Terry is getting to something that has been sticking in my craw for some time. That is not the exact meaning I am looking for, maybe more like nagging at me. It’s the way so many language teachers treat language as some sort of entity we understand and codify and control. I’m reading The Development of Language by David Lightfoot now and like a number of other books I’ve been reading, it deals with language in ways that spin you off into realms of thought that have little to do with sticky rules and prim world views.
The whole idea of a paradigm of a verb is a joke; no one stores verbs in their brain like that except fl students and they can’t use the verb.
“The problem is getting the kids to realize that they can do these things (that is, input through stories seems disconnected from their using a verb in the past tense with a question word to ask about someone’s weekend). I could see using Can-Dos with them as a class to point out what they, well, Can Do, but they are unlikely to realize what they can do to match it up with an abstract statement.
But having kids score their own Can-Dos — as a tool for really evaluating language proficiency or acquisition — I can’t see it. If you want a meaningful rating, you need to have a skilled rater. Can-Dos might make sense for me, as an adult, thinking “I’m going to Hong Kong next month…I’ll be renting a room..hmmm, can I do that in Cantonese?” And then I’ll go off and figure out how to fill that gap in my ability. But why do kids do Can-Dos?…..usually it’s to get a grade, if they’re used as goals or assessment. And there’s the problem. You now have unskilled raters who are rating to get themselves a rating. The only similarly amusing paradigm I’ve met in the past was an online translators’ community where people would ask terminology questions. The asker then got to pick the “best” answer…the asker, the one who had no idea what the thing meant in the first place. Hilarity ensued.
Maybe they should be called “Think I Can-Dos”. But the Little Engine That Could would probably sue. “I Say I Can Do”?”