Technique “Read My Lips” and the McGurk Effect

As a language hunter, you’re focused on absorbing a language into your mind and body, not just knowing the grammar or vocabulary.

This is how human beings most quickly learn languages, by using all of their senses. This is how correct pronunciation is acquired. Just listening to the sound of a language can only get you so far (and only reading the pronunciation from a dictionary or other won’t get you very far at all). You need to see a speaker making the sounds, see how their body moves, and see the shape of their lips and mouth.

One of the best examples of this is the McGurk Effect – a phenomenon where your brain goes out of its way to boost what you hear, with what you see, to the extent of creating an illusion in certain situations.

Though in this case it’s demonstrated as an “illusion”, an obstacle to hearing what’s actually said, in a normal language hunting conversation you can think of tq “Read my  lips” as a massive boost in clarity to what you are hearing. Your eyes confirm (and underscore) what your ears hear.

2 thoughts on “Technique “Read My Lips” and the McGurk Effect

  1. Two of my children have unusually clear speech, while the 3rd has always been at the other end of the spectrum. One of his habits is to substitute F/V for P/B because it’s easier: he doesn’t have to stretch his lips around his teeth. If you aren’t looking, you’ll probably never now. And if he’s not looking at me, I can’t correct him.

    It goes beyond vision “overriding” hearing. How many times have you seen two people in an argument fail to understand each other, even though they are speaking clearly? Powerful feelings about what you *think* someone is saying can easily “override” what words they are using.

    I use “Read my Lips” with my 3rd child any time I think he’s ready for a correction. “Look at my mouth” I’ll say, and then demonstrate correct pronunciation.

    Regarding this video’s presentation of the McGurk Effect as an “illusion” I think it’s something different: our experience in the world is not through 5 distinct senses, but a conglomeration, where 5 stand out in our current awareness.

    Our misunderstanding is made obvious when you have a stuffy nose, and food doesn’t taste good. Why not? Because what we commonly call “taste” has a strong element of smell. Does that mean that we confuse “taste” and “smell”? Or that our nose and mouth each play an important role in the experience of food?

    What about your attention? If you think about the delicious meal you’re about to enjoy, you salivate more, creating a stronger sense of taste and improved nutritional uptake.

    What about your feelings about the food? Compare a premade meal from the supermarket deli to something made by Mom or Grandma because she knew you would be hungry. The feelings of love in the latter meal are powerful – are they an “illusion” or part of the “taste”?

  2. Jay,

    Absolutely, I totally agree with the “conglomeration” way of seeing this sensory overlap/cross-support – that’s way better than thinking of it “overriding”, or as this phenomenon as an “illusion”. In this way, the idea of different learning modalities is interesting, a place to perhaps start thinking about the need for total physical response, but it doesn’t come close to ending there – things are much richer than 5 separate compartmentalized senses. To really absorb new fluency, you have to immerse yourself in your entire sensory system. Set-up!


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