The first fundamental skill you will train is “Motor Control.” This refers to your ability to voluntarily move the various articulators of your speech instrument with precision. Up until now, you’ve been moving your articulators in a completely unconscious way, and in patterns that are adapted to your first language. To speak a new language, you will need to break these old patterns to learn completely new ones. But if you’re unable to control your articulators, you won’t be able to mimic the new language movement patterns. The first articulator we will develop motor control over is our tongue. And the first type of motor control we will develop is “Independence.” This means being able to contract the tongue muscles WITHOUT contracting the muscles in the lips and face at the same time. As simple as this sounds, you will NOT be able to do this on your first tries. You have reinforced the patterns of moving tongue, lips and jaw a gazillion times in your lifetime, as this is what you do constantly when you speak. So don’t be frustrated or discouraged when you don’t get this on your first try. It will seem impossible at first, but if you follow the process with diligence and patience, you WILL achieve tongue independence. On average, it takes a student anywhere from 1-3 days of spontaneous practice. Have fun with it!
Now that you can see what’s actually happening in the muscles, it’s time to actually do the process of isolating the tongue. In the first video below, I describe the process. In the second video, I demonstrate the task that confirms you’ve successfully achieved independence. Be sure to rely heavily on your mirror - you can’t trust your kinesthetic sense in the beginning. Also be sure to practice without making any sound, as I describe in the video. At the end of the day, you just have to sit down and figure out your brain on your own. Again, be patient and trust the process, and you will make it through. After you’ve watched all the videos and made your first attempts, post a summary of your practice experience to the
#completionschannel. Then move on to the next exercise. You don’t have to master the technique before, it will come with spontaneous practice throughout the day. When you feel you’ve made a breakthrough on any aspect of this task, feel free to share a recording to
#recordings. This is a way to get free extra feedback, as my team will go through periodically and leave comments.
Spatial Awareness of Tongue Position
Now that you have more control over tongue movement, you can start to appreciate where your tongue is located in space. The four vowel sounds selected for the motor control drill were selected because they represent extreme positions in the oral cavity. All the other vowels will exist in the space circumscribed by these vowels. The video below shows this using something called a “vowel chart”. Again, explore your own oral cavity with a mirror, and try to reconcile what is depicted in these images and diagrams with what you are feeling and seeing in your own mouth.