Religion & Spirituality

COGNITIVE CLOZING TO TEACH BEGINNERS TO THINK

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Traditionally, clozing consists in the random or regular suppression of an element (a lexeme, as a rule) from the phonic chain the student is supposed to interpret. I suggest randomness does not seem the best method, since not all elements in a given
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  COGNITIVE CLOZING TO TEACH BEGINNERS TO THINK  1 by Sergio Viaggio, U.N.  Traditionally, clozing consists in the random or regular suppression of anelement (a lexeme, as a rule) from the phonic chain the student is supposedto interpret. I suggest randomness does not seem the best method, since notall elements in a given chain are equally relevant or inferable. What I havestriven to do is suppress progressively more signicant chun!s, from a merepreposition to full syntagms and, yes, numbers and proper names. "ut let mestart from the beginning# $ne of the rst things I teach my students (bothtranslators and interpreters) is that %ords are not all that important %hen incontext and situation. Indeed, %hen confronted %ith a lexical item they cannotunderstand or that someho% doesn&t seem to t, the very rst tactic I advisethem to try is plainly ignore it and see %hether the utterance changes much%ithout it, or, if a noticeable blan! remains, %hat could plausibly ll it. 's arule, that sets them on the right trac!# more often than not, the missing lin! isclose to the inferred one. If an educated guess proves impossible or too ris!y,the relevance of the unintelligible item becomes apparent and a dutiful searchis thereupon commenced. In simultaneous interpretation, of course, there is no room for such a search, but the tacticotherwise works quite well. How often do professional interpreters make out what they have not been able to hear? How many times, moreover, do they not stop to hear at all and just blithely secondguess the speaker  i.e. anticipate? !nticipation can be both merely linguistic or, more importantly,cognitive, i.e. when the connection established by the interpreter between what he has been hearingand what he knows about the speaker, the subject matter, the specific situation, briefly  the world,allows him to infer the speakers communicative intention, his vouloir dire. "ognitive clo#ing helpsdevelop such skills.$he first elements I do away with are syntactic connectors, first and foremost prepositionsand markers of subordination. $rue, their substitution demands a skill less cognitive than lingusitic. %evertheless, I think it is a good beginning because the student does not really miss them, so it helps prove to him that there is no absolute need to understand all the words. Into the bargain, it worksreal stylistic wonders& 'ne of the banes of beginners and quite a few veterans is prepositionalawkwardness( most foreign prepositions wreak havoc among fledglings. $he advantage of clo#ingsyntactic markers is, precisely, that it eliminates the structural interference by the srcinal. !lso, thenotional relationship must often be reconstructed as well )*  for  * vs * against  *+, especially in the case of subordination markers )* because * vs. * despite *+.!nother element that is easily guessed is the verb or verb phrase in periphrases such as * to put forward  - a proposal  * or * alcanzar  - una solución ,* which can be substituted by the correspondingverb& *  propose ,* *  solucionar  ,* which, in turn, is one of the easiest ways of compressing.$he following step is that of attributive )as opposed to distinctive+ adjectives and adverbs, bywhich I mean merely embellishing qualifiers& * actively -  participating  ,* * una   importante -  suma .* $heycan normally be omitted as easily as they are guessed. $hen come adjectives distinctive& *  A complicated- proposal,* *!ctuar antiticamente-,* which cannot be guessed as such, and whose    ublished in The Interpreters' Newsletter   *#++.  specific contribution to sense cannot be infered without resort to discourse analysis and theallimportant speaker*s vouloir dire. /ater on, I also proceed to clo#e attributive and distinctivesyntagms and clauses, following a progression such as& *! most thought provoking andcomprehensive---- report,* *pisoteando burdamente y con absoluto descaro--- los derechos del pueblo sudafricano.* %e0t come all manner of verbs and nouns, beginning with easily guessed fillers, as *suchaction contravenes- the th 2eneva "onvention,* *nuestra delegaci3n apoya- la propuesta de4rancia,* to progressively less obvious cases& *nuestra delegaci3n apoya la propuesta de 4rancia-,**such action contravenes the th 2eneva "onvention-(* where the student must find a suitablenoncommittal filler, for instance *'ur delegation supports one of the proposals,* *tama5o proceder contraviene principios fundamentales,* or seamlessly skimp to *our delegations supports the proposalto ...* or *tama5o proceder es intolerable.*6roper names are easy to guess if one knows whereof the speaker speaks& *7oviet 7ecretary2eneral 2orbachov-(* otherwise it is impossible& *!rgentine 2eneral /avalle-.