Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Phase 1 nurturer needs to be smart

As we continue training our nurturer, it is great to see him go ahead of us, for example, in setting up a little bit of "structured input" without our asking for it, or even thinking of it. Today, he grouped dolls, (depicting boys and girls of a nuclear family we had set up) into singles and groups so that he could get us to hear the difference between singular and plural direct object marking. And he's only been with us for about ten hours. The bad news is that such a person, with such intelligence and initiative, is always wanting to enlighten us with lots of analytical, metalinguistic and meta-cultural explanations. The good news is that he can grasp the difference between informing us and playing with us. (The puppets helped with this.) So as we were doing "patting" and "stroking" and "touching" today, our nurturer was wanting to talk about "encouraging" (as the meaning of patting), "an old person showing love to a young person" (for as the meaning of stroking--specifically on the head) and "getting someone's attention" (as the meaning of touching someone). In Phase 2 and beyond, that will be great. In fact, we might find a way to work such ideas into later Phase 1. Right now we're just ten hours into things, and wanting our brains to be forced to parse sentences with direct objects, in the context of supercharged playing.

So the nurturer needs to understand the Time Dimension (we're still babies, not adults, and the time will come for such game-external understandings of patting, stroking and touching, etc.), the Sociocultural Dimension (the frame is that of a _game_, socioculturally, not a lecture in which we need to be told in detail what happens in life outside of the game) and the Cognitive Dimension (though we don't talk about the grammar, he needs to appreciate in some vague way the fact that we just want to parse a lot of speech of a particular form, and have fun doing it, in order to see how people express direct objects with different combinations of person and number, so that soon we can do that ourselves). So while we do still lose a lot of time during a supercharged participation session to efforts at metalinguistic and meta-cultural information sharing, we nevertheless feel that we'll soon have a nurturer who can stick to the game we're playing, see the point of it in terms of our current growth zone, and see the point of it in that we're learning to understand how particular basic ideas are expressed through particular forms. So yes, another quality of a good Phase 1 nurturer is a bit of extra brightness. The good news is that in every people group many such people are to be found. The bad news is that they are in demand for other purposes as well.

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