or she has previous experience of saying like things. Otherwise they don't mirror the input. We all have noticed that as new beginners in a language class, haven't we?!

(ii) Direct neural connections from the auditory center in the temporal lobes to the auditory mirror neuron areas have been found. These connections don't themselves pass via the speech comprehension area (Wernicke's area), so the mirroring processes begin even before the listener is aware of them or of the meaning of the input.

Aren't these two passages regarding the mirroring process slightly contradictory? Also, would an audio-visual method (TV, movies) have certain advantages considering these neurons get all happy when stimulated by images?
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frenkeld
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 Message 45 of 90
08 April 2007 at 3:52pm | IP Logged 
reineke wrote:
I do have to make a quick comment that kids listen a whole lot more than they speak, or attempt to speak.


I remember seeing a description of research on infants, as I recall at least under one year of age, which had to do with vowel boundaries. I recall even more vaguely that they compared a group of Swedish and American babies. Basically, a native speaker of one languge percieves sounds within some range as "a", some other range as "o", etc, and the boundaries are of course not the same in different languages.

It turned out that the babies in the two groups already had different vowel boundaries, appropriate for their native languages. Some of the baby talk that mothers use, which for example tends to be somewhat high-pitched compared to regular speech in most languages, apparently helps nail down the boundaries of phonemes of their native language in babies' minds.

So, yes, I wouldn't be in a rush to claim that babies don't do a lot of listening before speaking just because they don't obviously acquire much language before they start saying their first clumsy and possibly meaningless words. They very much do.

reineke wrote:
Nature is economical.


This is off-topic, but there may be a bit of a misconception here. Presumably, Nature produces various organs and capabilities by evolution, which means it doesn't go back and design an optimal system from scratch every time, but starts with an existing system and somehow manages to come up with a usable solution. It's not clear that starting from an ape is the best way to produce an optimal language system, but that was supposedly the choice, and the result was good enough to survive. That's about all one can say on the issue of "economy" in Nature's designs.


Edited by frenkeld on 08 April 2007 at 5:49pm

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reineke
Senior Member
United States
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Studies: German

 
 Message 46 of 90
08 April 2007 at 4:11pm | IP Logged 
From what I know, babies start listening even in mother's womb. I have a picture of my yet unborn daughter, and her "expression" was kinda what the heck are you guys doing out there? I remember reading that babies start learning intonation and other things already in the womb, but I haven't followed up on it.

Edited by reineke on 08 April 2007 at 4:12pm

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leosmith
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 Message 47 of 90
08 April 2007 at 9:50pm | IP Logged 
slucido wrote:
I agree with you, but "shadowing" is the same you are describing.

The difference between "shadowing" and what I described is that shadowing is used during reading, and it's used on longer portions of material. At least that's what all the posts I've read here seem to indicate, but I might have missed something. Excellent technique for combined reading/pronunciation, but not as focused on pronunciation as chorusing.

I use the dictionary definition of chorusing (any utterance produced simultaneously by a group). Technically "shadowing" is a form of chorusing, but there are more distractions, so I could call what I described "pure chorusing", but please allow me to abreviate.

Olle's form of chorusing is very nice, but not as convenient as going one-on-one with a native recording set on repeat.

Another note, some seem to think it's ok to neglect the correct production of sounds for single words or syllables, and jump right into sentences. They're logic is that working on smaller units will make one over-think when one finally gets to sentences. In my case, this is not true. With Mandarin, I chorused the syllables, back and forth with reading the descriptions of proper sound production, and was able to pronounce them essentially perfectly in just a few hours study spread over 2 weeks. Now my voice has full capability, so there's no sticking on "strange" sounds in sentences.

Ardaschir wrote:

1) I do not simply "listen," I "shadow." "Shadowing" means that you say what you hear instantaneously (rather than in a pause thereafter, as in the FSI methods), preferably while in motion, at least while pacing your room, but ideally while walking in the woods.

If I remember the context correctly, he's talking about reading at the same time here. Kind of hard to keep an eye out for bears, but I guess we all have our priorities.

From the post about echoing:
Ardaschir wrote:
Let us define:
Echoing = listen, then repeat
Shadowing = listen and repeat simultaneously

So in this one case his definition of shadowing is the same as my chorusing, but I've never heard him talk about doing shadowing without reading, so I'll stick to my own definitions.

From the teacher's blog:
Quote:

Shadowing is a technique in which a Non-native speaker (NNS) listens to a native speaker (NS) and then tries to repeat every word they hear just after the native speaker.

Sounds like echoing to me.
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jeff_lindqvist
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 Message 48 of 90
09 April 2007 at 5:55am | IP Logged 
I thought it was like this:
Echoing = listen, then repeat ("say after me please...")
Shadowing = listen and repeat (almost) simultaneously (a split-second after)
Chorusing = (whether alone or in a class) repeating the same sentence over and over, at the same time - "repeated echoing" if you like

Didn't Ardaschir say that shadowing is his major method to maintain the language skills, even with completely unknown material? Shadowing a newsreader on radio/television both requires and develops good skills.

Edited by jeff_lindqvist on 09 April 2007 at 5:55am



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