Wednesday 12 February 2014

Teaching vs. hunting: A draft manifesto

After sleeping on it, the Advanced Spanish Hunting video has helped me refine my thoughts about exactly what I'm doing (or trying to do) in adapting "Where Are Your Keys?"a comprehensive method in which students become teachers in the noble cause of language revitalisationto more mundane, mainstream, marketable language teaching.

What We're Taking Away

In the Spanish hunting video, Evan and David explain how they simultaneously hunt new language from each other for their own benefit and build new rides. The ride building process is explained as Getting Hungry, Setting the Trap, Springing the Trap, Cooking It and Serving It Up. As always, I wish there were more documentation, and I can't claim to fully understand what all these stages mean. Still, the general idea is quite clear. As far as I can tell Getting Hungry is the bit where you work out what you're going to learn next, the rest of the stages help you to glean, confirm and internalise that element through Proving and other techniques, and finally Serving it Up is where you have a formalised Ride that can be passed on.

Turning WAYK into a standardised course package will have the side-effect of sucking all the creativity out of the process for my students. I will simply be Serving It Up, and doing the rest behind the scenes as I develop the course week by week. Of course the Rides themselves will still work, but come the end of my course my students will be no more "language hunters" than they were when I first asked them "What is that?"

On a personal note, it has just dawned on my wife and me that the hunting dimension of WAYK will be ideal if and when we decide to try and learn minority languages such as Kurdish, where decent course books are hard to come by. But this is of little interest to a student who needs one language now and is selecting a course for that immediate purpose.

What We're Adding

First and foremost, by successfully applying WAYK—a lesser version of WAYK at that—to build a course that teaches the same amount of language as its rivals faster and more accurately, there will be tangible, documented evidence that WAYK really is as good as it claims to be. Instead of being a little-known, quirky, experimental pretender to the crown of dominant methods in the eyes of the few in the mainstream who have heard of it, WAYK will tower over its rivals as not only better than the competition, but having a vision extending beyond short-term language tutoring.

In addition, despite being "shallower" than the original WAYK because of neglecting the hunting element, the course will be "broader" because it will weave in standard vocabulary at each level as part of a self-contained, marketable package. Open-source documentation will provide a template for teachers in other languages to develop their own courses.

I have written a lot about my worries about taking WAYK and offering lessons with the promise of a comprehensive language course, when said course is still in development and is being documented for the first time. This is why I feel the need for a clear vision starting out. This is a "draft manifesto", it simply reflects my current understanding of how this is going to work, and I'm putting this down to keep my own doubts at bay as much as for anyone else.

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