Saturday 4 October 2014

Turkish Session Diary 13: Thou Shalt Mumble

I'd got funny looks when I demonstrated the sign for TQ Mumble with another group, so with this group I had so far shied away from explicitly suggesting it, although I had hinted at it in principle. However, the wiki article about it is quite right when it says:
Perfection is the enemy of accelerated learning. “Close enough” must be good enough. A lack of mistakes or awkwardness indicates a lack of improvement. Where there is action, there is exploration (and thus the discovery of some dead ends). 
I experienced this personally before with an audio course called Say Something in Welsh. As is usual with such audio courses it tests you by giving you an English word then waiting a few seconds for you to attempt it in Welsh before providing the correct equivalent. The most effective part of it was that the narrator made you promise to try something, anything, even if you knew full well it was wrong, as part of the learning process.

Why it works

This all comes back to language as a reflex and not knowledge. When you think too hard to try to dredge up knowledge you're not building a language skill at all, and there's the added downside that you're so emotionally invested in your attempt that being corrected feels like being told you're a failure.

But when you test a reflex, you don't think at all, you just say the first thing that comes into your head. Then when you're corrected it's not the end of the world, and more to the point what happens is that you compare what just came out of your mouth (however that happened) with the correct form. Before long it's coming out right.

How it worked for us

Now that we've got into the flow of role-playing setups, it occurred to me to work on this on our last session. I knew my learners were "thinking" too much, not least because in past weeks their continued frustration with Turkish conjugations had led them to nickname our WAYK sessions "the bloody endings lesson".

So although I avoided actually using the Mumble sign (there's a fine line between fun/innovative and infantile) and instead just explained that they should say the first thing that comes into their heads.

The first thing I noticed was that each round of play started to go much, much faster. Instead of me asking a question followed by 3 seconds of harrowed silence, a stilted response and a frustrated sigh when I corrected them, I would ask a question, they would respond almost immediately, I would correct them, they would go "Oh right OK", and we would move on. And it worked a charm for acquisition. Each round got faster and faster of its own accord.

Thou Shalt

Sometimes I see people ask what are the most fundamental techniques of WAYK. I've been told that when the new website is up and running the sprawling techniques wiki will be whittled down to the essentials. Aside from the obvious TQ Setup, TQ Obvious and so on, I'm fairly confident that TQ Mumble will make the cut. It really is a vital piece of the puzzle.

Monday 22 September 2014

Turkish Session Diary 12: Full circle

All the way back in July I posted about my first epiphany with WAYK where I broke the mould of session patterns and started with genuine role-playing games. After that point I started to achieve some genuine acquisition instead of merely giving my students some glorified mnemonics.

I dubbed that post "Songs and games" by way of analogy to repetitious session patterns (songs) and goal-based interaction (games). However it just so happened that last week we spontaneously came up with a real song, which we tentatively named Ode to a Pen. It seemed like a good way to cement in the mind some rather complicated syntax and suffixes (original Turkish in bold, gloss in italic, English translation in regular):

You can even sing along if you like:

This is a pen.

This is my pen.

Give me my pen.

This is a pen.

This is his/her pen.

Give him/her his/her pen.

This is a pen.

This is your pen.


Take your pen!

Before a "performance" we would say "Person A is singing to Person B, and we're all singing with Person A", and then between each verse Person B would perform the action.

I think it did quite a bit of good because they tell me they were all practising at home, but it was still a song, a set repetition, a glorified mnemonic. So in the next session, after reviewing the song, we played a role-playing game. Once again we had come full circle: the real magic was in the role-play.

Goal-Oriented Setups

Ultimately I have concluded that a TQ Setup that only makes meaning (the "what") TQ Obvious is nowhere near as effective as one that has a defined purpose (the "why"). I see TQ Silly Conversation as a nod to this problem that only goes halfway to a solution. True, getting everybody used to having aimless conversations about the objects in front of them is a great stepping stone to hunting, but it's no substitute for an actual goal or purpose.

So in my opinion role-play, the "why", is fundamental to setups in their most effective form. Back in July I wrote about two role-playing setups, Liar and Boss/Employee/Shopkeeper, that really helped speed things up in terms of actual acquisition and actual fluency as opposed to familiarity with a script or a song. Most recently we've been playing Lost and Found: "I've just found a bunch of phones and wallets/purses and I want to return them to their rightful owners, but I'm a bit simple and I can't even recognise my own things!" etc.

But what about hunting?

Yeah, about that. Although I am convinced that a skilled, motivated hunter will acquire language quickly, I'm not sure that it's the be-all and end-all. When you're out to revitalise a language by galvanising a group of youngsters to tap grandma's brain, sure, hunting is vital. But in a formal language teaching setting, it's a very difficult skill to impart quickly enough to count within the few fleeting hours you have before the end of the course.

What I am doing, though, is implementing the technique which I think isolates the "active ingredient", as it were, of hunting as respects language acquisition: TQ Just in Time. This derives from the observation that "Information and ability is acquired most deeply and rapidly at the moment of its greatest relevance."

So here's my current how-to for lesson planning:

  1. Decide what vocabulary/grammar you want to cover, while of course observing TQ Limit.
  2. Devise a role-playing setup/scenario where the learners are bound to need said vocabulary/grammar.
  3. Explain the game in the students' native language.
  4. Make them try to say what they want to say in the target language, then correct them when they get it wrong.

I used this last time to teach "to put in the bag" (çantaya koymak). The game was Where To Put It? (on the table, on the tissue, or in the bag?) and it was amazing to see how they never even asked what it meant in English. They just attempted "Put the pen in the bag", I supplied them with the correct sentence, we went round the table practising it, and all four of them were fluent in that bitesize piece in the space of 10 minutes.

The great thing about this setup is it gives students scope to hunt as much or as little as they want. If you've done it properly they should "need" the language you want them to learn today anyway, but if they want to get creative within the context of the role-play, they can. It's just up to you to keep an eye on the TQ Limit and especially TQ Full.

In summary, I think I can see a way to codifying an effective WAYK-based curriculum for formal language teaching, oriented around role-playing setups. In other words, I feel like I've reached the crest of the learning curve. But it's going to be a long way down the hill...

Tuesday 9 September 2014

Turkish Session Diary 11: Supercharge setups with role-play

This week the learners decided they wanted to work on possessives. I was game.

For obviousness, I wanted to use the learners' personal objects, so before long I had their phones and purses/wallets (fortunately the same word in Turkish) out on the table. For a third class of objects I got three sugar sachets and wrote our names on them. In hindsight I could have used their keys. Imagine that, a Where Are Your Keys? practitioner not thinking to use keys...

We worked through the "Is this my phone? Yes this is your phone. Is this your phone? Yes this is my phone. Is this her phone? Yes this is her phone" routine with all the possible permutations, but before long I started to sense a descent into aimless repetition, disconnected somewhat from the actual meaning.

