Mari Stever Attends OPI Workshop at Wellesley

OPI (Oral Proficiency Interview) Workshop 2012

(May 14-18, 2012 at Wellesley College)

 I tried a few times to attend the OPI workshop during the past three years or so, but for different reasons, it didn’t happen.  So when I heard that a Japanese teacher at Wellesley College whom I have known for many years was organizing a workshop, I was delighted and signed up right away.  I have attended several short workshops related to ACTFL and/or OPI in the past, so I had a basic understanding, but I wanted to solidify my knowledge by attending this workshop, and hopefully, get certified in the near future.

The instructor who led this workshop was Prof. Ken-ichi Miura, who is a Director of Japanese Study at Franklin & Marshall College.  I have known Prof. Miura for about 16 years.  He was one of the teachers I worked with while I was teaching at Harvard University.  It is stressful to attend such a demanding workshop, but the fact that I knew the instructor made me feel much more relaxed to learn the topic to the fullest extent of my ability.

Although I had some knowledge of OPI, everything I knew was based on English OPI guidelines, so it was great to finally learn how to conduct an OPI in Japanese.  I would not say that I am fully able to assess someone using OPI guidelines with just four days of training. However, I now have a much better understanding and a newfound perspective in assessing oral proficiency.

One of the most interesting things to me was finding out that the use of formal and informal speech, which is very important in learning Japanese, was not factored in below the superior level.  In other words, from Novice to Advanced level, ability to control formality is not tested.  I am not sure if I completely agree with this, but I can appreciate that not putting too much focus on formality allows us to listen to other aspects of Japanese language.

I was also fascinated to learn that ‘fluency’ doesn’t come into play to the extent that I was accustomed.  It was very difficult for me to make adjustments to say the least, but after a while, I came to understand that ignoring the interviewee’s fluency allows us to focus on other aspects of language.  Although fluency is very much a part of one’s speaking ability, it can trick our perception of the underlying ability (actual use of grammar, logic, etc.) of the interviewee.  In my work at Yale, I will continue to pay attention to fluency, but I have learned an invaluable insight into oral proficiency assessment, and I am certain that this will help me to be a better educator.

This workshop was educational, informative, and most of all, so much fun.  The participants all brought their knowledge and wisdom, and we all shared whatever we could while we learned the fundamentals of OPI. I will make certain that I apply what I have learned in this workshop to my teaching in the future.

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