Hi there tout la gang,

We don't have much to say about research in practice at the Café right now

but we are talking policy and practice over here now: Literacy Enquirers.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

goals and spices

from an ESOL instructor practising in the US:

Learning a language is a bit like being in a small boat on a body of water. When students first begin learning a language, it's a bit like being in a small boat that is passing midway down a narrow stream. As the boat moves forward, the banks of the stream are passing by, so it is easy for the learner/traveller to have a sense of progress, and a sense of where they are going.

When you become an advanced student, however, you have a problem -- the small stream has opened up into an "ocean." There are no "banks of the stream" anymore; nothing to give you a reference point or a sense of direction. The language you've learned is now an ocean. It goes on forever, and you can move and see in any possible direction. It is now very difficult to have a sense of progress or a sense of direction. You can move your boat over to the region of legalisms and legal English, for example, and study those for a while...but when you finish, there is still something else to learn. And there always will be.

So what do advanced learners do? They have to develop new tools to give themselves a reference point and be able to determine where they are going and how they are progressing. They need a "nautical chart": a set of explicit goals, means to achieve those goals, and ways or milestones to measure your progress. Then we go through an exercise where the students have to develop five very explicit, specific goals for language acquisition, and how they will achieve those goals. For example, one student decided she wanted to learn the names of all the Italian spices, and what dishes they are used in.


Bonnie Soroke said...

I have so enjoyed working closely with four amazing women (Anh, Rebecca, Miriam, Beatrice Feza) who have immigrated to Canada from Vietnam, Mexico, China & the Congo. Their use of English as a 2nd or 3rd or 4th language has been such an eye opener for me. After our weekly staff meetings, their unique rhythms and styles of speaking continue to dance in my head. They have constantly helped me uncover assumptions I never knew I had & opened my eyes to language and the English language in ways that have been both frustrating & laughable. Each of the women have been trained and are working as Community Researchers, and recently Anh asked me for help to transcribe part of her interviews. In Vietnamese, people often use proverbs & traditional sayings as ways to explain themselves. Anh was struggling with trying to put into English some of the following:
“Overlay my wife queen”
"The necessity to show up sagacious”
“The idle is the source of all evil”
“Labour is glory”
So we had a great time sorting through the meanings and discussing cultural history, relationships - oh I was blown away by the wonderful layers & complexity of how we use language.
and I wanted to insert a photo of Anh, but cannot see where/how to do that. yet.

literacies publisher said...

This is such a cool example of 'showing up sagacious' Bonnie. Unfortunately you cannot post photos in comments. You can send me the photo and I can create a post or the password fro you to create your own.