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Discussion

1 This topic offers an opportunity to discuss any reservations you or your

students may be having about the exercises in this book, here in connection

with memory research. We develop many procedural memories in university

classrooms: how to act when we walk in, how to interact with students or the

teacher, etc. Students can formulate some of those procedural memories that

they have developed in and for university classrooms, and reflect on their

attitudes toward the exercises in this book in terms of those habits. And what

procedural memories have you developed for the classroom? Even the most

innovative teachers, who are constantly changing their teaching style in

response to student needs, have procedural memories or "ruts" that govern

whole large segments of their teaching. What are yours?

This is a chance to get students to discuss their experience as translators and

the routines they've developed to help them do their work more effectively:

typing skills, terminology management, transfer patterns, interpreting skills,

etc. This is not only to help them develop those routines further; it is also to

help them develop professional pride in their skills, professional self-esteem.

Many people are strongly convinced that becoming aware of what they do and

why is not only unnecessary or irrelevant, but actively harmful. They may say

that this chapter, and perhaps the book as a whole as well, is a waste of time

— time better spent learning to transfer specific words and phrases from one

specific language to another. They may be so attached to subliminal processing

that they are afraid that too much awareness will slow them down — even,

ironically enough, when one of the ideas to which they are subliminally

attached is that they translate consciously and analytically, not subliminally.

Most of us are trained not to delve too deeply into the inner workings of

things, especially our own minds — we are afraid of what we will find, what

skeletons will come tumbling out of the closet. This discussion topic provides

a chance to air some of these feelings. This early in the semester you may not

yet know which students are most and which least receptive to this approach;

the less receptive ones may well feel that discussing their negative attitudes is

just as big a waste of time as everything else in the book, but they can be

encouraged to articulate their attitudes as carefully as possible. Other students

may feel excited and empowered to find themselves in several different

learning styles, and so to learn more about themselves.

The problem, of course, is that the simplifications that are so helpful in

directing our attention to specific subareas of our behavior also distort the

complexity of that behavior. Everyone has at least a little of every "learning

style" ever analyzed. It is therefore utterly false for anyone to say "my learning

style is X." It is almost certainly X, Y, and Z, and a lot of other letters as well.

The kinds of simplifications associated with logical or analytical thinking are

extremely useful in screening out vast segments of a field so as to concentrate

on a single thing at once; but it is very easy to become so enamored of the

simplified image that emerges from such thinking that we forget the bigger

and more complex picture.

This discussion topic, therefore, encourages you and your students to

explore the tensions between simplified and complex perceptions of things

in terms of the learning styles examined in the chapter. Some people,

sequential-analytical learners, will find the chapter's simplified "grid" of

learning styles very attractive; others, global-contextual learners, may feel

very uncomfortable with all the minute distinctions that seem to ignore so

many gray areas. "But I'm all of these things!" they may protest. "I'm this way

in some moods, that way in others!" Encouraging students to reconsider the

material in the chapter in this broader, more complex way will give your

global-contextual learners a chance to express their dissatisfaction with the

chapter's presentational style and to brainstorm about alternative ways of

studying learning styles, and thus give them a chance to learn the material

through more comfortable channels. (Global-contextual learners may feel

more comfortable with Figure 1 on pp. 58—9; certainly visual ones will.) This

discussion may also cause sequential-analytical learners some distress; they

may react by calling more global-contextual approaches too vague and

impressionistic to be of any use to anybody, and by dismissing this discussion

topic as a waste of the class's time. This, of course, provides you and the other

students with an excellent example of the importance of learning styles.

5 This topic is likely to be of greatest interest to students who are unsympathetic

to the book's approach: it will allow them to express their sense (which is

quite true) that this isn't the whole truth about translation, it's only a single

perspective. But it also encourages more sympathetic students to think

critically not only about the specific models offered and claims made in this

book, but about their learning processes in general — especially in relation to

"authoritative" knowledge, facts or procedures presented to them by

authorities (like you and me). Many of them will have been taught to

memorize vocabulary by staring at a word list on a piece of paper, or perhaps

by mumbling the words out loud to themselves; this book argues that that

method is less effective than learning vocabulary in real human social contexts.

Which is true for them? Do they learn well both ways, but differently? What

difference does it make for them to "experience" some learning styles through

prepared tests (exercises 4—5), others through tests they make up themselves

(exercise 6)?

You may even want to ask them to reformulate the main points in this book

through their own learning styles. What would the book be like then? Would

it be a textbook at all? (Some might prefer for it to be more like technical

documentation, or a cookbook, or rules to a board game, or a collection of

aphorisms or Zen koans, or a single pithy reminder that they could tape to

their computer monitor.)

6 The clear and present danger here, of course, is that students will feel obliged

to describe you as their teacher-ideal. We're all susceptible to flattery — only

a sociopathic monster does not want to be liked and admired, and a good

number of us secretly hope our students will think us the very best teacher

they ever had — and since we hold several forms of power over our students

 (the power to give grades, to give or withhold praise, to ridicule, etc.), it is

usually in our students' best interests to butter us up. There are, however,

two problems with this: one is that students learn nothing from such exercises

(except perhaps that you too are a sucker for flattery); the other is that they

know that such shams have nothing to do with their learning, everything to

do with your ego. The higher you let them build your self-esteem, therefore,

the lower you drop in their esteem. The only way to come out of this sort of

discussion with any respect (not to mention getting your students to think

critically), in fact, is to encourage them to tell you straight out, or even to

hint obliquely at, what you could be doing better.

One way to achieve this, at least in some cultures, is to have the students

first discuss their preferences in teachers and teaching styles in smaller groups,

and then bring their findings to the whole group. (In many cultures, students'

deference toward teachers is too deeply ingrained for them ever to utter a

word of criticism against their teacher. There, this sort of exercise may just

be an exercise in futility, better skipped altogether.) Whole-group behavior

is public behavior, subject to the strictest restraints: a student speaking up in

front of the whole class knows that s/he has to please you without losing her

or his classmates' respect. In small groups, it is easier for students to build up

a small measure of student solidarity, which may provide enough peer-support

that it becomes possible to express some carefully worded criticism of your

teaching.

7 The general answer here is: become more active. Play a more active role in

the class. Just what that "activity" means will depend largely on who their

teacher is and what kind of school culture they've been raised in. In an

extremely authoritarian classroom, for example, being more active may mean

paying more attention — and then the important question would be how that

is done. (Do you just tell yourself to pay more attention? If you're falling

asleep, do you pinch yourself, rub the sleep out of your eyes, try to move

your body in small ways? Or do you look for something in the lecture that

connects with your personal experience?) In less structured environments, it

might mean talking more in class, negotiating with the teacher about the type

of classwork and homework assigned, even helping to teach the class. There

are numerous ways of becoming more active; each one, depending on the

specific classroom environment in which it is applied, will require a different

balancing act between the student's needs (for relevance, connection, active

engagement, etc.) and the teacher's needs (for control, respect, dignity, etc.).