Saturday, February 27, 2010

Keynote at SLAT Roundtable

Keynote at SLAT Roundtable Matsuda Talks Voice

New media and technology make a point of announcing themselves as making the collapse of time and space capable, so I'm doing my best to counter that process by posting late on a presentation I saw a week ago.

Last week at the Second Language Acquisition Teaching Roundtable, Paul Kei Matsuda delivered the keynote speech on "Voice and Discursive Construction of Identity."

As I have previously posted, I had the opportunity see Dr. Matsuda speak alongside Peter Elbow at the 2009 CCCC convention, and was impressed by not only his presentation skills, but also the ability to engage a ballroom of convention attendees.

Interested in the construction of voice, Matsuda pointed out the difficulty of defining voice because of its connection with content and style. It raises the question of "if you can't define it, then you can't teach it." This arises with those instructing English language learners because so much of voice tends to be its deviation from the norms of academic discourse.

One of the interesting points Matsuda makes about voice is that is the quality that makes impersonation possible.

Matsuda also presented examples of variation of voice in Japanese bloggers, demonstrated through the swapping of the watashi and washi in Katakana by a female blogger who used the more masculine washi in recreations of dialogue with her husband, creating a humorous tone through cognitive dissonance and the juxtaposition of linguistic norms.

Reporting on a broader case study, Matsuda discussed the experiment he ran with editors of academic journals who, on the whole, recognized that they tended to create images of writers in their minds as they read texts, based on voice and other features. Some claimed to be able to recognize sex, age and race.

Matsuda recommended that when teaching voice to English language learners: Teach the principle behind voice—point out certain examples, show how it can mark writing; if non-native maintains solidified usage, then it sounds like its bringing in a potentially new perspective to the subject.

I asked Dr. Matsuda if he had any advice on the development of voice when presenting, but he said that would another entire presentation in and of itself, although he did mention a lot of speakers preferring to use the phrase "in a nutshell."

In a nutshell, I'm planning on keeping this in mind at this year's Cs.

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