I just began a trial with a palatometer, called the SmartPalate System from CompleteSpeech, and so far, so good! In a previous post I told you how I made use of their stone molds and Silly Putty to give some hands-on experience with tongue shape and position. But now we are finally using the SmartPalates, data links, and software so the students can actually see on the screen exactly what their tongues are doing. This has been enlightening for them, and I’m learning a lot, too.
One student has a perfect /s/ but noticeable lateral emission on /sh, ch, j/. We’ve used straws, coffee stirrers, and lots of descriptive instruction and drill, but the lateral production persists. On her very first day with the palatometer, we were able to see with great clarity that, when I say /sh/, my tongue is anchored to my molars in the back and along the sides, and also touches the front of my palate, with just a thin, central area where there is no tongue/palate contact. When she says /sh/, her tongue tip doesn’t drop at all; instead, the back margin of her tongue pulls away from the molars on the left. Of course, one session wasn’t enough to fix this, but she sure gained an awareness she never had before in a very short period of time.
Another student was wide-eyed when he saw his tongue fall right off his teeth for /er/. Within that session, he was able to improve his tongue/teeth contact….not a lot, but a little, and that is something! Still another student, who is actually making a decent-sounding /er/ in isolation now, realized that he is making a retroflex /r/ with no palate contact at all.
Can’t wait to see what info is gained with the rest of the students in the trial! Will keep you posted…