New WAYK Logo

WAYK is thrilled to unveil our brand-new logo, comprising a white silhouette of hands making the “technique” sign against a green background:

WAYK logo

As many of you may know, “techniques” form the foundation of the WAYK learning system, and we wanted to create a visual identity that reflected that. Slowly but surely, we are working towards developing new materials so that WAYK players throughout the world can have the most up-to-date and thorough information about how they can get the most out of WAYK, and in the process, we have sought to update our visual identity.

logo2Rest assured that you will still see our friends, the collection of players around stump, as well as our signature orange colour popping up here and there. However, our new logo will soon take its place on the website, on our Twitter feed, and on new resources that we develop.

From now on, when you see the green “technique” sign, you’ll know it’s WAYK!

Let us know what you think about our new logo!

Technique: Angel Boss

TQ: angel on your shoulder is a clever little technique that provides support for learners whose turn it is to speak: all of the other players in the circle participate by signing, mouthing, and sometimes even speaking the words in tandem with the player whose turn it is. This combination of oral and verbal prompts often assists the speaking player, and we like to emphasize that this is not “cheating”–in fact, we encourage it!

TQ: angel boss allows the speaker to take control of the angels to meet his or her needs. For example, on my first day in Tsleil-Waututh (which was about the third month of the program for everyone else present), the entire group was enthusiastically “angeling” each other, with not only hand signs and exaggerated mouthing, but also with verbal pronunciations. Some people love this kind of support, but for me, I found the auditory stimulation overwhelming, and my brain had a really tough time focusing on what I needed to say. I mentioned that this was difficult for me, and David told the group that he had seen this before: while many people have no problems with this kind of assistance, some people (like me) have trouble with it, and actually have a “tell” of blinking their eyes rapidly, unconsciously alluding to the difficulty their brains are having with this overstimulation.

Someone in the group suggested I “boss” my angels, i.e., let them know exactly what I needed. I asked that Anders (who was directly across the table from me [as opposed to next to me] and whose pronunciation was very clear and slow) be my sole audible angel, and that he, along with everyone else, continue to provide visual cues by signing and mouthing the words. This was perfect–it provided me with the ideal amount of visual and audible cues to help me without overwhelming me.

I’d encourage players to think about their angeling needs and the needs of others in their groups, and watch out for “tells” like the rapid eye blinking. A flexible group that can adapt to the needs of its participants will help everyone learn better!

Post authored by Caylie

Why WAYK Works

You probably already knew that raw intellect isn’t enough to learn a language. Ever tried memorizing vocabulary and grammar rules? You might pass a test, but try having a conversation. “Knowing” a language and actually speaking it are two different things, in the same way as knowing musical theory and how a piano works doesn’t mean you can play. It’s only the conscious and purposeful utilization of knowledge that enables it to morph into an unconscious skill.

So how should we go about learning a second language?

Let’s say I’m a physiotherapist and I want to help someone learn how to walk again. I’ve studied all about muscles, what they’re made of, how they work, etc. I may convey my knowledge in the most eloquent of terms, but if that’s all I offer, my patient still won’t actually be able to walk. Unfortunately, traditional language teaching is often a lot like this.

So what should I do? I need to physically make the patient walk. More specifically, I need to coax my patient’s body back through the art of walking, by building the strength and memory of his muscles. Of course, it needs to be in easy stages. I have to guide the patient to make the right effort at the right time to make the next little bit of progress. Some technical information might help sometimes, but for the most part it is the act of physical repetition and a series of small but consistent successes that will build my patient’s unconscious ability to put one foot in front of another.

That said, why am I so enthused with WAYK?

Because it’s all about this kind of common sense. Physical meaning instead of abstract definitions. Real communication instead of purposeless exercises. Creativity instead of drudgery.

If you agree there’s something not quite right about cooping ourselves in bare rooms with books to learn something that was as natural as child’s play, I’m confident you won’t regret taking a look at Where Are Your Keys?

