sábado, 28 de diciembre de 2019

Prosody and rock and roll again!

Hi, there, readers! Sorry I've been a stranger, but life over here is hectic, and I have fully and unashamedly embraced the fact that it's really okay if I don't blog often (or at all!).

This is a bit of a rambling reflective post I started writing almost 10 months ago, and which I finally got myself to (kind of) finish. Today's short blog is about a fabulous gift I was trusted with last year, and for a while, this current year: the chance to convene on the Prosody of English module in my Department, teaching finalists (3rd year students). It's been really a really big thing for me, particularly because of two reasons:

a) I lectured in prosody for 8 years in Buenos Aires, but always to L2 speakers of English training to become EFL teachers, so I was not sure what to expect when it comes to teaching a prosody module for people whose first language is English and who were doing Language and Linguistics or Foreign Language degrees. Luckily, I'd audited the module in 2016/17 so I had an idea as to what challenges lay ahead.

b) I would teach about prosody in interaction, in York, of all places, one of the most influential places when it comes to the study of Phonetics in interaction, and I would get the chance to use my own data to do so! And, spoiler alert: this has really been the peak of my time in York as far as my teaching career is concerned, and I don't think I can aspire to more after this!

So today I just wanted to reflect on a few lessons I learned last year teaching this module. Forgive the lack of references and the stream of consciousness, but as someone who has just finished a first draft of her PhD thesis (yay, can you believe it!?), I needed a break from formal structured starchy academic writing.

Prosody and "meaning"

Even though teaching Phonetics 2 in Buenos Aires (also Lab 3, and 4) was by far my most challenging and yet favourite experience during my pre-UK times, and most certainly the one I learned the most from, and the one that enabled me to play around with theories and hypotheses and models, it was an experience that for many reasons imprisoned me. It's not easy to teach prosody, and making it teachable for me meant kind of buying into a few half-truths that I felt I had to reproduce - though less and less so as I got more experienced.

It meant choosing some theories over others, and finding the best way to teach them. I have always felt guilty about it, which is why from 2013 I started collecting corpora to put to the test some of my ramblings and make an evidence/corpus-based set of teachable generalisations that I shared with my students. During those 8 years, I got sound evidence that the best way to make sense of prosody is through the serious study of discourse genres and conversation, and that, yes, involves going beyond phonetics, something that not everyone is ready to do.

Now that I have embraced the study of interaction fully, I am sure the actual locus of everyday uses of prosody is in interaction and I have evidence that we as speakers orient to the whole package of verbal and non-verbal resources, and that prosody is not a solitary meaning-making thing, nor is it a single speaker's phenomenon. I know now that prosodic choices are rooted and negotiated in the local context and that as such not every prosodic system (I'm looking at you, system of Tone -in the Hallidayan sense, not talking about lexical tone) does not so easily or straightforwardly fit into the whole form-meaning mapping business (something I know a lot of experimental prosodists will probably disagree with).

Now, here's the "rub": describing what people do in spontaneous talk (or at least, naturalistic interaction, given that the camera's mediating) and turning that into a teachable model for L2 speakers of English is always a challenge. I don't think I yet have a satisfactory answer to that. And probably to be able to provide an answer, I'd like to see interdisciplinary studies of corpora of everyday interaction coupled with perhaps some experimental studies. Whatever the case, I just know that having embraced Systemic Functional Linguistics and Discourse Intonation at the time to come up with a framework for intonation teaching, and testing my impressionistic observations against corpora, and staying away from solely-grammatical and attitudinal approaches was totally the right starting point.

Different contexts, different goals, same challenges?

At York, I've had the wonderful experience of teaching Prosody to mostly L1 speakers of English, and with an approach aimed at helping students research prosody, rather than train students to teach intonation to other L2 speakers or to apply "rules" to their own speech. This makes a huge difference to how you approach the whole thing.