* $he trick hereconsists in climbing up the generalisation ladder enough to leap over the hurdle& *! certain !rgentinegeneral,* *'ne of !rgentina*s national heroes* )provided the conte0t furnishes such a clue+. 8ittotoponyms& *$he liberation of 6aris-* vs. *$he battle for 9arrandhar- in !fghanistan,* i.e. *an importantcity,* *a strategic city.* In such cases, the student is indeed asked to conceal his double ignorance,linguistic and encyclopaedic, but, more importantly, he must prove that he has understood and iscapable of conveying the gist of the utterance, or, in the terminology of discourse analysis, the proposition.$he same applies to numbers. 7tudents must be made to realise that, like words, not allnumbers are equal, nor are all digits in a given figure. In the :.%., for instance, documents havenumbers such as *86;1<<1;"=6.>;!dd.;=ev.1;"orr.1.* %ow this is a long number@ Aut how relevantis it and how relevant are its different elements? *86* stands for :%86 ):nited %ations 8evelopment6rogram+, *1<<1* is the year, *"=6* stands for *conference room paper* )i.e. an informal documentsubject to negotiation+, *>* is the number proper, *!dd.1* is an addition thereto, *=ev.1* is a revisedversion of it, *"orr. 1* is a corrigendum due to technical reasons. $he :.%. interpreter is e0pected toknow all this, as do of course all delegates. He knows, moreover, that at the 1<<1 :%86 2overning"ouncil session each and every document is labelled *86(* <BC are as well *1<<1(* ne0t must comeeither the number of the report, or the letter)s+ indicating whether it is a draft resolution, a draftreport or an informal paper )respectively, =., /., or "=6+( then comes the number, which can gofrom *1* to *DEE(* and so on. !s can be seen, in this case figures become more informative as they progress rightward, so much so that when the "hairman says *Fe now shall take up document86;1<<1;"=6.>;!dd.,* the interpreter can be heard uttering just *!dd.,* it being understood that itis a 86;1<<1;"=6.> opus. %ormally, though, figures become less informative as they progress to theleft& G1,,. is *more than a million dollars,* but how much is G,>>,1B.1<? $he student mustguess whether it is a *substantive* or *negligible* amount and come up with the concept behind thefigure. 8itto in *the problem was first raised  years ago* or *the report shall be ready no later than1<.* ery seldom does a figure have intrinsic non substitutable value. ven in a technical conte0t,*$he atomic weight of hydrogen is of , against that of lead, which is ,* can be safely negotiated by as*$he atomic weight of hydrogen is substantively lower than that of lead(* besides, if the audience aree0perts, they know the e0act figures, anyhow. 7ubstituting concepts for missing figures and names isan e0tremely useful e0ercise that helps develop the students* ability constantly to analyse the speaker*svouloir dire, i. e. the sense he is trying to make. !wareness of such sense is the only foolproof guarantee against contresens or, more importantly, nonsense )an interpreter who makes a contresens 5  may plead having misunderstood, whereas nonsense has no e0tenuating circumstances+  .Ay the way, clo#ing need not be coupled to a bilingual task. I have not tried it for lack of time, but in a normal course I see no reason for it not to be practiced monolingually. !fter all it is notlanguage manipulation that is being tested, but sense grasping. I will take as an e0ample a te0tactually read )with a heavy accent and at quite a pace, to boot+ by the Jalaysian delegate at the Bth7ession of the :.%. 2eneral !ssembly in 1<<E. He is speaking about !ntarctica. %ow, why isJalaysia, of all countries, taking upwards of half an hour so minutely to go into the fauna, flora andclimate of a realm so gelid and remote from her shores? 7imple& Jalaysia was at the time "hairmanof the 2roup of DD, i.e. the developing countries )now much more than the srcinal threescore andseventeen+  not to be confused with the nonaligned, whose membership overlaps but does notcoincide. 0cept for a few developing countries, such as !rgentina, Ara#il, "hile and India, allmembers in the !ntarctic $reaty are developed. In order to become "onsultative 6arty to the $reaty,a country must carry on actual research and;or have a permanent base on the "ontinent. 'bserversare mere lookers on, with meager say and no vote. $he speaker will be propounding the concept of *!ntarctica as common heritage of mankind,* meaning *!ntarctica for us too.* If the interpreter cannotgrasp that, he*ll never manage to do a decent job. 9nowledge of the above circumstances cannot, of course, realistically be taken for granted, but knowledge about !ntarctica itself is a must for anymortal boasting a modicum of general culture. %ow that the reader knows enough about the story, I shall give progressively less and lessclo#ed out versions of the initial substantive paragraphs and invite him to play 7herlock Holmes andreconstruct the murder from the clues. )$he suspension marks stand for anything from a oneletter  preposition to whole syntagms.