So once we had enough material I explained, in English, that we were now going to have a role play. "I've got everybody's stuff, and so now you need to find out who they all belong to and return them to their rightful owners." It worked like a charm.
Player: What's this?
Hoarder: This is a phone.
Player: Whose phone is this?
Hoarder: This is her phone.
Player: [Indignantly] Well, give her her phone!
Hoarder: OK OK!
Player: Whose phone is this?
Hoarder: [Sheepishly] This is your phone...
Player: [Indignantly] Give me my phone!
So I think when you've got learners who aren't quite into hunting yet, role-playing is a vital element in any set-up.

Monday 1 September 2014

Turkish Session Diary 10: A hunting warm-up game

Ever since I had my first proper WAYK session with Arne I was convinced that its real power is unleashed in its "hunting" form. Its "pushing" form is very effective in itself, where the practitioner is the driving force. But it's when the learners are put in the driving seat and acquire the skill of "pulling" the language from the fluent speaker that it really becomes a supercharged engine of language acquisition.

In subsequent posts (Turkish Session Diaries 6, 7 and 8 and "On the art of hunting language") I pondered the question of how to help learners develop this skill. My attempts at explaining and demonstrating had only had limited success, but this week two things happened that gave me inspiration just in the nick of time.

The first was a Facebook post by Latin teacher Eric Mentges (private link) in which he explained how his "students worked in groups on forming an English set up based on a card they drew" after which "each group presented their set up and the others had to guess what they were going for" and they "then discussed which example ... was most obvious, what other possible interpretations there could be". This sort of thing sounded like just the ticket.

The second was last night when I played the Uno Pictionary card game with some friends. This is different from normal Pictionary in that there are no pens or paper involved, you have a selection of 20-odd small cards with different shapes, stick men, stick houses and so on. By using the cards in ingenious combinations together with a bit of miming you help your team mates to guess the word (see annoying ad). It occurred to me that exactly the same sort of ingenuity is required for language hunting, using limited vocabulary and a limited range of objects to help the fluent speaker provide the needed word.

Today we played a game in English with the following simple rules:

The hunter draws a card with a word on it. To enable the group to guess the word, he must use only the objects in the Set-up or others that are readily available. To begin with he can only use the words "What is this?", but he can reuse words used by the group as they guess. Miming is, of course, encouraged.

The Set-up was three glasses and a bottle of water. The words I started out with in the deck included "empty", "full", "drink", "thirsty", "pour", "spill", "taste" and "share". I first demonstrated and then the learners took turns, with some coaching from me. For the second round I got them to come up with some new words, and they came up with some imaginative options like "top", "tall", "round" and "drop".

Then I pretended not to speak any English, and got them to hunt the same words from me in Turkish. Pretty soon we ran up against some interesting quirks. For example, in Turkish if you describe someone as "big" or "small" you are referring to their age, and we describe tall people as "long" because there is no separate word. Ultimately it served to demonstrate the advantage of contextual, Set-up based learning instead of double-encoding meaning in both a first and a second language.

Of course the main thing was they were finally hunting!

Monday 25 August 2014

Turkish Session Diary 9: Limit

I'm starting to realise that with WAYK, lesson plans are never more than a blueprint. Once you've got that spark going things always turn out differently, but in a good way.

Last week we had decided that we would like to know how to call the emergency services. So I came up with a Target Conversation between a caller who's seen a burglar, and a police officer. It was a perfectly decent target conversation. I also had material ready for calling an ambulance after a fall, but that turned out not to be needed.

Instead of the stodgy four-line TQ Imaginary Friend routines followed by taking turns around the table, which had been my method until recently, I thought it might be better to just start with a Bitesize Piece, play with it, and go from there.

I had a playing card-sized clipart silhouette of a burglar, and put it in the centre of the table. "Hırsız var!" (There's a thief about!) I said, and then pinched one of my learners' bottle of water. It was great fun and we quickly recycled material we'd already used, "I'm a thief!" "You're a thief!" "Liar! I'm not a thief you're a thief!" "Catch the thief!" and so on.

Combined with the bag from last week, everything could have spiralled out of control if I hadn't been conscious of the need to rein everything back in to a Target Conversation that we would be able to practise.

The final Target Conversation was a role-play involving a Police Captain, Police Officer, Thief, and Witness(es). The Thief would start by "stealing" some of the objects from the middle of the table, and the Witnesses would alert the Police Captain. The Police Captain would order the Police Officer to catch the Thief, and then ask the Police Officer to check the contents of the bag to see what the Thief had stolen. Incidentally it turned out to be our first foray into past tenses ("What did the thief steal?", "The thief stole ...")

I am happy with how things went this week because:
  • Everybody spent most of their time speaking Turkish, with very little reversion to English
  • Everybody knew what they were saying and why they were saying it at all times,
  • At no point did I feel that anyone got bored with the repetition
My only gripe is that I didn't use TQ Limit enough. I had seriously maxed everyone out by the end, but we all had a good laugh and I think that made all the difference.

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Turkish Session Diary 8: The hunting party sets off...

This Monday we had a second foray into hunting, which went quite well.

I'd had a very useful Google hangout with Susanna Ciotti and Caylie Gnyra, in which Susanna suggested I use the Setup as the starting point for teaching the art of hunting, tweaking one thing and then exploring the possibilities. This week, alongside my various objects I introduced... a bag! Not a plastic carrier bag, one of those rigid, foldable bags. This one was from an optician's and therefore a practical size for table-top play.

I asked what sort of words we could hunt now that we'd introduced a bag. Having a rectangular footprint, I had thought we would be talking about inside/outside, in front/behind/next to and so on. But no, they came up with "strong". Fair enough, I said. I then asked how one would hunt that word. We discussed how we might tug at the handles and the sides, and use the universal "strongman's bicep" gesture.

I got the player next to me to just start a conversation in the shopkeeper scenario, and then get to a point where she needed the word for strong and try to pull it from me.
Customer: Bende çok alışveriş var! Çanta var mı? (I've got lots of shopping! Do you have a bag?)
Shopkeeper: Evet, çanta var. Buyur. (Yes we have a bag. There you go.)
C: Bu çanta... [starts tugging at handles, flexes bicep] ...iyi mi? (Is this bag... good?)
S: Ha, "bu çanta güçlü mü?" (Ah, "Is this bag strong?")
C: Bu çanta güçlü mü? (Is this bag strong?)
S: Evet, bu çanta çok güçlü! (Yes this bag is very strong!)
And so on. The conversation would then wrap up with a haggle and a sale to keep it real, thus repeating elements we'd already worked on.

So this is how I envisage the process working from now on:

  1. Discuss what is to be hunted, and how.
  2. Have one player hunt the element from me in a freestyle conversation, which of course Starts at the Beginning.
  3. Repeat that conversation, distilling it down to a ride.
  4. Pass the ride around the table.
I hope this will be an effective strategy for both teaching the art of hunting and harnessing its power while also giving the process structure.

Friday 15 August 2014

On the art of hunting language

Pondering our first forays into language "pulling" or "hunting", as opposed to me just "pushing" the language onto the learners, it appears that getting the person you're hunting language from to understand what word you're looking for is something of an art. At least it's something you have to have a knack for. Although last week didn't really go badly, it didn't go as well as I'd hoped and I'm not sure if that was because it was a new concept and they were nervous, or if it isn't actually so intuitive after all.