And if you allow me, I'd like to get into a short rant here. I hear at times academics in my home country say that the work that is done in the Phonetics modules there is outdated, or it's not what is done in the rest of the world. And leaving the whole accent training thing aside (!), and having been here 3+ years and seen a lot of the phonetics done around the world, and having taught people who trained as teachers in other countries, I can only say that I'm very proud of what was being done at Profesorados in Buenos Aires, at least when I was around. Tutoring people to actually hear things and to reflect on pronunciation and intonation in different types of speech genres, to learn in so much detail about spelling patterns, allophonic variants, and word stress rules, that is totally unusual in other countries. Practical Phonetics may not be as popular as it used to be in Linguistics degrees aorund the world these days, but in Teacher Training it still is, in my very humble but informed opinion, a must. Not to mention ear-training and transcription, essential exercises and skills for anyone who wants to go into Phonetics in general. [End of rant].

Anyway. Here are some interesting points about my experience at York:

The module in York was an introduction to prosody, and the content and skills centered around the description and analysis of conversational data. The module was already fully designed, but I needed to make the lectures "mine", so I decided to rewrite 90% of them from scratch. I really don't regret the hours (12?18?20?) it took me to make each and every power point. I was totally indulging in the possibility of actually having slides (my lectures in Buenos Aires were all written on the whiteboard as I talked!), of using my own data, of learning further about things I'd never taught before, and of feeling that I was wrapping up 8 years of experience into a nice package that was all mine. It felt really special.

So basically, I had the chance to teach phonatory and articulatory, acoustic, and perceptual aspects around prosodic phenomena; I introduced the British (London) school, interactional approaches, and also ToBI notation. I lectured on the Three Ts, on grammatical, and on information structure accounts of intonation (using, for example, the great "To Be or Not To Be" sketch); I showed different ways in which participants in interaction can prosodically design their lists, parenthetical inserts, or increments; and during the second term we discussed sociophonetic issues, and the fascinating ways in which participants in conversation orient to each other's prosody. One of my favourite parts of the module was to show tonality differences in more monologic and more interactional genres, and it was a bit of a treat to do so using my own data, as it felt like a bridge between my past and my present prosody teaching work.

My Prosody syllabus in Buenos Aires was more about the discovery, transcription  and application of patterns and rules. Students were expected to learn about the components of English intonation (yes, I am aware of the problem of calling it thus!) to be able to describe what L1 speakers do, what L2 speakers would do because of interlanguage processes, and also to apply some L1 generalisations to their own speech. We would discuss tonality and its close association (mostly in mostly monologic texts, though) with thematic structure and logico-semantic relations across phrases and clauses (from a SFL perspective); we would deal with tonicity and information status, as well as to exceptions to the "last lexical item" rule, and then focus on textual and interpersonal approaches to tone (=pitch countours) and key and termination (=pitch height). Even after 8 years teaching the module I was still deeply unhappy about the interactional side of my module, especially since I had realised how straightforward in comparison it was to teach more monologic genres, such as lectures, TV documentaries, tourist guide speeches, etc and how I would feel really dissatisfied with my discussion of tone in questions, for example.  I'm sure that if I had had access to the kind of corpus like the one I could collect during my PhD, I would have done a far better job in my teaching in Buenos Aires for the last two teaching units on intonation and the interpersonal metafunction of my module. 

Now. Anyone who's embarked on the fascinating journey of studying prosody will know that it's not an easy landscape to navigate. Lots of views, beliefs, approaches, low inter-transcriber reliability scores for different transcription systems, and the sad truth some of us have learned very early in our process: the system you were taught/trained in may influence the way you "hear" prosodic phenomena.

Doing ear-training was perhaps the most challenging thing to do in the first 8 weeks of the module (and to be fair, the module requested that students start transcribing prosodic detail in real data by the fourth week!). Because the module was first devised with an interactional approach in mind, a lot of the transcription work follows what is done in conversation analysis and interactional linguistics, which means that many of the insights around contours are those traceable to the British (London) school. This was perhaps very convenient for me as it is what I had been trained on, but I acknowledge this is not what most prosodists out there do these days. [And yes, we could engage in a conversation around transcription approaches and contours vs levels and what is closest to perception, and what is more useful for typological work, etc, but I won't. Not today, at least!]

