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!).


MM said...

This might help a number of examples when 2+2 is NOT 4. (For those of a mathematical bent)...

In our numeric system it does but only in base ten.

in base 2 it equals 100
in base 3 it is 11
in base 4 it is 10
in base 5 it is 4
in base 6 it is 4
in base 7 it is 4 and so forth
Base is what number equals ten in base 5 5=10 15=20 50=100...

But not 5 sadly :)

Mike said...

The number 2 does not exist in Base 2 numbers or binary numbers. Just 0 and 1 only. Since we're talking about the use of the number 2 for adding using different Base numbering system. It cannot be used in Base 2 number system.

For Base 2, adding 10 + 10 = 100.

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Dean Evans said...

Good point about how we teach new-ish interpreters and sign language students. I've heard so many "It's this way, but it's also this way, too..." disclaimers (and yes, I've been guilty of using said disclaimers) that didn't need to be there. Please keep posting your wisdom; we need it!

Dan said...

Well the problem in part is that there is so little consensus on what "grammatical" ASL looks like. Is it only the ASL used by Deaf-of-Deaf, even though by far the majority of ASL signers acquire it in school from other kids, and their way of signing is more of what we encounter? And linguistic research to date hasn't helped much in differentiating between competing "grammatical" constructions that may differ in felicity.

So, is it "more" correct to sign something in subject-verb-object order with no special phrasing, or is topic-comment preferred? Wait. Don't answer that, because -- and I have to be honest here -- you don't really know the answer, even if you think you do. :-)

Michele J. Bornert said...

As a Deaf, ASL user and ASL teacher, I try to help my students understand that, just as the English language has many ways to say the same thing, so, too, does ASL.

Yes, there are specific grammatical aspects to ASL that must be respected, but there is no absolute, only-one-way way of signing something.

Because the thinking of new students is usually that you learn the vocabulary and then you use it in a specific way, instead of finding ways to use the vocabulary you know and convey a message through visual means, they are often stuck in their thinking.

I've found this to be one of the hardest hurdles for students to get past in order to "conquer" and embrace the nuances of the language.

Dan said...

A-hem. 2+2=5 for very large values of 2. :-)