+ K  Antarctica ... last ... wilderness. We ... wor toget!er ... preserve .... ... e"treme climate ...isolation ... created ... wonderland ... significance, ... of purity ... ric! ... for wildlife. ... percent ... world#s ...$water ... in ... ice$cap, ... surrounding ... last ... blue w!ales .... ...largest wilderness ... planet, and ... fragile. ... %cosystem !as ... range ... levels and interrelations!ips. ... t!is ... give ... stability. &owever ... ecosystems ... few levels. ... impacts... more ... effects. 'ne ... species ... about !alf ... planton. (!is ... feeds ... and birds. )eduction ... !uman ... any ... components ... ecosystem ... imbalance. ... not ... restored ...man or ... nature. ... feature ... ice s!eet, accumulation ...,*** years. ... appro"imately ... percent ... average of ... +,... meters ... contains ... percent of ... world#s ice. K )LM words+ ! good guess would be, for instance&K  Antarctica is our last large wilderness. We must wor toget!er to preserve it. ts e"tremeclimate and isolation !ave created a wonderland of enormous significance, a place of  purity, ric! wit! wildlife. A vast percent of t!e world#s fres!$water !ides in its ice$cap, in its surrounding waters t!e last blue w!ales live. t is t!e largest wilderness in our planet, and it is fragile. Usually, an ecosystem !as a range of levels and interrelations!ips. (!is gives it  stability. &owever Antarctic ecosystems !ave few levels. mpacts on t!em !ave moreconse-uential effects. 'ne species represents about !alf t!e planton. (!is planton feedsdifferent animals and birds. )eduction by !uman intervention of any of t!e components in     -. elisle suggests a very similar approach in the fth learning ob/ective# 01&extraction desnotions2cles0, of his L'analyse du discours comme methode de traduction  (3ahiers de Traductologie , 4ditions de l&5niversit6 d&$tta%a, +7*). 6  t!e ecosystem would cause an imbalance, not easily restored by man or nature. A uni-ue feature of Antarctica is its ice s!eet, a product of accumulation over t!ousands upont!ousands of years. t covers almost all t!e continent wit! a deep layer t!at contains a !uge percentage of t!e world#s ice. K )1DE words+ 'ur own speech is twice as long as what we used of the srcinal. 7ince we do not know whate0actly was left out, all we can reasonably be sure of is that a+ we have said nothing that does notmake utter sense, and b+ we have said nothing that the delegate of Jalaysia himself could not havesaid. Fould that all interpreters could have that assurance every time@ !n interesting case is theturning of *appro0imately  percent  average of  1,  meters  contains  percent of  world*s ice* into*It covers almost all the continent with a deep layer that contains a huge percentage of the world*sice.* Here, a very comple0 process of inferring the proposition and rendering it without the specificdetails is involved. It may prove, of course, well nigh impossible for students to do it on the go, but itis within their reach when the e0ercise is performed as sight translation and the teacher prompts theminto finer and finer thinking. !lso, as pointed out above, knowledge of the situation will lead them tounderstand that the speaker is not e0pounding on the fragile beauty of !ntarctica out of mere poetic bent, but that he is laying the grounds for asserting that the responsibility for preserving suchawesome realm is too momentous to be left in the hands of a wealthy few. It is in this light that allseemingly irrelevant lyricism is being taken by *les uns et les autres,* and in this light it is that it must be taken by the interpreter. /et us see how close we were. Here is a less skimpy version&K  Antarctica ... our last continental wilderness. We all ... wor ... to preserve .... ts e"tremeclimate and isolation ... created ... wonderland ... global significance, ... bastion of purity ...ric! !aven for wildlife. Seventy percent ... world#s fres!$water ... loced ... in its ... ice$ cap,w!ile in ... surrounding ... t!e last ... blue w!ales roam. ndeed ... largest wilderness ... of ... planet, and ... most fragile. ... Normally, an ecosystem ... wide range of levels and interrelations!ips. ... t!is variety ... dept! ... give ... ecosystem stability. &owever, Antarcticecosystems ... few levels despite ... interrelations!ips. ..., impacts ... more ... effects. ... single species ... rill ... comprise ... !alf ... planton .... (!is biomass feeds seals, ... and birds. )eduction t!roug! !uman ... of any ... t!ese components ... marine ecosystem can ...imbalance. Suc! ... not easily restored by man or ... nature. ... most ... feature ... Antarctica ... its ice s!eet, formed ... accumulation ... snow ... +**,*** years. t coversappro"imately / percent, ... average ... +,0** meters ... contains * percent ... world#s ice. K)1> words+ Fe can now safely assume that none of the elements somehow not restored is essential tosense, to the speaker*s vouloir dire. "hances are most of the missing le0emes are but emptyattributive adjectives, such as *white* for *snow.