Some of my students had learned some ToBI in a prior module, and found it difficult to hear whole tunes, upsteps were interpreted as rises or rise-falls, downsteps as part of fall-rises. Those who learned the British School first found it hard to perceive fall-rises and rise-falls when there were long tails. And yes, many of these things are actually model-dependent, so how you represent certain contours and whether you identify those as nuclear or pre-nuclear (e.g. falling heads) may perhaps be a matter of what perspective you are actually following.  Identifying focal accents/nuclei was at first a challenge for many students, and the picture is always more complex when it comes to using real interactional data, and the truth is that following a strict model clearly does not work to represent what we do in talk. Overall, in terms of the perception difficulties encountered by my students, my experience in Buenos Aires and in the UK was pretty much the same, but in Argentina a great part of the introductory material I used for ear-training was pedagogic. Still, I believe a lot of work needs to be done when it comes to ear-training and I don't think I'm done playing around with ideas yet! For the first sessions this year I have a few tricks up my sleeve that I hope will help with the perception of contours (I'll report on them if they work!)

I would say that the "liberating" thing about my experience at York is that we used transcription  as a form of representation and registering of what we could hear, and that allowed for some variation in representation, and made room for the recognition that many of my students' versions, albeit different from mine, were "reasonable hearings" (to use Richard Cauldwell's term). 

Perhaps one of the things I learned the most from in York was from my lab sessions. In Buenos Aires I was only but starting to scratch the surface of f0 visualisation with my students, and we would sometimes use the web version of WASP, as I would normally use my phone or tablet when teaching my classes (and use my mobile data, due to, ehem, lack of wifi!). Those who attended Lab lessons in the computer lab were perhaps better equipped to do this kind of work, and I know at least one of my colleagues was doing perception and production experiments with her Lab class. I never took my Praat work from my MA into the classroom, but I always wanted to add it to my lectures (but given that there were two or three projectors available in the whole college, it would not have been possible to demonstrate. I really really hope they have projectors and wifi at state colleges in Buenos Aires now, but I may still be asking for too much, sadly). Even though I always had in mind that I was training EFL teachers, I believe that I would have loved to be able to teach some instrumental data analysis if I had had the equipment and time.

During the practical sessions in York, I trained students to use Praat, to estimate a speaker's pitch range, to inspect the pitch trace for microprosodic errors and correct them, to make nice publishable figures. I also led ear-training sessions starting from words all the way to full bits of real conversational data. This was mostly all based on the wonderful worksheets designed by Richard Ogden and the additions by Sam Hellmuth, and I made my own twist to it and developed a step-by-step focal accent and pitch contour identification tasks. Later in the module, as I would teach the module in PC rooms, I decided I wanted to make sure that the results of data analysis done in groups were shared using Google Docs, which made it possible for me to give advice and see how students approached their transcription and analysis in real time (I discussed my experience doing this in the latest Learning and Teaching magazine at York). You may think this really isn't an extraordinary thing, but it was indeed very useful for myself and my students to see their process and progress evolve on the shared document, and I had lots of fun proudly watching my students provide visual evidence of their measurements of isochronous stretches of speech, or to produce f0 traces of intonation in lists.

Some final reflections

I often wonder how I would teach my modules in Buenos Aires if I had the chance to teach them again after my PhD. It is really clear to me that the world I left has changed in many ways, and not just because I have had the privilege to experience a different world, but because due to economic and political reasons my previous teaching context has really changed these last almost three and a half years.

I remember the anxiety I felt during my first year in York as I audited modules or had supervision meetings, as I felt it was all a test of my prior knowledge and of my beliefs around Phonetics and Phonetics teaching. Whenever I was exposed to a topic I had taught in Buenos Aires, I remember sighing with relief when I heard the lecturers agree with me, or getting all red in the face with shame when I saw that perhaps my approach to some things wasn't the most appropriate one. Either way, I've learned tons in York, though not enough.

The truth is, I don't know what I would do if I had to teach my Profesorado modules again. I know for a fact that I wasn't too far off in my approach, and that my being asked to teach at York and UCL confirms that however small and impostor I sometimes feel here about playing in what some people in Argentina would call the "big leagues", I humbly think I have not really done a bad job at all. On the other hand, I feel deeply aware of all the things I don't yet know, and I also know that I would now perhaps be less categorical on a number of things and use more real-life data if I was teaching those modules again. However, I cannot lose sight of the fact that here I'm teaching in Linguistics degrees, and my previous posts were in ELT. However linguistic-heavy Argentinian ELT programmes are, and beyond the fact that I believe pre- and in-service teachers need to be trained in research, I cannot ignore the fact that during the last ten years I've been teaching two very different student profiles and that my teaching approach has attempted to reflect that difference.

