“Drill, baby, drill”: Exploring a Neurobiological Basis for the Teaching of Segmentals in the ESL/EFL Classroom

| October 1, 2009
Drill, baby, drill : Exploring a Neurobiological Basis for the Teaching of Segmentals in the ESL/EFL Classroom

Keywords: Segmentals, Speech Perception, Brain, Mirror Neurons, Phonological Acquisition

Anna Dina L. Joaquin
University of California, Los Angeles

Bio Data
Anna Dina L. Joaquin is a doctoral student in Applied Linguistics at UCLA. Her experiences with ESL teaching led her to be interested in the neurobiology of language use and language learning. Her research includes resonance and alignment in conversation and the role of caregiver-child attachment and bonding in language acquisition.

Segmentals are the individual sounds of a language that can be broken down and focused on for instruction. Problems with segmentals can cause miscommunication, embarrassment, and affect confidence and motivation. Although teaching pronunciation and thus segmentals have been suggested to be a crucial element of second language curriculum (J. Morley, 1991; P. Robertson, 2003; T. Thompson & M. Gaddes, 2005), this component has often been neglected in curriculum that emphasizes a Communicative Approach to language teaching (S. Krashen & T. Terrell, 1983). Current research in neuroscience demonstrates that when we hear people talk, we are actually simulating their articulation and matching their pronunciation to stored templates in our brains. Furthermore, the brain may have an ability to learn or modify these templates. This may be a neural basis for the perception and acquisition of segmental speech features. Thus, the research discussed in this paper supports the development of ESL/EFL curriculum that integrates a focus on segmental features with a Communicative Approach.

See pages: 13-22

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Category: Monthly Editions, Volume 39