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.