I am aware my posts lately may lack all sense of cohesion, and are possibly a reflection of my messy PhD thoughts, of the tumbling reality that I'm currently juggling my teaching and researcher selves who are sometimes in fusion, and sometimes in deep conflict. Troubling as this may sound, I think it's actually quite good, as it keeps me reflective, creative, and curious. And as a teacher and researcher, those are actually good qualities to keep alive.

I wonder if/when I'll blog again, as I may go on another break from teaching, but I wanted to wish you all a happy 2020. Hope we can start building a less divisive world, one where love and kindness prevail and where we all feel compelled to do the right thing even when no one's watching.

sábado, 31 de agosto de 2019

SCEP100: 100 years and 85 iterations of the Summer Course in English Phonetics

It's really crazy to see that a whole year has gone by since I wrote my last blog post. A whole year, four conferences, two awards, three terms of teaching, 140,000 words written on my thesis, and -let's confess-, three blog post drafts that never saw the light of day later, here I am again.

And yes, I'll be talking SCEP (Summer Course in English Phonetics), a super intense and intensive two-week course on English Phonetics (everyone's dream, I know!). I was once again blessed with the fabulous experience of being invited to be a tutor, and on a very special year: SCEP has turned 100! It's not the 100th iteration, though, because of several interruptions, but the first SCEP happened in 1919, believe it or not!

Former SCEP Director, Michael Ashby, and Judith Crompton compiled this lovely history of SCEP sheet, which you can see below (zoom in to read better):

As usual, this is a blog post written in almost one sitting (during a train journey from London to York, and one breakfast slot!), so do forgive any typos and the overall rambling style. I have also collected a few pics, whose authors will be properly attributed. If you want to get a sneak peek of some of the highlights, I would totally recommmend following SCEP on Facebook or Twitter, or checking out the #SCEP2019 hashtag.

The usual disclaimer: The opinions presented here are my own, and do not represent the views of the organisers.

I have discussed my experience as both a student and a tutor at SCEP in the past, so you can read about the structure of the course in those posts. Today, I would like to describe some of the highlights of SCEP this year, and add a few reflections, as usual.

Changes in the venue

My last two SCEP experiences took place in the Cruciform building, opposite the main UCL venue. It was really nice to be in Chandler House this year, though, as it is the current house of Speech Science studies in UCL, and our rooms were cosy, and the right size for our tutorial groups.

The lectures took place in the Eastman Dental Hospital, and it was lovely, in spite of sometimes having to sprint to my tutorials, to walk through the beautiful gardens nearby, chatting to participants and other tutors on our way there.

Changes in the schedule

Student feedback demanded more ear-training, and SCEP listened! This year, there were 2 ear-training sessions most days, one focusing more on segmental, and the other, on suprasegmental features (if you really believe in that separation, that is!). I have not been able to attend many of these, unfortunately, but those I did participate in -as an infiltrated tutor ;) - were lots of fun! Participants were exposed to nonsense words, sequences of syllables with different tones, sentences and passages with different intonation patterns, etc.

As a tutor, it really was a great help to know that participants were covering important aand tricky segmental and suprasegmental contrasts in their ear-training sessions, and it made my job easier, as I could focus a bit more on production.

The intonation lectures were, as a result of this change, put in the afternoon slot, and even though the after-lunch hour may induce some need for napping, the afternoon lecturers were really enthusiastic and energetic, so no one was found to be dozing off -in spite of the heatwave! Singing to different English tunes, or seeing intonation in action in different contexts of use is totally  my own to-go activity after I've had some lunch in the lovely St George's Gardens nearby.

The order of some of the lectures was changed, and I particularly liked this, as I think it made quite a lot of sense to have the lectures on teaching pronunciation (Jane Setter), accents (Geoff Lindsey and Josette Lesser), historical phonetics and phonology (John Harris) and speech science (Mark Huckvale) towards the end. Many of us who have lectured in Phonetics would be shocked to know that by day 3, students had been introduced to voicing, place, and manner of articulation of SSBE consonants, the vowel chart, and a considerable number of allophonic variants, something that any introductory Phon-Phon course would need four weeks (at York, for instance), or almost a whole term (in my experience training teachers and translators) to get to cover!. But that's a Summer Course for you, and of course, trying to cater for the needs of over 90 participants with different backgrounds and degrees of prior knowledge is never an easy task. Having said this, SCEP is really, really good at offering tailored ways of dealing with content in different ways and formats, so that everyone gets theory, training, and feedback, according to their background (more on this below!).

