The Speech Learning Model

Flege, J. E. (1995). Second language speech learning: Theory, findings, and problems. Speech perception and linguistic experience: Issues in cross-language research, 233-277.

Flege, J. E. (1995). Second language speech learning: Theory, findings, and problems. Speech perception and linguistic experience: Issues in cross-language research, 233-277.

I promised a few weeks ago that I’d write about Jim Flege’s Speech Learning Model next. Dutifully, I read his chapter in Winifred Strange’s Speech Perception and Linguistic Experience, made notes in the margin, carried the paper around with me and looked at it again and again over the course of a week. And then I had to renew my visa, move to a new apartment, apply to the ethics board at Sophia for my next study, work on a couple of programming projects, make some figures for a paper on Chinese schools in Japan… let’s just say I haven’t exactly had a surplus of free time recently. The really horrible thing about doing what you love is that you never have a shortage of things to do.

But! My task scheduler is making me feel increasingly guilty for not writing anything in an entire month, when I had scheduled no less than two updates per week. In order to appease my digital deity and the high priests of GTD, here’s the homework I assigned myself, three weeks late. Mea culpa.

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Posted in Phonetics and Phonology

The Perceptual Assimilation Model

ralaらRecently I started a doctoral course at Sophia, and so far it’s been really great. I’m doing everything that I want to be doing, the other students in the lab are wonderful people, and Arai-sensei has been good at giving me just the right pushes in the right directions. But I also need to be doing a lot more reading than I have been, so I decided I need to assign myself some homework to make sure that I’m keeping up with my reading. As I read through the various papers related to my field, I’m going to post summaries up here. Maybe they’ll be helpful to other people working in the field, and I hope at least that I can explain them well enough that people outside of my particular specialty domains will understand them.

For my first post in the series, I want to go through Cathy Best’s Perceptual Assimilation Model. She’s written it up in more than a few places, I think, but here I’m summarizing a book chapter that seems to get cited most frequently.

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Posted in Paper Summaries, Phonetics and Phonology

Doctoral Program

im inI’m in! I got accepted to a doctoral program in Information Sciences (情報学) at Sophia. It’s a big jump for me—going from ‘arts’ 文系 to ‘sciences’ 理系. I guess it’s time to buckle down and actually figure out how to do statistics in R…

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Posted in Research

Never mind the drilling, here’s how I’ve been learning the kanji

Probably every student of Japanese out there has filled a few notebook pages with characters repeated over and over. I know I’ve got more than a few from back when I first started. You sit there and mindlessly write 温温温温温温温温温温温温温温温 until you’ve filled up a few lines, and then move onto the next one in your list.

Doesn’t work very well, does it? In the immortal words of the infomercial industry, there’s got to be a better way! I struggled with learning the kanji for probably the first two or three years of my Japanese study, and I only started to improve once I gave up drilling.

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Posted in Learn Japanese

What is ‘fluency’? What does it mean to be ‘fluent’?

The difference between fluency and accuracy

There’s more to speaking a language than just ‘fluency’.

If you’ve ever learned another language to a reasonably high level, you’ve probably had people ask you if you’re ‘fluent’. Probably half of the conversations I have with new acquaintances take this form:

New Friend: How long have you been living in Japan?

Me: About five years.

New Friend: Oh, so you must be fluent in Japanese, then.

Me: Eh, well, hehe…

I know they aren’t trying to put me in an awkward spot, it’s just a kind of natural flow of conversation for non-Japanese living in Japan. Still, it’s a hard question to answer. The honest answer is that I figure I’m pretty danged good at it, but there are still a lot of things that I’m not so good at. The bit that troubles me, though, is defining that word: ‘fluent’.

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Posted in SLA, Teaching Tips

C/D model website, and my MA defense

Two quick pieces of news:

Yesterday I started a site with Donna Erickson and Shigeto Kawahara to promote the C/D model. If you’re not familiar, the C/D model is short for “converter/distributor model”. It’s a way of describing how phonology and phonetics interact, how the system of sounds in our heads gets translated into physical sounds.

Second, I passed my MA defense! I still need to hand in a revised version of my thesis, but this means I’ll be graduating at the end of March. If all goes according to plan, I’ll be going into a doctoral program at the same university the week after that, so I’ll still be doing basically the same kind of research I’m doing now.

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Posted in Phonetics and Phonology, Research

Some thoughts on teaching and English-language imperialism

In 2010, I moved to Japan, a country whose language I barely spoke, and whose customs I barely knew. I was put in charge of a classroom, despite having no formal background in teaching and only two weeks of training. I was paid well more than the highly experienced Japanese teachers who were my co-workers, and I worked many fewer hours than they did. I earned none of this. I received all of these gifts because my native language, which I did not choose, has been systematically promoted at the expense of others.

Now, just to be clear: this isn’t a white guilt post. I’m not trying to convince you that we need to stop teaching English, or that every white guy who comes to Japan is some kind of jack-booted thug, trying to shove his language down Japanese people’s throats. It’s a lot more complicated than that. What I want to think about here is how I can go forward and try to mitigate some of the messed up social issues that brought us all to this point. I want to talk about solutions and ways to make English education and linguistic research better.

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Posted in Language and Society
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