If my learners continue to stall, how am I going to help them get the knack of language hunting? Could I come up with an approach that I could replicate for any other group of learners in the future?

I thought it might be useful to try and dissect what's going on when you're in the position of pulling language from a native speaker without any other common language. I remember the Advanced WAYK: Spanish Push/Pull video showcased a process of "Getting Hungry, Setting the Trap, Springing the Trap, Cooking It Up, Serving It Up" which must relate to this somewhat. Unfortunately I have yet to see a proper write-up.

Still, I have tried to identify the techniques (with a small "t") that I tend to use and I see others using when pulling language from a fluent speaker:

First: The Hunt

1. Use a Question Phrase
Question phrases that help you ask about specific words and expressions are probably what anyone should learn first when embarking on learning a new language "in the field".
What is that? (nouns)
How is that? What kind of __ is that? (adjectives)
What is it doing? What does it do? (verbs)
The following are universal:
How do we/should I say that?
Is that right?

2. Mime
Of course one has to assume that one's fluent speaker is not conversant with sign language, and will only understand obvious, not abstract, signs. Obvious Setups are also very important. This technique can be used in combination with incomplete sentences and question phrases.
Hunter: I say "boo" [acts out somebody trying to take someone else by surprise and frighten them] and he says "Aaa!" [switches to the other role]. What did I do?
Speaker: You... scared him?
Hunter: Yes! I scared him!
3. Draw a Blank (TQ)/Attempt the Sentence
This also requires an Setup to make the intended meaning Obvious. This works best when the Hunter has the rest of the sentence down pat.
Hunter: I give this money to you and you give this pen to me. You are ... [Draws a Blank with his hands] -ing this to me.
Speaker: Selling this to you?
Hunter: Yes! Selling this to me.
4. Break the concept down into simpler parts
This is like explaining complex concepts to a small child. In both situations, the concept must first be conveyed and then the word for that concept is provided. The difference is that with a child, the adult both conveys the concept and provides the word; in language hunting the learner conveys the concept so the fluent speaker will provide the word.
Hunter: Every four, five years everybody chooses who they want to be President.
Speaker: You mean an election?
Hunter: Yes, an election. During the election everybody writes down who they want to be President and puts this piece of paper in a box.
Speaker: Yes.
Hunter: What is this piece of paper?
Speaker: A vote?
Hunter: Yes! A vote.
Any or all of the above methods may be used to help the fluent speaker understand what we're trying to say, and then say it for us, helping us to "spot" what we are trying to hunt.

Next: The Chase

When hunting, it’s not enough to just spot your quarry. Now the chase is on! It’s the same with hunting language. Hopefully a combination of techniques will prompt our fluent speaker to give us the word we are looking for. But it’s not ours yet! We have to chase it down, in other words make sure we understand it correctly and know how to use it.
Hunter: Where is your house?
Speaker: It's in the city.
Hunter: How should I say this, "Where is your house?"
Speaker: "Where do you live?"
Spotted! Now the chase is on!

1. Prove it!
Hunter: OK, where do you live?
Speaker: I live in the city.
Hunter: OK, so your house is in the city?
Speaker: Yes.
Hunter: You are always in the city?
Speaker: Yes, I am always in the city.
2. Practise it (circling).
Hunter: Where does he live?
Speaker: He also lives in the city.
Hunter: Does he live near to you?
Speaker: No, he lives on the other side of the city.
Hunter: Where do I live?
Speaker: You live in the country.
Hunter: How long are you living in the city?
Speaker: "Have you lived".
Hunter: Ah OK. How long have you lived in the city?
Speaker: About 4 years. ...
So that's where I'm at so far. I look forward to any observations, especially if there's anything I've missed.

Perhaps I won't need to go through all this with my group. I expect the best method is probably just to tell them to Start at the Beginning and keep going until they get to something they don't know, and then let them work it out. Still, these notes may be useful for coaching as and when we get stuck. The more I think about it, the more I anticipate that "free hunts" will be the best way to go in the beginning, so they work as much of this out by themselves as possible, before then moving on to planned hunts.

In planned hunts, like Tea with Grandma, we will first establish our role-playing scenario, then discuss what language they can hunt from me using it. I hope this will make for a nice balance between systematically covering a syllabus and adapting the sessions to the needs and preferences of the learners.

Monday 11 August 2014

Turkish Session Diary 7: How do we say that?

Just back from this week's session (last week's was postponed to Friday, which is why the next session came around so quickly).

This week we went straight in with the buying-selling role-play, but at first we just had a review round. I had the learner to my right start by asking me how much for a pen. She declared my price "çok pahalı!" (too expensive), and haggled me down a bit before buying it. This yielded a "ride" of sorts, which we repeated three times and then passed around the table.

Then we came back to the idea of "pulling" language in day-to-day conversation with Turkish speakers, although in the context of our session they would be pulling the language from me. First I asked what else we might want to ask about a product besides its being expensive or cheap. We decided we were going to find out how to ask about "quality", "life" in the case of batteries and so on, and whether or not it has a "guarantee".

For "quality" we talked about how we might make it clear to someone that we were talking about quality so they would know to give us the word. We discussed that we might ask if it was "good", and also make gestures such as flicking and "trying" to bend the pen. I had the learner to the left of me try this, and I gave her the word kalite. As it turned out, we ended up learning two words: kalite, the noun "quality", and kaliteli, the adjective meaning "of good quality".

For "life" or "lifetime", we tried to practise saying something as best we could with incomplete Turkish, so the other person knows what we are trying to say, and then saying Nasıl deriz? (How do we say that?). I wasn't very good at getting the idea across, so the learner to the left of me would start the conversation, ask me "How long can I use this for?" and so on, but then forget to say Nasıl deriz? at the critical moment. But still, they got the idea so I'm hoping this will work better next time. (The Turkish for "guarantee", garanti, came out all by itself as this particular learner already knew it.)

We worked Craig's Lists into the session for the first time yet with this group. Off-the-cuff I set one up to simultaneously cover vocabulary and Turkish's dual genitive-possessive construction: uzunluk (length), genişlik (width), bunun uzunluğu (this [thing]'s length), bunun genişliği (this [thing]'s width).

To next time!

Sunday 10 August 2014

Turkish Session Diary 6: A breakthrough!

In my last Turkish Session Diary post I said that I believed I had made probably the most important innovation yet with my group by introducing role-playing games to help my learners get used to using what they had learned by repeating set conversations.

Now on Week 13 I think I have really started to tap into the WAYK magic like never before, by teaching them how to pull (hunt) language from me instead of relying on me to push it to them.

Ever since I played with Arne I realised that this is what I had been missing all along. Using nothing more than a Setup and sign-language, and no English, to pull language from someone was a very different experience. While learning something by rote and then being forced to use it is undoubtedly effective, going out and getting what you need as you need it is even more so. But how would I get my group to do it? And how would I rein the process in and ensure we learn language systematically?