Jane Setter on her Teaching Pronunciation lecture

It was also really nice to see new faces doing the lecturing: this year, Luke Nicholson joined the lecturing team with really engaging sessions on consonants, with some lovely articulatory animations, and some fun memes. The intonation lectures were in the hands of Geoff Lindsey, Kate Scott, and Jane Setter, and the other lectures on segmentals were delivered by Paul Carley, Joanna Przedlacka, and Shanti Ulfsbjorninn (more on the lectures below!)

Luke Nicholson discussing processes of connected speech

Centenary [ˌsenˈtiːnᵊri] activities

In case you hadn't heard  (this became a recurrent joke), SCEP turned 100. Apart from the now traditional picture at the main UCL building portico, there were a couple of key activities to commemorate the centenary.
The traditional picture (sorry about the quality!)

But first, let me mention the goodie bag. Everything was properly branded with the SCEP 100 logo: a mirror-magnet, a pen, a poster with the history of SCEP, and of course, the tote bag.

One of the most enjoyable moments was the Centenary Bus Tour, the geekiest English pronunciation tour you'll ever see! Imagine a red double-decker bus, songs from My Fair Lady, Samuel Johnson's house, Mary Le-Bow bells and Cockney rhyming slang, and yes, Professor Higgins and Eliza Doolittle! (Check SCEP's Facebook page for proper coverage of the tour!)

The Centenary Guest Lecture was as fantastic as one could expect: the one and only David Crystal talking about paralinguistics, with no powerpoint -who needs slides when you're David Crystal, right!?-, but as engaging as ever!. The lecture started with an anecdotal but really informative account of the interest around paralinguistics in the last fifty years, particularly in terms of what phonetic effects were described more systematically and which were left out of descriptions and models. It felt as if this lecture had been written for me, as Crystal enumerated all the fascinating phenomena that one could study -laryngeal and supralaryngeal settings, laughter, sung quotations - and the challenges of transcription and representation -e.g., how to represent speaking with your mouth full, or the speech boxers wearing their gum shields?. As an interactional linguist -yes, CA did get a mention in the lecture, by the way!-, it felt really reassuring to hear Crystal discussing the kinds of things we've been studying for quite a while, quite systematically. I also share with him the view, however, that more trained phoneticians should engage in this kind of work, and that these phenomena should not be studied away from the pragmatics of it all. (This is my best shot at summarising what went on, but it does not in any way represent the wealth and breadth of Crystal's fabulous lecture. I was clearly too starstruck to make sense of all that was going on!)

We members of staff had a lovely dinner in the main UCL building, which was yet another chance to celebrate the magic and history of SCEP...and for me to talk to David Crystal, by far the most starstruck moment of my life (...only comparable to the time I met my PhD supervisors for the first time, and also, I have to confess, John Local, and Betty Couper-Kuhlen.).

The Lectures

The lectures are always a lot of fun, and I love to see how parts of them change year after year. The great thing is that participants get a handbook with the key content of the lectures, presented in a reallly clear and learner-friendly format, so if you want a copy...you'll have to come to SCEP! I cannot do any justice to all the wealth of content and skill of delivery you can find in the lectures, but I thought I'd mention some of my own personal highlights this year (hope none of my colleagues gets offended!).

I personally enjoyed Joanna's lecture on "how vowels behave", and one of the reasons is that we got to hear Jones, Firth, and Armstrong reading out a dialogue. Oh, the vowels!

I also really liked Shanti's lecture. Some of the participants may have found it cryptic at the beginning, but it was a beautiful illustration of a phonemic inventory task (we do tons of these at York, and I kind of like them, even though I'm not strictly a phonologist!). It was really a nice way to introduce phonemes and allophones without forcing an early definition, a way to get people to reflect on sounds and variants before they actually realise it was all leading towards an understanding of what constitute an allophonic variant, and what is a contrastive segment in the language.

