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It Is Not Difficult

I was talking to a colleague the other day. “I think I finally get what you are talking about,” she said.

You might think this would make me happy, but it had the opposite effect. A year or so ago, she attended a presentation I gave, and we have talked about my project a number of times. To think that she is just now understanding what I have been saying is disconcerting. What I do is not difficult to understand.

I’ll run through it.

Students cannot hear all the sounds of a second language. They literally cannot hear them!

Why do I say this? Watch this video. It shows how children lose the ability to hear many non-native sounds before their first birthday.




Students can learn to hear the sounds, however. So, what is the best way to teach them? High Variability Phonemic Training. This has been demonstrated. Studies have shown that High Variability Phonetic Training (HVPT) is effective in improving the ability of L2 learners to discriminate different sounds [1, 2]. The improvement in perception has been shown to successfully transferred to production [3]. And, I have written about the importance of hearing the sounds to effective phonics instruction (See my post on Phonemic Awareness and Phonics).

What is difficult about this? It is simple.

And that is what b4 does!


[1] Lively, S. E., Logan, J. S., Pisoni, D. B. 1993. Training Japanese listeners to identify English/r/ and /l/. II: The role of phonetic environment and talker variability in learning new perceptual categories. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 94.

[2] Logan, J. S., Lively, S. E., Pisoni, D. B. 1991. Training Japanese listeners to identify English/r/ and /l/: A first report. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 89.

[3]  Lambacher, S. G., Martens, W. L., Kakehi, K., Marasinghe, C. A., Molholt, G. 2005. The effects of identification training on the identification and production of American English vowels by native speakers of Japanese. Applied Psycholinguistics,26.


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