After watching a number of videos (such as Tea with Grandma in Latin and ASL from back in 2010 and the Advanced WAYK: Mandarin Push/Pull and Advanced WAYK: Spanish Push/Pull demonstration videos) to make sure I understood the concept, I hit upon the idea of first demonstrating how to pull by pretending to be an English student and hunting English from one of them. This proved to be quite effective.

I also realised that language hunts can be random, but they can also be planned. This is something I'm going to be working on a bit more. For next time, I'm going to come up with a goal conversation to function as my lesson plan, and then talk with the group about how exactly they're going to pull it from me. So before we start we will have decided what kind of Obvious Setups to use and what kind of questions to pose. I expect we will be Drawing a Blank a lot.

All things considered I think this introduction went as well as could be. Check it out!

Sunday 3 August 2014

Playing and discussing WAYK with Arne Sostack

The other day I Skyped with experienced WAYK practitioner Arne Sostack, who runs the innovative WAYK site I learnt some Danish, but more importantly I experienced WAYK for the first time as a language learner and I finally understood some of the key concepts of WAYK.

00:00 Arne starts pushing Danish to Joel
06:13 Joel starts pulling Danish from Arne
15:00 Joel starts pushing Turkish to Arne
17:23 Why it's important to use the Technique hand signs
20:38 Arne starts pulling Turkish from Joel
37:09 A chat about pulling, how to teach pulling, and the connection with TQ Setup
40:25 The wisdom of Tea with Grandma
46:35 Turning paying students into teachers?
54:53 The question of structure in a seemingly random process

Here is my take-home: The real magic happens when the learner is self-motivated, self-confident, and knows what they want to learn. In other words, proactive. So the question is, how do you take a group of learners who have never known anything except passive learning and engender that proactive mentality?

Earlier this week I posted about the song-and-game approach I currently have going. I can see now that this is still not quite WAYK, and as I discussed with Arne, teaching them how to pull language is probably the most valuable skill I could teach them, even more than actual words and grammar I teach them.

Realistically, I think it would have been an uphill struggle to get my current group to both decide for themselves what they need to learn next and then to pull it. My role-playing games could well make this process easier, because what they need to pull is already abundantly obvious. So now I'm thinking of a way to teach them how to pull in the context of a role-playing game.

Tea with Grandma is definitely something I want to try. Perhaps I could start by pushing some of the phrases they'll need and then move on to the group role-play.

As for lending structure to the process and covering an even range of language, I think it could well work for me to push what I want to push, set up a role-playing scenario, and then let them pull whatever else they want to. Then you get the best of both worlds.

These are just my current musings, stay tuned for what I do with them. This week's lesson has been moved to Friday 8 August, so I should be posting after then...

Monday 28 July 2014

Turkish Session Diary 5: Songs and games

Regular readers of this blog (assuming there are more than one) will remember that last time I had set an objective of having some sort of "free practice" to provide what I think the "session patterns" are missing. In this week's lesson I have implemented this to some effect, and I think it's perhaps the single most important innovation yet in my current course.

Learning vs. acquisition

Serendipitously, a day or two ago I happened upon the Wikipedia page on TPR Storytelling (TPRS). Insofar as it draws on TPR, you could say it is a sort of "cousin methodology" to WAYK, and it certainly seems to have the same sort of down-to-earth, common sense guiding principles. Specifically, I would point to the following observation in that page:
[Language acquisition theorist Stephen] Krashen asserts that there are two distinct ways of learning language: language "learning" and language "acquisition". Language "learning" is learning that takes conscious effort on the part of the learner. It is characterized by learning grammar rules, memorizing vocabulary lists, and performing speaking drills. Language "acquisition" is learning that is subconscious and takes little or no effort on the part of the learner. It is characterized by listening and understanding to (sic) messages, reading interesting books and articles, and other enjoyable activities that take place in the language being learned. According to Krashen's theory, the only thing that can lead to fluency in the language is language "acquisition". Language "learning" can only be used as a way to consciously edit speech or writing, and it is never the cause of spontaneous, unrehearsed speech or writing.
I contrast it with the following under Input Hypothesis (Comprehensible Input redirect):
Krashen's hypotheses have been influential in language education, particularly in the United States, but have received criticism from some academics. Two of the main criticisms are that the hypotheses are untestable, and that they assume a degree of separation between acquisition and learning that has not been proven to exist.
Assuming this is a fair assessment of their criticisms, one wonders if these particular academics with the second claim have ever actually learnt a foreign language to any level of fluency. If they had they would surely have shared the experience of first learning a word or construction by rote, then having to consciously access the memory of those drills the first time said word or construction is required, and then after a certain number of attempts feeling it "click" as conscious thought no longer becomes necessary.

My own interpretation is that language is essentially a set of reflexes, each triggered by a unique set of "stimuli", the circumstances in which any given word or construction is necessary. Therefore the process of acquisition is the process of establishing that reflex, consisting of trigger and response. I humbly beg to differ with Krashen's view as interpreted by Wikipedia that the process is predominantly passive; conscious effort is certainly required, but focused on the goal and not the process. In other words, acquisition happens when the subconscious is stimulated by immediate necessity to take language that has already been learnt and prime it for automatic recall.

Now, returning to my "session patterns", it had become clear to me that I had been using WAYK as a glorified mnemonic. Not that the glory is undeserved; as mnemonics go the unique combination of comprehensible input (TQ Obvious etc.) and sign language is extremely effective, and accurate. Still, mine had been a process of language learning, not actual acquisition. No reflexes, just crutches of conscious memory.

Fun and games

So this week instead of going through prescribed chunks of language, I set up role-playing scenarios where those reflexes stood a better chance of being created. Throughout, instead of thinking, "Now what was the next line?", they were thinking, "Now I need this" or "I need to do that", in other words the actual triggers for the fluency reflex.

We played two games specifically engineered to create situations in which the learners would "need" the words and constructions they had already learnt.

The first was a bluffing game we simply called Liar. There were three objects on the table (a coin, a phone and a pen) but four players, as well as me, the "host". Each of the players had a card. There were four cards in play, one for each of the objects plus one with "Liar" written on it. If a player had an object card they owned that object, but if they had the Liar card they were supposed to lie by claiming they owned someone else's object.

The conversation would go something like this:
P1: Bu kalem kimin? (Whose pen is this?)
P2: Bu kalem benim. (This pen is mine.)
P1: Bu para kimin? (Whose is this coin?)
P3: Bu para benim. (This coin is mine.)
P4: Hayır! Bu para benim! (No! This coin is mine.)
P1: Aha! Yalancı var! Sence kim yalancı? (Aha! There is a liar! Who do you think is the liar?)
P2: Bence o yalancı. (I think s/he is the liar.)
P1: Sence kim yalancı? (Who do you think is the liar?)
P5: Bence o yalancı. (I think s/he is the liar.)
P1: Bence o yalancı. Bakalım! (I think s/he is the liar. Let's see!)

Of course you have to explain the rules carefully in the source language, otherwise no end of hilarity ensues when, say, a player with an object card claims someone else's object. Then the group has to choose between two players neither of whom are the liar while the real liar just watches smugly...