John Harris' lecture is one of my favourites -apart from the fact that I love his accent (well...to be fair, I love all accents, but after a few days of lectures with familiar voices, it is nice to shake up our auditory comfort zone a bit). It was so great to see and hear so many changes in vowels and consonants, going as far as Chaucer's time, and all the way to present day Englishes, including, for example, MLE varieties.

Mark Huckvale's lecture was as good as last year's. I really admire the clarity with which he explains complex things like resonance, formant frequencies, and harmonics, for instance. It is all really neatly illustrated with the always fabulous and super useful suite of RT (real-time) visualisation software , which shows participants who have not done speech research before what can be "seen", and measured, and how the information the software throws at us may bear a relation (however complex) with articulatory processes. This year's surprise was the application of speech recognition to language learning in one particular app: SpeechAce. I was really impressed by the mini-demonstration of the workings of the app's pronunciation error recognition!

Question time was particularly good this year. There were lots of super interesting questions, including the role and nature of RP today, issues around pronunciation teaching goals and models, the always fascinating articulatory settings and voice quality topics, among others. I really enjoyed the fact that the panel members really had the opportunity to answer at length, which I think was really nice!. 

The Tutorials

I think that one of the very best things of SCEP is the magic of the tutorials. The tutorials are spaces where we build communities of participants who have been grouped according to prior experience and knowledge, background, and interests (or at least, the organisers' best guess as to what those could be based on application forms!). Tutors then propose pronunciation and intonation activities according to participants' needs, which means that each group will receive some tailor-made tuition. 

I don't know if all participants can appreciate this, but I think that the fact that each tutor has their own style and their own baggage of teaching experience and research expertise makes for the richness of SCEP. This year's tutors, for instance, included researchers of sign languages, typological issues in phonology, pragmatics, or interactional phonetics, as well as accent coaches, pronunciation lexicographers, experienced EFL teachers, and all of us have been involved in pronunciation and phonetics teaching for a considerable amount of time. Each of us has a unique angle to things, and an experience-informed view of how to approach pronunciation and intonation work. We also have the challenge to tune-in to a number of different languages and voices in a really short period of time, and to cater for the varied needs of each of our group members, which we try to address in creative ways.

I always find it challenging to plan for SCEP because I often don't know what my students' prior level of knowledge will be -we do have a rough idea, of course, of how advanced they could be in their expertise-, and even though I do research on my group members' first languages, I cannot predict what they will need until I get to hear them on the first day. From a tutor's perspective, the first day is adrenaline-inducing, as we listen to 8-10 different voices in less than an hour and we try to assess which of the teaching paths we'd planned in advance would work for the group. And we re-adjust our goals and planning every day, so it's really a demanding job!

Because I think the uniqueness of SCEP lies on the tutorials (I shall never forget the tutorials I had with Jack Windsor Lewis and Jane Setter as a student, and I knew they were different from what other groups were doing) I just thought I'd think about what I have done in my groups, which I know is different from what other tutors have offered in response to their own groups' needs. 

For the segments group, my top priority is always vowels. I know I can safely choose material to work on based on the transition from my students' L1 vowels into some SSBE target, and then I strategically select practice tasks that will inevitably introduce consonants and/or allophonic variants: for example, the FLEECE-KIT texts always lead on to work on pre-fortis clipping and full length; the material for DRESS-NURSE invites work on dentalisation, and so on, until glottalisation, forms of plosive release, elision, assimilation, difficult clusters, have all been introduced and practised. I also propose a transition that goes from work on isolated words that illustrate phonesthesia (sound symbolism), into minimal pair practice, and then into short texts, and ideally into role plays -but at times we don't get to do the last bit (if I'm invited to be a tutor again, I'll be tweaking things a little bit in this respect). By the end of the two weeks, I was happy to have gone over quite a lot of sounds, and to have offered quite a lot of feedback in small doses. Some students have asked for an end-of-course "prescription", so if I'm at SCEP next year, I'll do that a bit more systematically (after all, I have the feedback/prescription templates that I used in Buenos Aires for so many years, it's only a matter of bringing them along!).
Having fun with my Segments group. We had Praated our own aspirated plosives and were making sure there was enough frication noise to separate those plosives from the vowels. Then we turned analog and did an aspiration race (an adapted version of a game by one of my Buenos Aires students in 2009 > my most sincere apologies I don't remember your name, whoever you are, creative former student!)
Image credits: Masaki Taniguchi (Thanks!)

