Sunday, May 16, 2010

I say 2 + 2 = 5!

Oh, wait...IT DOESN'T??!! Well, my friend said it did and he knows math. And it totally could be 5, if you think about inflation. Okay, maybe it's not five, but I think you understood what I meant...I meant 4. Also, 5 is very close to 4, isn't it?


Rarely in math is there room for discussion regarding addition, subtration, multiplication or division. It's right, or it's wrong. Accept your B- and keep moving. Try to work on the problems in the back of the book.

But, can this work with the process of learning ASL? It seems that everything leads to a discussion..."my deaf friend says..." "I saw an interpreter sign..." "The client understood me anyway..." And the instructors say, "What I do is..." "What I've seen is..." "One time, at band camp..."

No wonder interpreting students are so confused so much of the time. They don't always have great language models around them and there's so much hedging and waffling from instructors who are reticent to say:
"That is the wrong sign." "That is not grammatically correct." "This is the correct sign, this is the grammatically correct structure."

I'd like a nickel for everytime I've heard a five minute "you're okay, I'm okay" speech before the feedback even begins.

While I do not believe language learning can be as black and white as math, I do think we can learn something from math teachers. Math teachers always tell their students to "show your work." Not only does the math student know that their answer was incorrect, they also get feedback about where they went off track. Interpreters show their final answer (the interpretation), but not their "work"---which is the processing that goes on in their heads.

We need to not only be strong enough and kind enough to be direct and clear about what is right and wrong...we also need to explain when there is "good, better and best".

And we need to figure out ways for our students to SHOW THEIR WORK. Engage them in discussions about why they used a rhetorical question. If they have no reason...what a perfect teaching moment!

Ask students to explain what they really thought that phrase meant, what purpose did the classifier serve, etc.

We have to ask better questions, to get better answers and to understand the students' process.

I have no magic plan for this. But as I will be returning to teaching interpreting in the Fall, I plan blog about my successes (and near misses and flops!).