Post authored by Joel.

“It’s for the Language!”

One of the techniques in Where Are Your Keys? is called “Same Conversation.” By having the same conversation several times, covering the same vocabulary, grammar, questions, and responses, learners gain confidence in the words they are choosing, and are able to practice putting them together smoothly and correctly.

While Evan was teaching me Chinuk Wawa in Oregon, I convinced him to let us try out Podnah’s, a smokehouse barbecue restaurant in Portland that is rumoured to be the best in the city. The next day, as we considered what we wanted to accomplish for the day, we decided that a repeat visit to Podnah’s was necessary. “It’s for the language!” we slyly claimed, citing the “Same Conversation” technique as the reason we needed to return. Sure enough, I got to practice talking about my favourite meats! We even got in a little round of the “Translator” technique, when Evan asked me for a sharp knife in Chinuk and made me translate the request to our waiter.

We were charmed but also a little unsettled by the thought of the things we do “for the language,” and were certain that others have likely done funny or strange, but not always useful, things in the name of learning or protecting a language. Please share yours with us! Feel free to use the hashtag #itsforthelanguage—and we’d love to see accompanying pictures!

Post authored by Caylie

Being a Stealth Hunter in Another Country

When I moved to Israel this past year, I knew hardly anything about Hebrew, but I was determined not to let that stop me from living like an Israeli. I’ve been using WAYK for the last few years with friends on everything from Latin to Chinook Wawa, and I was ready to go stealth. No one in Israel knew WAYK techniques, and I knew I wouldn’t have time to teach the people in coffee shops and post offices as I passed through. Instead, I decided to use WAYK techniques (TQs) on everyone I knew, but secretly. This meant learning some key phrases fast. I started with ma ze? (What is that?) Armed with this phrase I could find out words like machberet, notebook; studentit, student; and most importantly, cafe hafuch for my morning espresso. Another key word was shuv, again, which helped me use the WAYK TQ for “again” without the sign. If my goal was to find out a new word (like cubiot, which was what I was creating when I diced tomatoes), I could do an elaborate set up, with a knife and tomatoes, and then ask, “What am I doing?” And get my word.

But my greatest asset, learned from WAYK, was fearlessness. I learned from WAYK that rather than being ashamed of my mistakes (How fascinating!), I can use them as tools to hunt new words. If I know what I wanted to say, but used words that I knew were probably wrong but were clear or set up well despite that, I could learn anything. For example, one day, I had made a new friend, and wanted to tell my roommates (all Israeli, and all previously instructed to only speak to me in Hebrew). I bravely told them asiti haver, I made a friend, knowing full well I was telling them something more like, “I built a friend out of clay or sticks,” and they replaced my faux pas with a new piece of information! It was actually rakashti haver.

The big difference between me and my fellow students that I’ve seen in my time learning Hebrew is that I am not scared to speak, and that I know how to hunt; that is, I know how to look for what I want. Armed with these skills, I’ve been able to become proficient in Hebrew in the space of 9 months. I can pay my bills, apply for jobs, and have conversations about politics and religion (popular topics there), all in Hebrew.

Post authored by Jenni.

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Speaking my Language

Even though I’ve been a student of Latin since 1993, I only ever really learned about the language. It is likely that many Latin teachers around the globe have encountered the same problem: being the student of a language for decades without ever using the language for it’s original purpose: communication. Latin is too often treated as a strange relic of a time gone by—something to examine through the glass of a museum display—and not what it really is: a language that has served a communicative purpose for thousands of years.

It wasn’t until 2011 that I first truly made use of the language I had been studying off and on for almost 20 years. I was filled with anxiety about the venture—what would it say about me if I couldn’t put together a comprehensible sentence in a language that I was supposed to know? I signed up for a week long Latin immersion experience (called a Conventiculum) and then tried not to think about it until right before I left. The first night when I arrived, everyone was still speaking English, but I overheard the most eloquent and idiomatic Latin conversation (it was between two men, whom I now know were among the world’s most fluent Latin speakers). Needless to say, it did not improve my own confidence. The next morning, one of these men, who had probably only learned about WAYK a week or so earlier ran my first real Latin immersion session. The very first things he taught us were how to get him to speak slower and louder. Even though I didn’t know it, I threw TQ “Slow” about 10 minutes into my first Latin immersion session, and it was the best safety net I could have had.