Intonation tasks are always my favourite thing to design, but I remember getting overenthusiastic last year, and totally overplanning for just 9 tutorials. This year I decided to take it easy and follow the "less is more" motto, particularly because in my experience, intonation happens to be the area most participants have been less systematically exposed to before coming to SCEP, and at times, getting a couple of key things right is better than trying to go on a tour around a whole syllabus. My first two days are always an overview of everything involved when it comes to suprasegmentals, with short discovery tasks that introduce rhythm and weak forms, contrastive focus, stress shift, basic fall vs rise distinctions, tonicity changes leading to changes of meaning. The next sessions generally have a balance between some practice on tones and pre-nuclear patterns, and the application of tonicity and tone patterns on carefully-designed contexts. I like to supplement the lectures in this respect, so I generally do work on, for example, the fall-rise and its role in contexts where people do concession, anticipate contrasts, do preparatory work, create implications. I have realised that the extent of what I get to cover in the intonation tutorials is generally less predictable, and it seems to always end up setting up priorities around rhythm, high falls, and fall-rises, as well as on the deaccentuation of given information.

Me, my digital pen and tablet, my extravagant gestures, and my trying to explain, if I remember correctly, how stranded prepositions take the strong form but are not necessarily accented....

I have heard students and tutors from other groups talk about the super cool things they do in their own tutorials, so no matter what group you end up in, you can most certainly guarantee that you will get some quality feedback -constrained by the time we have and the need to keep the whole group engaged, of course-, the answers to your questions, oral practice, maybe some transcription practice, some homework, and really rich theoretical discussions.

I am really deeply grateful for the groups I got this year as well, and I learned so much from their first languages, their questions, and suggestions, and we had so much fun working together. I also want to especially thank them for trusting my teaching expertise and my knowledge of phonetics, as I know that it's clear when I open my mouth (or overgesticulate!) that I am not a native speaker of English, and I know some people might want to get their pounds' worth listening to native speakers do the talking instead...though I'll give myself credit for my vast experience doing this kind of work, and teaching phonetics in Argentina and in the UK (which, hey, got me a Vice-Chancellor's Teaching Award in York, after all), and to the work I've done on my accent (which of course has traces of Spanish and of Yorkshire....proudly!). So thank you all for being so great, so open, and so active!

Come to SCEP, it's great!

I am not saying it because I'm involved, and I don't get any extra money for saying this, so believe me, if you are a teacher of English, a lecturer in Practical Phonetics, an MA student of TESOL, a professional in any area of linguistics, or a professional who is not a linguist at all, SCEP is for you. You will get the basic theory and practical skills for the study and teaching of pronunciation and intonation, you will get feedback on your production, you will feel at home with fellow phon-geeks, and you will be around people all around the world who share an interest in teaching and learning phonetics. And yes, you'll get access to teaching on "contemporary" SSBE accents (get Geoff Lindsey's English After RP book to learn more on what this means).

In a time in which Phonetics is really super popular, in a time which instruments are allowing us to visualise speech in multiple ways and are helping us understand so much, but also in a time when Phonetics at times seems to be overwhelmingly dominated or defined by R-stats and Praat scripts, it is really refreshing to see people wanting to learn to use their ears and fine-tune their perception skills, learn to hear by producing crazy noises, by comparing, by reading further, by watching the mouth do the trick, and feeling the larynx move, or the resonances in the head... Those of us who have taught English for so long know that we need our ears to work and tune in to different voices in a matter of seconds to do our work right, those of us who study phonetics as one of the multiple resources in interaction know so well that we don't go around praating people's speech and still naturally orient to each other's phonetic detail in so many ways, those of us who work alongside people who do different kinds of applied phonetics in so many varied ways know that there should not be a single way of doing or defining what phonetics is or how it should be done. And SCEP is a really nice place to remember how this whole phonetic enterprise started, and to understand why Practical Phonetics should not be replaced nor effaced, but rather, be there as an indispensable foundation for all the professional and/or scientific work we will then, of course, instrumentally validate in a number of ways.