Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The "re-do"

We start by reading word lists.
For example:
Whenever there is a word I get stuck at, she says it, repeats with me, then lets me repeat it several times in extending intervals, all the while telling me to do it naturally, don’t get stuck at any sound, move your mouth like this…
In fact she doesn’t even need to say the last part. It is monkey see, monkey do. The moment my eyes get fixated upon her mouth, my own mouth follows suit. As we work through the word lists, my pronunciation becomes better, as is my stamina.
Sometimes, she lets me read a difficult article from Newsweek or something. Oh my oh my… If it wasn’t for the gentle soul sitting across me, I wouldn’t show my performance to anybody. It is one thing to read books to a 3 year old, it is quite another story to read this:
”The results may be big but the process shouldn’t be grandiose. From that perspective, he says, the democrats should have come forward and with relatively modest proposals that could be equally well received. The three plans put forth so far are striking more for their similarities then for their differences. “
Have you noticed how many words there are more than two syllables?
Jan doesn’t do this to torture me. But wherever I stumble, there she gets her clue to work with me.
She calls them strategies. “What is your strategy to say the word ’perspective’ “? She asks me. “What strategy?” I think. I didn’t know to pronounce a word you would need strategies?? Did you?
Slowly I learn. For example, let’s take the word “perspective”: It takes at least seven steps to pronounce the word “perspective”:
1) You start with the lips closed (for the sound ‘P’)
2) then you have to pull your tongue back (for ‘R”),
3) You have to bring your teeth together and smile (for ‘S’)
4) Lips closed again (for ’P’)
5) Back of tongue (for ‘K’)
6) Tip of tongue to the upper incisors (for ‘T’)
7) Lower lip to the upper teeth for (for ‘V’)
In other words; you have to remember to bring your lips together three times, while your tongue moves to the back of your throat and comes to the front to touch the teeth.
Every word has a, short hand, a strategy like that.
Let’s say you have mastered a word, but you have difficulty moving from word to word. Then the strategy is: think about the last sound of the first word and the first sound of the following word, think about how to combine these two sounds.
Under normal circumstances, one doesn’t think about all of the above, of course. Especially while trying to string meaningful sentences together. But if you are learning any new activity that requires muscle coordination, from scratch, you need that. Learning to play an instrument may be the best analogy there is. Before you learn how to play the violin, there is no section in your brain dedicated to “violin playing”. But you learn it, your fingers get more adept with every practice, your ears become keener, your arm muscles get more precise….
In the end, after lots of practice, you don’t think about your fingers and arms anymore, you just think about the music… It comes naturally… And now there is a set of dedicated neurons in your brain for playing the violin.
Like every muscle coordination activity practice is key!
Once I read a quote by a famous musician. He said something along the lines of; if I don’t practice for one day, nobody notices. If I don’t practice for a couple of days, I notice the difference. If I don’t practice for one week, the whole audience notices…
Think about that!

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