The second game was a Boss, Employee, Shopkeeper scenario. Something like this:

Emp.: Merhaba patron! (Hello boss!)
Boss: Merhaba. (Hello.)
Emp.: Ne istiyorsun? (What do you want?)
Boss: Kalem istiyorum. (I want a pen.)
Emp.: Tamam... Merhaba! (OK... Hello!)
S.K.: Merhaba. Patron ne istiyor? (Hello. What does the boss want?)
Emp.: Patron kalem istiyor. (The boss wants a pen.)
S.K.: Kalem var. Nasıl bir kalem istiyor? Siyah mı, kırmızı mı? (There are pens. What kind of pen does he want? Red or black?)
Emp.: Bir saniye... Merhaba patron! (One second... Hello boss!)
Boss: Merhaba. (Hello.)
Emp.: Hangi kalemi istiyorsun, siyah kalemi mi, kırmızı kalemi mi istiyorsun? (Which pen do you want, the red pen or the black pen?)...

And so on.

Everybody had a great time, which was reason enough in itself to do it, but the point was that there were no pre-set lines. Just situations in which everybody had a goal. Because they had already learnt the language to achieve their goal, they managed to recall it as they need it. After a few rounds the trigger-reflex was established and the language was now acquired.

The missing link

Essentially this approach reflects the the learning/acquisition observation inherent in TPRS and indeed in WAYK. The session patterns I have been using up until now, rather like teaching a song, have been extremely successful in the learning stage. Now with the role-playing games they are truly acquiring the language.

One of the group invited a veteran EFL teacher to sit in on one of our sessions a few weeks ago. She was impressed with WAYK and remarked that she had never seen Turkish taught using the kinds of methods she had used in the past to teach English, with lots of involvement and repetition, and "obviousness". Because she's a newcomer I'm starting her from the beginning, and she's steaming through because she knows what I am trying to do even before I do it. In a way she is acquiring what I give her on-the-fly because she automatically starts freestyling with whatever I give her.

For some like her, the line between learning and acquisition is a non-issue, because they automatically start making the language their own. But with crowds who expect all the creativity to come from the teacher and lack the self-confidence to let their hair down and make mistakes, I think the games will be an important element in bridging the gap between learning and acquiring the language.

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Suffixes and sign language revisited

Since my last post on the subject I have studiously avoided signing any suffixes at all, both on the basis of advice from other WAYK'ers and invaluable training at the school of hard knocks. So far so good, although I have been getting a bit of dissent in the ranks insisting that istiyorsun (you want) should be signed WANT YOU and not just WANT, because -sun is the second person. Still, no biggie.

Nevertheless, a robust system for signing grammar is an attractive idea, and it just so happens that one Anna Andresian has come up with such a system for signing Latin cases and tenses. It's certainly very elegant, and wouldn't need much tweaking for Turkish.

Mind you I'd want to see a demonstration of how it's used in practice before putting it to extensive use, but if nothing else it's another tool to go in the box for when it'll come in handy. Thanks Anna!

Turkish Session Diary 4: Time flies...

So, here we are 11 weeks in and they're still coming back for more.

While no session ever goes exactly the way I planned it, I have been able to cover some key grammatical concepts that some foreigners take years to master, if they ever do, such as the definite accusative (thinking of it as "the" as some do creates more problems than it solves) and descriptive adjectives ("Is your money existent?" instead of "Have you got any money?").

An innovation that seems to be working well so far is clock cards. At the moment I'm using 12 cards, one for each hour on the clock. So far I've only really used it to teach "How many hours later?" and so on, but it's going to be my springboard into tenses, "When will you...", "When did you..." and so on. Only problem is, if I forget to put something on them when I'm not using them they're liable to blow away! Time flies, as they say...

My session pattern is working well, providing a structure for me to introduce new information at a balanced rate. What I want to work on now is freer and more personalised practice sections. I'll look for the TQ's that describe what I'm talking about more eloquently, but there are two ideas I'm working on: Firstly having a "free practice" bit just before a break or the end of the session where I start them off with a combination of material we've already worked on and tell them to play with it (I've already done this with some success), and secondly use some constructions from the session to talk about things in day-to-day life.

As always, a work in progress. Enjoy this clip from today:

Admittedly, this is not the best video I could have gotten but it gives you an idea of what's going on. They had a bit of trouble with "In 3 hours" (üç saat sonra) and "At 3 o'clock" (saat üçte), but that was because we had been working on üç saat sonra in previous sessions. Still, it wasn't long before they were back into the groove. You can also see the clock cards in action here.

Tuesday 3 June 2014

Turkish Session Diary 3: Settling on session patterns

Well, 5 weeks in and my new bunch are still with me.

I've duplicated the Fethiye WAYK Turkish Curriculum on the official wiki over onto I won't be creating many new pages as I go forward, so I'll be able to update the official wiki now and again.

A lot of the material is now different after having undergone a number of tweaks. For now I'm just going to go through the pattern I've established that seems to be working well and update the material as I find the time.

When starting, I labour the concept of TQ Copycatting. It very quickly becomes necessary to point out that only people who aren't in the conversation copycat. So when you're the one being asked a question you don't copycat the person asking the question.

TQ How Fascinating is a toughie. Saying, "When we make a mistake we all throw up our arms and say 'How Fascinating'", is a bit counterproductive with retiree Brits. But I still think I'm honouring the spirit by calling "How Fascinating" all the time without calling it that. Lots of TQ Pull You Though It, lots of "No, that was fine!" and lots of laughs, backed up with a pep talk now and then that we're playing a game and having fun, not "learning" or sitting an exam. In the sense of keeping it light and fun, How Fascinating is certainly up there with TQ Signing as one of the absolutely indispensable concepts of the method.

Getting them to avoid speaking English during the lesson is next to impossible sometimes. "Oh what was it, bu, er, siyat kalem, oh no, sorry, siyah kalem, yeah see I keep getting that wrong, was that right, siyah kalem?" etc. Now and again I remind them to make the "timeout" sign if they want to ask something in English, and then just make the sign sometimes when they forget. But I find it's not worth making a big thing of it if it will break the mood, especially when you've barely got them to stop thinking of it as a lesson.

I've also gotten my head around the fact that TQ Killing Faeries is of course good and necessary, but this does not extend to explaining game mechanics. The difference between "I'm going to say what is this, and you're going to say 'It's a...'" and "We're going to say it twice this time round."

Now to the pattern

For each bitesize chunk, I'm following this procedure:

1. Select chunk Although a "Ride" in the Universal Speed Curriculum can be around a dozen lines long, I've discovered the hard way that the ideal size for a bitesize chunk is 4 lines, you-me-you-me. Anything longer is just too much, no matter how familiar the material.

So the ideal chunk is 4 lines long, containing mostly familiar material and focusing on just one new "thing" (TQ Limit). So, for instance, if they already know "What is this?/This is a black pen." (Bu ne?/Bu siyah kalem.) then I might introduce "Whose is this black pen?/This black pen is mine." (Bu siyah kalem kimin?/Bu siyah kalem benim.) OK so that's two new things but you get the idea.