In the three years since then, I’ve gone to 6 more Latin immersion experiences, seen WAYK used in earnest, taught Latin and learned Chinuk Wawa using WAYK. I know now that any language learning experience I have, even if it doesn’t explicitly use WAYK is going to be something I can approach on my own terms. Although WAYK’s primary mission is to create an abundance of language teachers for languages that have few or none, a consequence of it’s methodologies is that language learners are empowered and can overcome their anxieties in the quest for fluency.

Click here to learn more about the 2014 Spoken Latin project in West Virginia. Post authored by Susanna.

Why You Should Intern for WAYK! by Julia


1) You’ll meet cool people.

    If you want to get to know really awesome people, working on language revitalization projects is a great place to meet them.  

    Together with my fellow intern Will Monroe, I spent this past summer in Kodiak, Alaska working with elders and learners of Kodiak Alutiiq.  I was blown away by the warmth, capability, creativity and humor of the team of individuals who dedicated their time to learning and teaching Alutiiq.  They were incredibly supportive and welcoming at every stage, from first getting my bearings on the island, to teaching me how to bathe in a banya and clean fresh-caught salmon (in Alutiiq!), to saying goodbye at the end of the summer.  

2) You’ll gain social, organizational and linguistic skills.

    WAYK challenges you and lets you shine.  You’ll get to polish your chops in the following arenas, at a bare minimum:

•Explaining what WAYK is and generating enthusiasm

    Hone your elevator pitch skills, your charisma and your handshake! When you become a WAYK intern, you’ll get invaluable experience representing an organization greater than yourself.  If you’re shy, prepare to step out of your shell.  The supermarket, a local high school, a restaurant… everywhere you go is an opportunity to reach out to potential learners.

•Creating and running rides

    Because WAYK is collaborative and ever-growing, you get to exercise your creativity while helping a particular language and enhancing the game.  Coming up with new rides for Alutiiq was one of the highlights of my summer; you get to think tactically about gameplay while infusing rides with a sense of humor and playfulness.  For instance, Will and I created a ride called “Ministry of Silly Walks” in which players each demonstrate an individualized wacky walk to illustrate the words gwaten (“like this”) and tawaten (“like that”).  It was fun to brainstorm, and even more fun to see people bring it to life!

•Handing it off: teaching how to teach

    One of the coolest parts of a WAYK internship is that it doesn’t end when you leave.  You’ll teach as many people as possible to do what you’ve learned to do– to create and run WAYK rides.  And then they teach more people.  And then the people they teach teach more people.  And then the people they teach teach more people… and before long, you have a lot of people learning and speaking the language.  Which is really cool, and good news for that language.

…And as an added bonus, you might find yourself fluent in a rare, fascinating language by the end of the summer!

3) You’ll see first-hand why language revitalization matters.

    A language is a cultural treasure trove.  It can provide keys to whole different ways of perceiving and conceptualizing the world.  It contains fascinating structures that can tell us more about how languages in general work.  For these reasons, I had a vague idea going into the summer that revitalizing languages mattered in a larger sense.  

    But it didn’t really hit home to me until I met the people to whom it mattered: the elders who wanted to hear their children and grandchildren speak to them in Alutiiq, and the members of the younger generation who wanted to learn.  Because ultimately, revitalizing a language is about serving a community– a community of past and future speakers who want to sustain a cultural heritage.  

    To me, this constitutes the single most compelling reason to care about the future of an endangered language: because other people care too, and they care a lot.

Thanks everyone for a great summer!

Contact for more info on upcoming events and opportunities.