* Fitness the following, almost complete version& K  Antarctica ... our last continental wilderness. ... all !ave ... wor toget!er ... preserve .... tse"treme climate and isolation !ave created ... wonderland ... global significance, ...remarable bastion ... purity ... ric! !aven for wildlife. Seventy percent ... world#s fres!$water reserves ... loced in ... massive ice$cap, w!ile ... surrounding oceans t!e last of t!e blue w!ales.... ndeed, ... is ... largest wilderness ... t!is planet, ... in many ways ... most  fragile. ... Normally, an ecosystem !as ... wide range ... levels and interrelations!ips. ... t!isvariety ... dept! ... give t!e ecosystem stability. &owever, Antarctic ecosystems ... very few 5  levels despite considerable interrelations!ips. 1onse-uently, impacts on t!ese ecosystems ...more profound effects. 'ne single species ... rill may comprise ... !alf ... planton biomass.(!is biomass feeds seals, w!ales, fis! and birds. )eduction t!roug! !uman e"ploitation of any ... components of ... marine ecosystem can cause ... imbalance. Suc! imbalance ... Antarctic is not easily restored by man or ... nature. ... most striing feature ... is ... ice s!eet, formed ... accumulation ... snow over ... +**,*** years. t covers ... / percent of ...continent wit! an average of +,0** meters and ... * percent ...world#s ice. K )1M> words+$he above, naturally, would have been the version to begin with. It should be quite easy for any student to come up with a version close enough to what was actually said, vi#& K!ntarctica is our last continental wilderness. Fe all have to work together to preserve this. Its e0treme climate andisolation have created a wonderland of global significance, a remarkable bastion of purity and richhaven for wildlife. 7eventy percent of the world*s freshwater reserves is locked in its massiveicecap, while in the surrounding oceans the last of the blue whales roam. Indeed !ntarctica is thelargest wilderness area of this planet, and in many ways the most fragile. ...- %ormally, an ecosystemhas a wide range of levels and interrelationships. It is this variety and depth that give eh ecosystemstability. However, !ntarctic ecosystems contain very few levels despite considerableinterrelationships. "onsequently, impacts on these ecosystems have more profound effects. 'nesingle species of krill may comprise about half the plankton biomass. $his biomass feeds seals,whales, fish and birds. =eduction through human e0ploitation of any of these components of themarine ecosystem can cause an imbalance. 7uch imbalance in the !ntarctic is not easily restored byman or by nature. $he most striking feature of !ntarctica is its ice sheet, formed by the accumulationof snow over the past 1EE,EEE years. It covers appro0imately <L percent of the continent with anaverage of 1,MEE meters and contains <E percent of the world*s ice.K )1L words+ 'f course, the deeper the knowledge of !ntarctica the interpreter has, the easier it becomesto supply the missing links. !lso, the suspension marks do not give a clue as to the amount of syllables gulped, nor do we have the general intonation, which would have helped immensely. 7till, Ithink the point could not be plainer& even the last but one version, where there were no crucialle0emes missing, has only about DBC the amount of words as the srcinal. !s pointed out, initiallywe would give our students much simpler e0ercises. Aut later on the approach can be reversed, asabove, in order for them to see at what point they have acquired sufficient information to allow for aneducated guess.$he e0ercises, moreover, can be done orally as well as in written form. ! useful tactic is thatof what, for want of a more plausible name, I call *automatic clo#ing*& 7tudents must learn first toread and then to listen selectively. Instead of having someone else erasing nonessential elements for them, they must try and gloss over such le0emes automatically on their own. 'f course, it is but theway we normally read and listen in real life to real utterances directed at us, although since our comprehension is not tested publicly right away, we do not really care if we miss a bit here or there.$he translator;interpreter must indeed do a much finer job at reading and listening, as well as atwriting and speaking. Aut the essential fact to bring home to the students is that the basic mechanismof comprehension and communication is the same in both cases& the audience are listening for a point, whilst the speaker is trying to convey a point. 'nce Jalaysia*s point has been basically grasped)and in this particular case, the interpreter at that meeting knows the point before the delegate evenopens his mouth@+, a few crucial linguistic elements in his discourse are more than enough to chartour course. $he analogy I normally use is that of the pilot landing at night& yes, the landing strip hasto be illumined, but the pilot does not need all those lights. 6rovided they are laid in the right 6
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