We see the “open source” nature of the fluency game as one of its biggest strengths – the fact that we look to no central authority for teaching or learning, but rather embrace an open process of improving how we teach and learn. An open process of improvement that prioritizes doing over theorizing.

Certainly Evan and I, with years of play and development experience, act as excellent accelerators for anyone learning the game; but with enough focus on the basic techniques (such as “technique”, “obviously”, “travels with charlie”, “set up” and “limit”), and a willingness to adapt the game for one’s own environment, one can truly begin to generate immediate benefit.

In the video below you’ll see Jay playing up to “What’s that?” with his grandmother, in her particular dialect of arabic. Jay displays extreme sensitivity to technique “accent”, the idea that no matter what you do, when you pick a “fluent fool”, you’ve picked their particular, unique dialect.

Also, keep in mind while watching, that we have never played WAYK with Jay in person. He’s learned everything he knows from the online videos.

If you’ve played with us in person, you’ll notice that Jay uses a different sign for ‘keys’, and for ‘dollar’. You may also notice that it doesn’t matter. Though this may put a speedbump in the way of transmitting a universal beginning “same conversation”, the fact that Jay went ahead and took ownership of inventing a sign or two (probably owing to the fact that we still have somewhat low-quality WAYK videos with some not fully visible signing) means he gets the benefit of playing the game, and it in any case still flows beautifully and simply, as he uses “same rotation”, clear consistent signing, a beautiful “obvious” “set-up”, and keeps “starting over”, “starting at the beginning”, to the extent that at 1 minute and 15 seconds into the video his grandmother laughs and imitates the rock sign.

This marks something of extreme importance; his grandmother has begun to learn sign language, without any prodding or pushing from Jay! Even just starting with one word, that (and the laugh that goes with it) shows the infectious quality of the game. Imagine what that laugh means for an elder; it means they can transmit more language longer, easier, and more satisfyingly, because it doesn’t feel like a chore, but rather a game. And we encounter this “laugh” moment from language elders all the time, whenever they play WAYK. What if you only have one fluent elder left in your language, like with Jay? Then this kind of easy, fun exchange becomes absolutely vital.

We all know too from language classes, that we understand more language than we can speak. This means Jay’s grandmother probably understands already several signs, and can correct him in conversation according to what he means to say (by watching his sign), rather than both of them fumbling over what the other may mean. Thus the benefit of technique “obviously”! “Obviously” Jay means ‘rock’ when he signs ‘rock’, and if he says the wrong arabic word, she can immediately and easily correct him.

I encourage everyone to try what Jay has; play to “What’s that?”, make a simple video, and share your experience of just how easy it feels to move language this way.

Written by Evan Gardner


Jay Bazuzi

This is interesting to read.

For a week before, I learned arabic for a bunch of stuff, and then distilled it down to what you see here. There’s a lot more complexity. There are 4 different ways to say “This is my key”. Plurals in arabic is 1, 2, and many. I needed to figure out what I could leave out for the first round, and still make sense to an arabic speaker.

A funny thing about my sign for “key”. Even though the name of the game is “Where are your Keys?”, I haven’t seen any videos that included a key. I don’t know what sign you guys use. I looked around online and found one. It’s two “K” signs, one on top of the other. (Now I think I found found the wrong sign, and maybe that means something else.) I’ve always struggled with the “K” fingersign, and nowdays the flexibility in my left hand is so bad that I can barely make it.

I intended to use ‘stick’ as well in my rotation. Since this is a reference video, not a play-along video, having more items in my video means you’re more likely to find a prop that works.

However, there isn’t a good arabic word for ‘stick’, at least as she knew. To keep things simple, I removed the stick from the rotation.

I have more footage, which I will edit and post at some point. We went all the way to want/have/give/take.

Alan Post

Thank you Jay for recording this! It is fantastic to watch a WAYK in this context. I’ve previously only seen it modeled, but had not yet seen it actually happen.


You did it exactly how I would do it; minimizing the complexity to smallest, cogent possible chunk. Sometimes, for very complex languages, we even just allow a bit of bad grammar to start us off with (much like you’d allow with a toddler, anyway!), so we can start conversing as soon as possible.

As for the keys sign, we use more or less the same sign here:

You put your left hand, palm to the right, out in front of you as if you plan to karate chop someone very short, and you give your open palm a noogie with your right hand. More or less. 🙂 In our ASL (and PSE) dialect, we sign “keys” this way. Your colliding ‘K’ may fit fine in someone else’s. When you meet another WAYK player, one of you will need to choose which sign to go with. This will happen anyway, sooner or later, for other signs, because of the use of technique “contract”. As for your lack of hand flexibility, Evan has the same problem with the “y” hand sign. You work with what you’ve got!

I tingle in anticipation of your next videos! Just really exciting.

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