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...