2. Demonstrate I then use mostly TQ Invisible Friend to demonstrate each side of the conversation (ideally TQ Comedy Duo with my strongest student if I'm sure she'll know what to do), of course observing TQ In Threes and getting them to copycat. I will often interrupt to use TQ Sing-along Song for individual sentences or even words I can see them having trouble with. If they still haven't got it after the third demonstration I keep going until they're close enough (TQ Mumble).

3. Play I then start with the student who's next to me, or at least make sure it goes round so that the weakest student does it last. In the first round I repeat the conversation with her three times, and then signal that she should hold the same conversation with the person next to her. After it gets back round to me, we go around again but this time twice each. In the third round we just do the conversation once before moving on, and by this stage they've usually got it straight off the bat.

Then I move on to the next chunk, mixing and matching from material in the ride to get something with just one or two new things. Especially if the "new thing" from the previous chunk was a grammatical concept, I find it's good to cycle through the objects thus repeating that new concept four times until it sticks. This is especially important for suffixes.

I think next time I'm going to introduce a "free practice round", just have a round of asking anyone anything about what they have based on this week's material...

So that's where we're at so far.

Monday 5 May 2014

We're back...

It's been a while, but I'm pleased to report that Fethiye WAYK is back.

I've started with two weekly Turkish sessions, and Gözde did some English sessions with adults just before the tourism season began, and is continuing with some children's sessions.

In the Turkish side, I have restructured the curriculum somewhat by eliminating suffixes to begin with.

Our opening conversation now goes as follows:

1. Bu ne?
What is this?
2. Bu, siyah kalem.
This is a black pen.
1. Bu siyah kalem kimin?
Whose is this black pen?
2. Bu siyah kalem benim.
This black pen is mine.
1. Ha, bu siyah kalem senin mi?
Ah, is this black pen yours?
2. Evet, bu siyah kalem benim.
Yes, this black pen is mine.
1. Hm, bu siyah kalem benim mi?
Hmm, is this black pen mine?
2. Hayır, bu siyah kalem senin değil benim.
No, this black pen is not yours, but mine.

Suffixes are going to be bite-sized pieces introduced by themselves, and only when everything else up to that point has been mastered.

So that's a little taster. I'll be sure to keep you posted as we progress.

Sunday 16 March 2014

Fethiye WAYK begins in English

Our Turkish sessions have taken somewhat of a break through a mixture of cancellations and illness. But the English side of things, run mostly by my wife Gözde, is going from strength to strength, already halfway through the USC with two separate groups. Hopefully we'll have some video for you soon.

We're talking about how to move further beyond the USC. With tourism/service industries the big thing around here, most likely our vocabulary and set-ups will expand in that general direction as we build up the grammar.

Below is a translation of Gözde's first post on the blog, reflecting her impressions:
After researching WAYK for some time with my husband, I started to believe that WAYK could be effective in light of points that overlap with principles of language acquisition that we are taught as English teachers. I talked about the method with some adult students who wanted to learn English and so we decided to give it a try. Although there is a business side to it, this is a secondary consideration in our experimental group project.

Our first English lessons

One of my first points of hesitation with WAYK, which we had actually seen in the case of foreigners learning Turkish, was the possibility of adult groups not being enthusiastic about using sign language. But right from the first lesson there was no hesitation, even by shy students. Our first lesson followed the Universal Speed Curriculum. At the end of the lesson they were conversing without the signs, even one of them who we could say was encountering English for the first time.

The strongest aspect of WAYK that I have observed is that it keeps students' motivation at a high level. At this point I can identify two reasons: the game aspect for children, and for adults the fact that they can speak English from the first lesson.

As for developing the curriculum, at the moment I have only used sign language with the beginners' classes but I have used WAYK principles with a 10th grade student and found it to be useful in getting her to use grammar she learnt at school. My husband has also used WAYK with an 11th grade student to great effect.

WAYK's edge

Although the sign language makes WAYK different to classic techniques, this is not the basis of WAYK. Essentially, we find in WAYK the ideal language teaching methods taught in education faculties, in particular teaching without using the student's mother tongue, creating set-ups, and using lots of repetition.

The biggest difference between WAYK and classic methods is that there are no explanations of grammar, just as when children learn language. Logically there is no need to explain something again when the brain has already learnt it, only prospective English teachers really need to know this. Those who only wish to speak English do not need to know what a structure or rule is called.

Many teachers will have observed the gap between what we are taught in university and what we are able to apply in a class environment. From this perspective we can say that WAYK is a package programme that enables us to apply ideal teaching methods.

These are my impressions so far, I will write more after upcoming lessons...

Saturday 15 March 2014

WAYK'la yola çıkıyoruz

WAYK'ı eşimle birlikte bir süre inceledikten sonra, bir İngilizce öğretmeni olarak dil edinimi derslerinde öğrendiğimiz ilkelerle örtüşen noktalarından yola çıkarak WAYK'ın etkili olabileceğine inanmaya başladım. İngilizce öğrenmeye istekli bazı yetişkin öğrencilerle yöntem üzerinde konuştum ve denemeye karar verdik. Her ne kadar işin ticari bir boyutu olsa da bu kısmı ikinci plana atarak deneysel grup çalışmaları yapmaya başladık.

İlk İngilizce derslerimiz

WAYK'la ilgili ilk tereddütlerimden biri -ki bunu Türkçe öğrenen yabancı öğrencilerle yaşamıştık- yetişkin grupların işaret dili kullanmak konusunda isteksiz olabilecekleriydi. Ancak ilk derste bile öğrenciler içinde çekingen yapıda olanlar bile bu konuda tereddüt etmedi. Universal Speed Curriculum'ı takip ederek birinci dersi yaptık. Dersin sonunda öğrenciler -ki biri İngilizceyle ilk kez tanışıyordu diyebiliriz- işaretleri yapmadan sohbet edebiliyorlardı.

WAYK'ın gözlemlediğim en güçlü özelliği öğrencilerin motivasyonunu daima yüksek tutuyor olması. Şu aşamada bunun iki sebebini belirtebilirim: çocuklar için bunun bir oyun olması; yetişkinler için de daha ilk dersten İngilizce konuşuyor olmaları.

Müfredat gelişimi açısından şu ana dek sadece başlangıç sınıflarıyla işaret dilini denedim ama 10. sınıf düzeyinde bir öğrenciyle konuşma dersi yaparken WAYK ilkelerini kullandım ve okulda gördüğü grameri pratik olarak da kullanmasında yararı olduğunu gördüm. Eşim de 11. sınıf düzeyinde bir öğrenciyle WAYK'ı kullanarak gayet başarılı oldu.

WAYK'ın esprisi

WAYK'ın klasik yöntemlerden farklı bir yönü işaret dili olsa da WAYK bundan ibaret değil. Esasında eğitim fakültelerindeki ideal dil öğretim yöntemlerini WAYK'ta buluyoruz. Özellikle de öğrencinin ana dilini kullanmadan, "set-up" yaratarak, bol bol tekrar yaptırarak öğretmek bunlardan bazıları.

