If you’ve been through ACTFL’s Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) or Modified Oral Proficiency Interview (MOPI) training (I have not), perhaps you can help me clarify an issue when assessing novices.
When talking to teachers about what a novice can and can’t do, I’ve heard teachers make this comment:
But that’s a question, right? And novices aren’t supposed to be able to ask questions?
That’s a misunderstanding. The major characteristics of novices is that their language is heavily supported by (if not completely) memorized language on familiar topics. A memorized question is still memorized language. After all, a novice can ask how are you? The distinction, I believe, comes when the speaker wants to dissect parts of language and reorganize them in order to create a new question. So that is the (fuzzy) line – that’s when the student is reaching into intermediate.
How about a Spanish example?
Novice Nellie has memorized the question cómo estás, but she doesn’t want to ask how you are doing, right now she wants to ask how your family is doing. So she says,
¿Cómo estás tu la familia?
Here is a question where the speaker is using memorized chunks -“cómo estás” and “la familia” – with the possessive tu in an attempt to make it your family. But these memorized chunks are a little creatively rearranged to try to create a new question.
So which is it? I’m calling it novice high. What proficiency is shown in the language in this question?