Monday, March 29, 2010

How to start Where are Your Keys?

One thing I've always struggled with, since I first started learning Where are Your Keys (WAYK) was how to start learning WAYK!

Before watching the first WAYK video, I had heard discussion and description of the game, but still didn't get it. A short time later I felt like I understood the game, but didn't know how to explain it in a way that actually made sense. Conclusion:
The only way to understand WAYK is to play it.
That implies:
Explaining WAYK ahead of time is a decelerator.
The thing to do is get playing as quickly as possible.

Another thing that I struggled with at the very beginning was the question "what am I supposed to be doing here?" Should I be trying to memorize signs? Is getting the answer to "what's that?" right important? It certainly was in my high school German class. I found myself trying hard to remember the sign for "black pen" and sign it quickly enough to keep up with the video. This is also a decelerator.

Better to just play along, and let it go how it goes. I suspect that complete newbie players need to get this message early on - that just playing along is fine, don't worry about trying to learn.  I don't have enough experience with this to be sure, though.

Another thought came to me from listening to a recent WAYK debrief podcast. (I think it was this one.) Justin said that he doesn't do 2 colored pens with first-time players, because it's simpler for them to get just "pen" instead of dealing with colors. This is spot on. I think that it's particularly important to get the newbies immersed in the game as quickly as possible - really playing, not thinking hard - so they can understand how to play faster. In fact, for the very first few rounds, I would limit to just 3 objects instead of 5 (maybe even 2!). It's Technique: Bite-Sized Pieces with a very small piece for someone who is just trying to figure out eating for the first time.

On a similar note, I think that explaining Travels With Charlie is interesting, but until you've played the very round, I think it's a decelerator. Just get playing as soon as you can.

Jay's techniques for total newbies:

I've been imagining the situation where a stranger and I both miss the bus. We have some time to kill until the next one comes, and I ask if they want to learn sign language while we wait.

1. Give the shortest intro possible (Technique: Short Intro)

If you'd like, I can teach you a little sign language. We're going to have a very simple conversation about these objects. I'll start, and you join in as soon as you are read.
It may also help to add:
Don't worry about trying to learn something and get it right. Just play along. If you're not sure what to do, just copy me.
2. Play simply (Technique: Simple Set-Up)

Use 2 or 3 objects, instead of the regular 5. Pick objects with simple names (a rock is better than a 1 dollar bill). Don't use two similar objects that require differentiating (only 1 pen).

3. Start playing alone (Technique: Play Solo)

Explain the sign for "What's that?" in English. Then ask and answer "What's that?" for each of your objects in turn. If your newbie doesn't copy, remind them to.

After a few rounds they will be comfortable enough that you could have them start asking you.

Now your players are not complete newbies. You can add a couple more objects in perhaps including color. You can have conversations about how the game works, what to do, where we are going, Techniques, etc.

Adaptation when you have a non-newbie

If you have two or more players, where one is a total newbie and one is not, you can play with the more experienced player instead of playing by yourself. That will probably work a little better.

These are just my ideas, I haven't had much chance to test them on folks. I'm sure I'll learn more as I do.

Friday, March 26, 2010

WAYK Arabic - Travel's with Charlie

When using Where are Your Keys? to learn a language, we use Technique: Travel's with Charlie to describe different levels of language skill, based on the ACTFL scale.

Here is my translation of this scale for Palestinian Arabic:

Level 1 - Tabouli Babaghanoujh Hummos.
Level 2 - How to make hummos.
Level 3 - Explain why olive oil is so good for you.
Level 4 - Negotiate peace if the Middle East.

To put it another way:

Level 1 - Eat Arabic food
Level 2 - Make Arabic food
Level 3 - Why Arabic food
Level 4 - Get everyone to eat Arabic food

Great hummos

Whenever I go to a potluck I bring hummos. I follow my Tata's recipe, which I've been eating since I was a baby. We eat it with every meal. It's a comfort food for me, so whatever is leftover after the party is something I will enjoy.

Traditionally they would use a mortar and pestle to grind the beans, but today we all use a food processor. They probably made fresh hummos every day. One day I hope to try the old way. In the food processor, I make a double recipe.

- can of chick peas (aka garbanzo beans), drained
- clove of garlic, peeled.
- fresh parsley
- 1/3 C raw tahini
- 1-2 lemons, juiced
- 1/2 t salt
- olive oil

Pull the leaves off the parsley, as the stems don't taste good. Put them in the food processor, with the garlic. Process until the garlic is diced.

Add chick peas. Process until somewhat smooth.

Add tahini, lemon juice, and salt. Process another minute. These ingredients should be adjusted to taste.

Put in a bowl, smooth the surface, and cover with a thin layer of olive oil.

To eat, tear a small piece of pita bread, bend it in to a scoop, and use it to pick up some hummos. Pop it in to your mouth, and announce Sahtein.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Got a cold?

A friend was feeling down about how often her young child has been sick recently. I wrote some thoughts on it to her, and now I'm posting them here.

I hope they get you thinking.
Conventional thinking is "colds are an enemy and must be stopped!" They're the problem. We combat them with antibiotic drugs, hand washing, coughing in to our elbows, etc.

A common progressive view is that it's really good practice for her immune system. The cold challenges you and you get better at fighting off future colds. "What doesn't kill you only makes you stronger." They're a necessary evil.

Another common progressive view is that you only get sick when you haven't been taking care of yourself. If you just get enough rest, good nutrition, avoid sugar, avoid stress, etc., your body will be strong enough to fight off a cold. If you get sick, it's because you're weak. They're a symptom. (Or a punishment, if you're in to that sort of thinking.)

Consider the possibility that being sick is beneficial right now. That the body invites the sickness in to do something important. Something it can't do itself. Suppose you're tired but don't let yourself sleep. So, you get sick. Then you sleep. See? It worked!

Or you need to be coddled and cared for a little extra. You get sick. People around you give you a little extra care. See, it worked again!

Or you have some toxins in your body that you can't clear for some reason. But chest cold triggers a lot of mucus in your lungs, which your body fills with toxins and then coughs out. Tada, it worked! Thank you cold!

I don't mean that you should try to get sick by eating badly, increasing your stress, or avoiding sleep. Do take good care of yourself; it feels good to do so! But when the sickness does come, give it a chance to work. Maybe it's doing something really good for you. Rest, eat chicken soup, and let people take care of you.

Mainstream: Colds are the problem.
Naturopath: Colds are a symptom.
My radical view: Colds are a cure.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

WAYK Arabic 3 - Want Have Give Take

This time, we actually play a couple rounds, and talk about Want/Have/Give/Take.

You can play along a little here, but really you gotta lead your own game. See for more.

WAYK Arabic 2 - CraigsList Mine/Yours

As a followup to my initial What's That? video, I present a "Craigs List" of Mine / Yours / etc.

As before, this video is meant to plug in to a Where are your Keys game that you run, not to lead you in a game.  See to learn more.

Arabic words are often modified based on the gender of the person you're talking about. So, for example, "your"  is different for a boy or a girl. I don't know a good way to represent this in ASL. Ideally we'd develop some pidgin sign technique for this aspect of Arabic, which would apply through WAYK Arabic.
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