WAYK'ın klasik yöntemden en büyük farkı, çocukken dil öğrenirken olduğu gibi gramer açıklamasına girilmemesi. Beynin zaten öğrendiği bir şeyi tekrar açıklamaya da gerek yok mantıken, sadece İngilizce öğretmeni adaylarının bunu bilmesi yeterli, İngilizce konuşacak olanların kullandıkları yapının adını ya da kuralı bilmesine gerek yok.

Pek çok öğretmen gözlemlemiştir, okulda öğrendiklerimizle sınıf ortamında uygulayabildiklerimiz farklıdır. Bu açıdan, WAYK ideal öğretim yöntemlerini uygulamamıza yardım eden bir paket program diyebiliriz.

Şu an izlenimlerim böyle, önümüzdeki derslerden izlenimlerimi de aktarmaya devam edeceğim...

Saturday 8 March 2014

Suffixes and sign language

I recently had two of my students decide against continuing with WAYK. After talking it over with Ben Barrett, who is always a great help, I have concluded that my main problems were, firstly, trying to pitch a beginner's class to halfway intermediates (an issue I will come back to later), and secondly signing all the suffixes.

I had always seen the signing aspect of WAYK as useful. It serves as a both a memory aid for new vocabulary and for making the whole experience more "tactile" and therefore more memorable. It also serves as a way of marking the various elements of a sentence to make sure that phrases enter the memory as "sums of parts" and not simply unparsed wholes. Basically this is what is meant when they talk about a bridge language.

But in hindsight it seems the idea of mapping all elements of the spoken language to sign language is not only impossible but undesirable, as it creates unnecessary complexity. One of my students in particular complained about the "hand signals" from the beginning saying she "wasn't very dexterous", and I could see that most of her brain's bandwidth was indeed being spent on getting her hands around the signs.

I didn't help things by signing all the suffixes religiously. I think it was particularly difficult where I was signing suffixes that were part of a syllable. To give you an example, just watch this little snippet from our last session.

I'm saying Bu senin şişen mi? which translates as "Is this your bottle?" The sign language is going like this:

Bu senin şişe -n mi?

I think this much is clear: Never, ever sign half a syllable.

With this possessive suffix "-n", it does actually form an independent syllable with words that end in a consonant, like kalem which becomes kalemin and telefon which becomes telefonun. So the question is: Was my mistake not starting out with words that ended in consonants, and would therefore give me a whole-syllable suffix to sign, or is signing suffixes at all a mistake?

After talking to Ben, I'm currently leaning towards the latter. He has taught Japanese, which is also a highly agglutinative language, without signing the suffixes and with no problems, relying on the Obvious Set-up to do the magic for him. However he also suggested radically revising the target conversation entirely to use as few suffixes as possible starting out, completely eliminating "mine, yours" for the first five or six sessions and instead opting for sentences without suffixes, based more around "this, that".

Ultimately we come back to the fundamental principle of a Limited Obvious Set-up. We use sign language for all the reasons listed above and also because it makes the Set-up more Obvious. Where sign language will complicate things (as in complicated suffixes), first check to see if your Set-up is Obvious enough to do without it. If things are still too complicated, it's time to Limit some more, and go back to the drawing board if you have to.

All sign language is eventually phased out anyway. If I can get away without sign language for suffixes, I will. Where I do feel the need to use sign language for suffixes, I'm going to be careful to make sure I engineer my conversation so those suffixes are in whole-syllable forms, but abandon them just as soon as my students are used to them.

It's not all bad news, my original student is still keeping at it and I will hopefully have a second starting afresh. Meanwhile, things have been going well on the English front, with our first formal beginners session this evening.

To paraphrase Will Smith, it is no longer our job to get them to like the method. It is our job not to mess it up!

Edit: See Suffixes and sign language revisited

Saturday 1 March 2014

WAYK applied to intermediate English tutoring

Yesterday evening my wife used a lesson plan we developed together using WAYK principles to help an intermediate high-school English student internalise some fine points of grammar. Although the student already “knew” the grammar points under discussion, the conversation techniques really helped them to “click” in her mind.

The specific topic the student needed to work on were conditionals, and so the lesson plan centred around Conditional Type 0 (“If you heat ice it melts”), Conditional Type 1 (“If I have enough money I will go to the cinema”), and Conditional Type 2 (“If I had lots of money I would…”).

We devised short conversations or stories that effectively establish an Obvious Set-up, enhanced by expressive gesturing and sign-language where needed. Then in comes the “Bite-sized Piece” in the form of the actual target sentence or question-and-answer.

So for example, to get up to “If you heat ice it melts”, Gözde’s Set-up sentences were, “What’s this? -This is ice. -What happens when you heat ice/when you hold ice for a long time? -It melts. -So, if you heat ice it melts.” The Set-up sentences, of course, must be Obvious and ideally should be formulated with words and structures the student already knows. Then they’re ready for the punch-line, the final one or two sentences containing the Bite-sized Piece of new vocabulary or, in this case, grammar.

After three different pre-prepared Set-ups for each conditional type, Gözde then had a strategy for coming up with three more Set-ups that this time would be personalised (cf. These Are a Few of My Favorite Things). For Type 0, she used “What do you do on weekends? Do you see your friends/do your homework/go swimming/etc.? -… -Do you see your friends/do your homework/go swimming/etc. if you have exams? -I don’t see my friends if I have exams.” Of course, any typical situation can be substituted for exams.

The trick for the personalised Set-ups is to try and predict the kinds of answers the student will give and frame your questions accordingly. For example, in Type 1 a target phrase is, “If X happens I will Y”. We need our student to tell us about a definite plan, and then something that plan is conditional on. So we start with “What will you do tomorrow?”, because everybody does something every day. An alternative could be “Where will you go tomorrow?” Then, “What will you need?” If the answer is “Nothing” then you come back with “What else will you do tomorrow?” until you get an answer for which something will be needed. Then you present the punch-line, “If I have money I will go to the cinema tomorrow”, for example. If prepared with this in mind, the set-piece Set-ups you start with before the personalised Set-ups stage can provide useful cues.

Gözde made only minimal use of sign language for new words and for Obviousness when needed. She also used a number of photographs as props. One of these was a picture of a small planet Earth surrounded by famous landmarks. So one conversation went like this: “What is this? -Big Ben. -Where is it? -It is in London. -Are you in London? -No I am not in London. -What could you do if you were in London? -If I were in London I could see Big Ben.” This went on for each landmark in the picture.

This just goes to show how versatile the Where Are Your Keys? suite of techniques is, and that its scope really is unlimited.

Tuesday 25 February 2014

A clearer glimpse of fluency

Thanks to Sky Hopinka, I have been able to add subtitles to the video of Evan Gardner having a fluent conversation with him in Chinook Jargon (Chinuk Wawa) after only a year and a half of weekly language nights. (Skip forward to 01:38 for the start of the Wawa conversation.)

This has answered a lot of my questions, and frankly it has exceeded my expectations of what WAYK is capable of.

