WAYK Podcast, Episode 23: Turning the Corner

With Justin’s (left) help, Peter (center) leads Sarah in a game of “colors and numbers”.

1 hr, 45 minutes, and 30 seconds.

[direct download]

In this really long episode, almost two hours long, we debrief our Chinuk Wawa conversation night, and realize that we’re experiencing the feeling of turning the corner on the revitalization of the language. We bask in the glow for a bit, and address many issues that came up tonight, and coin several new techniques.

1. Technique “Craig’s List: For, How, Like…

  • The list of language structure, using a word similar to “for, how, like…”, that allowed Willem to ascend to the next level of language proficiency, particular to Chinuk.
  • Willem could know understand most of the Superior speech of Henry Zenk, the Chinuk Wawa Potluck night’s “fluent fool“.
  • Evan asks: “What are those key words, the key structures, in any language, the movers and shakers, after want/have/give/take?

2. Technique “Where is…?

  • Peter comments that this new list comes after the “Where is…?” question.
  • The order of conversational questions so far: “What is that?“, “Whose is that?“, “Who wants that?“, “Where is that?”…and now the “For, How, Like…” list.

3. Technique “Language Hunting

  • Evan and Willem strategized the first conversation of the evening around the new list.

4. Technique “We’ll All Get There Together

  • Having varying levels of fluent proficiency in the conversation, involving Peter (Intermediate-low), Evan (Advanced-high), Willem (Intermediate-high), Justin (Advanced-high), was instrumental in its success.
  • Willem: “We will learn faster, by going slower”.

5. Technique “Role-play

  • Peter upped the energy of a conversation for everyone by beginning to “role-play” a silly exchange.

6. Technique “Pull ’em through it

  • So tapped by the “For, How, Like” conversation, our band of intrepid language hunters drop the ball during a game with newbie Mary.
  • They managed to course-correct and began “pulling her through it” through “copycatting” “just ahead” with sign, and using “read my lips” to mouth the words.

7. Technique “Teach a Teacher

  • Peter led a game for Mary and Donna afterwards, where they really showed a spike in their fluent proficiency – they began leading the game for Peter!
  • Peter says that being comfortable with them, now that he knows them, made the game much more fun.

8. Technique “Set-up

  • We finally decide to kick the enormous ottoman into the garage during Chinuk night.
  • We “set-up” the classic low table with tablecloth –  this accelerated the language play markedly.
  • The room got so noisy with the sound of language play, it began to trouble our fluent elder.

9. Technique “Lunatic Fringe

  • Willem decides to run a previous idea for an experiment: starting a first time newbie (in this case, Palma) in the “lunatic fringe”, rather than one-on-one play.
  • Willem and Thomas run a “goal conversation“/”modeling” game, going through “what is that?” and “whose is that?“, before turning the reigns over to Thomas to lead Palma in a game.
  • There’s two reasons to be in the lunatic fringe: one is to be an Angel on Your Shoulder for another player, “pulling them through it“, but another equally important role is just resting and recuperating, “copycatting” as well as you can, but with no obligations beyond watching the game play.

10. Techniques “Make me say yes…“, “Make me say no…

  • Dustin’s way of describing these techniques as milestones of game play changed how Willem think about the roadmap of game play.

11. Technique “Copycat

  • WAYK is  not a learning game; it’s a “copycatting” game!

12. Technique “Slow/Fast

  • Why whenever we slow things down for newbies, it speeds up language acquisition for everybody? The world may never know.

13. Technique “Accordion

  • Having the same conversation, in full sentences, with as many attitudes and emotions as possible.

14. Technique “Sorry, Charlie

  • Hunting down the little hesitations, little (and big) confusions, and either applying old techniques to them, or innovating new ones, is the heart of WAYK.

15. Technique “the Walk

  • Evan says he had one of the best “Walks” he’s ever been on, led by Peter.
  • Sarah talks about her experience, as a newbie, on “the Walk“.
  • It was a shorter “Walk” than normal; only 20 minutes!
  • The shortness of “the Walk” may have been the key to its success – it went only two blocks. Lots to interact with in two blocks!

16. Technique “Colors and Numbers

  • Peter ran a game with Sarah, designed to create a conversation about colors and numbers, using a pile of crayons.
  • He started with “What is that?“, “Whose is that?“, “Who wants that?” (they forget to mention this one), and “Where is that?“.

17. Technique “Travels with Charlie
18. Technique “Obviously!

  • Peter, Evan, and Sarah talk about the “set-up” of the crayon game.

19. Technique “Riddle-me-this

  • Sarah figured out that Chinuk Wawa treats the colors green and  blue in a funny way; this brings up a few cultural issues, that Evan speaks about.

20. Technique “44, 55, 66, 77, 88…

  • Evan describes the counting conversation he designed.

21. Technique “One-on-One

  • Are we now turning them into triads?
  • Sarah coins technique “Learning Buddy“, to refer to the advantage of having a three person game (one person leading).

22. Technique “We’ll All Get There Together

  • Willem: “It was a night of turning corners.”

23. Technique “Copycat

  • Peter noticed Mary and Donna finally clicked into the role of “copycatting“, rather than trying to ‘learn and remember’.
  • It’s a “copycatting” game, not a learning game!

24. Technique “No-grief Debrief

  • Sarah finds the debrief remarkable, as an indicator of the enormous amount of thought and reflection that goes into WAYK experiences.

25. Technique “Dictionary Addiction

  • Evan and Eric misunderstand Donna’s request, to great hilarity.

26. Technique “Teach a Teacher

  • The benefits of training everyone to teach. We had a roomful of teachers, ready to run games.
  • We all feel that we’ve turned a corner, in revitalizing the language. This is what it feels like to turn the destiny of a language around.

27. Technique “Dictionary Addiction

  • Peter tells his Chinuk dictionary story, regarding Jim Holton’s book “Chinook Jargon”.

28. Technique “Pet Cemetery

  • Languages don’t come back the same, once all you have left of them is in books.
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