I'm impressed firstly by just how smoothly they both communicate in Wawa, particularly Sky after only a year and a half, and with no real-world immersion as far as I know. Before I'd encountered WAYK I'd have thought that was impossible, even for languages closely related to English.

As a translator, I am acutely aware of how unnatural book-based language learning can be and how difficult it can be for a foreigner who has pegged everything to "equivalents" in his native tongue to then get his head around all the nuances. In contrast with this typical situation, here we have a year-and-a-half student of Chinuk Wawa confidently criticising a translation from English as "strange", and suggesting a more "normal" alternative, as if this was nothing (skip to 04:20). This is amazing to me, and reinforces my conviction that WAYK is a fundamentally more natural approach to language learning, relying as it does on teaching indirectly by inductive reasoning based on "analogue" input (TQ: Obviously) and not directly through imperfect "digital" explanations in another language.

But I'll let you come to your own conclusions!

Thursday 20 February 2014

Turkish Session Diary 2

Right, so we had our second session with the three of us this evening and I'm very happy with how it went.

After last time I was careful to up the TQ Obvious and not to explain any of the language during the game. As you can see in the beginning, the lady to the left of me has a very old school, writing-oriented learning style, in fact she already has a fair bit of Turkish vocabulary. She has said more than once that she thinks this makes WAYK harder than it would be if she were a complete beginner. She's getting better at the sign language though, and she is willing to give the system a fair crack of the whip.

There are already a lot of concepts we've covered with respect to grammar without realising it, such as suffixes, vowel harmony and unintuitive syntax. The script of the bit in the video is now on the wiki.

Wednesday 19 February 2014

WAYK nedir?

Açılımı "Where Are Your Keys?" (Anahtarların Nerede?) olan WAYK, akıcı şekilde konuşturmayı amaçlayan bir dil öğretme sistemidir. Onu geliştirenin amacı, herhangi bir dil öğretme metodunu geliştirmekten ziyade unutulmaya yüz tutmuş dilleri yeniden canlandırmaktır. Bu hem başarısının sırrıdır hem de şimdiye dek geniş çapta duyulmamış olmasının sebebidir.

Herhangi bir hizmetin ya da ürünün "başarılı" olması için rakiplerinden daha iyi olması değil, daha iyi pazarlanması önemlidir. Bu her sektörde olduğu gibi dil öğreniminde de geçerlidir. Öte yandan WAYK için cazip reklamlarla öğrenci kandırmak, olmayınca da "daha çok çalışsaydınız olurdu" demek gibi bir seçenek söz konusu değil; somut bir soruna somut bir çözüm getirmeyi amaçlıyor. Sorunu çözmeli yoksa devam etmesinin bir anlamı yoktur.

Peki bu kadar başarılıysa neden bilinmiyor? Amerika Yerlilerinin dillerini korumasına yardım etmek değerli bir amaç olsa da "ana akımın" çok dışındadır, üstelik ticari menfaat da sağlamaz. Maalesef parayla dönen bir dünyada yaşıyoruz. Asil amaçlarla başarılanlar ise uzun süre keşfedilmemiş kalabiliyor.

Peki WAYK'ın sırrı nedir? Bu sorunun cevabı şu soruda gizli: Dilleri en iyi kim öğrenir? Çocuklar. Peki çocuklar tüm gün ne yapar? Oyun oynarlar. Nasıl bu kadar kolay dil öğrendiklerine şaşırıyoruz. Hiçbir gramer kuralı izah edilmeden veya kelime listeleri ezberletilmeden güle oynaya konuşmayı öğreniyorlar. WAYK'ın biraz da çıkış noktası bu. Ders okutulmaz, oyun oynanır. Hiçbir şey izah edilmez, doğrusu buna gerek kalmaz. Temel "oyun kuralları" ve biraz da işaret dili kullanılarak kelimeler ve gramer esasları beyne deyim yerindeyse "çaktırılıyor". Yapılan hatalar oyunun tadı tuzu gibi geçiştiriliyor ve çok geçmeden öğrenciler, doğrusu "oyun arkadaşları", strese telaşa girmeden akıcı şekilde konuşmaya başlıyor.

Fethiye WAYK olarak naçizane şekilde WAYK sistemini klasik bir dil kursuna dönüştürmeyi hedefliyoruz. Bu blogta ise yolculuğumuzu belgeliyoruz. Yabancılar için Türkçe kursu ile başlayıp, Türkler için İngilizce kursu da geliştirmeyi umuyoruz. Bu esnada çoğu yazımızı İngilizce yazsak da Türkçe olarak da sizi bilgilendirmeyi ihmal etmeyeceğiz.

Damlaya damlaya göl olur derler...

Monday 17 February 2014

Frustratingly fascinating

After some much-appreciated feedback in the Google group from Arne Sostack and Ben Barrett, I have realised that as killing fairies goes, that video was a massacre. And from the guy who came up with this. How embarrassi... How Fascinating!

As most of you will know, "fairies" are the mythical creatures that make language "click" in our brains without needing it to be explained to us. It's really what WAYK is all about, when you think about it. The Obviously, the Set-ups, all that jazz.

Fairies are a bit like Goldilocks. If you make things too cold and dull, with stuff your brain already knows, or too hot, with too much new stuff for your brain to work out, the fairies don't come. But if it's just right, if you make everything obvious and known and put out just a tiny tidbit of new information, along comes the fairy and *poof*, it goes in the same way your mother tongue went in all those years ago.

To put it another way, it's the reason why jokes aren't funny when you have to explain them.

There are two morals to this story.

Firstly, this concept is so fundamental to WAYK that what I did in that video almost doesn't qualify as WAYK. If you're interested in getting started with WAYK, you simply cannot let yourself be put off by the silly name and disregard what is being called "fairies". After all, what's in a name? This phenomenon is real, and it's the whole point.

Why did anybody ever feel the need to theorise that there's a Universal Grammar inside all our heads? Because our brains just take on too much information too quickly for it to be raw brain power alone. We don't talk because we're clever, just ask any idiot. We talk because we're hardwired for it, and we still don't quite know how.

Secondly, it's important to get your head around how you're going to introduce new material during a session. Being familiar with the material itself as at least as important as being familiar with how you're going to weave it in.

Something I didn't do before I got started was actually play with a practitioner to see how it works. I thought I'd be fine just watching the demonstration videos, but there's often a lot of explaining in those. What I didn't have clear enough in my head is that talking about the method before and after, debriefs and so on, are fine, but talking about the language itself is banned. It doesn't matter if you're translating individual words or sentences, don't. The less you have to explain, the more you're doing it right.

There are two things to do for this: Firstly, read up on the top 20 techniques, particularly Obviously!, Set-up, Just In Time and Bize-sized Pieces, and all the others on the wiki that there's a write-up for, especially Invisible Friend. Secondly, play at least one session with a practitioner. Skype is good enough for play-testing WAYK, and ready and willing practitioners are easily reachable through the Google group. You have to do this if you want to make sure you're doing it right. Failing that, film your mistakes and let 'em have at it.