And now, Evan’s follow up:

I am so excited for you Jay!
Learning your own language from your own elder… A wonderful source of pride for your entire family and especially your grandma! I can’t tell you the number of times I have heard of people looking at books instead of talking to their elders to learn their language.

It is interesting that it doesn’t matter which language you are about to learn… The important questions are how you will go about it. I would start with technique “what ever works”. If it works, use it. Use every resource you have, every technique, trick, bribe, what ever!

Yes it is true that you must be gentle with your elders. As a budding “language hunter” you will develop your skills to learn language just by spending quality time with your family. The trick is not to worry, if you set up the first day/interaction as a pleasant “chit chat” then it won’t seam like you are expecting your teacher to “do” anything but enjoy simple conversation.

The next time you have a conversation (lesson) with your grandma then it will seem more silly because the experience of the “same conversation” will start to set in. But now a purpose will emerge. She will see “what” you are doing even if at first she doesn’t see “how” you are doing it. She will play along, especially when your ability to speak increases… as if by magic (even though you are putting mental work into “limit”, “same conversation”, “shared experience”, “set up” and “obviously”). Let your understanding of the techniques be your guide and anchors through your self guided learning.

So my advice…

Take a print out of the Universal Speed Curriculum with you. Study it. Practice this simple exchange in English. Can you get people to have this USC (WAYK) conversation with you at a store, gas station, restaurant?

How do you start your “language hunt”?

Set up a conversation that you can have over and over again. Is there something she likes doing that she wants to do with you anyway? Is there some restaurant she always wants to go to?

Now set the stage with obvious props that you will touch and trade. Having coffee or tea is a great and simple exercise. A favorite meal is also perfect.

Get a tape recorder and ask her if you can tape your chit chats/sessions. If she says no then do it in secret if you find it ethical.

Conversation #1
Have your first conversation… Let it just be casual, natural, enjoy coffee and the time and conversation thread you travel.

Conversation #2
Have the “same conversation” in the “same setting” “set up” with the same objects “sharing another experience”.

But now you can begin to fill in the USC.

Can you say “What is that?” in your target language?
If you can’t then you must ask your grandma how to say “what is that?” in your language. When she tells you then put the sign with the words and start the game. Play WAYK “on” her.

Go around the table and ask “What is that?” to everything there.
Pull out a dollar and put it on the table and ask “what is that?”

Now ask her to quiz you and ask you “what is that?”

“Make her say” yes.
“Make her say” no.

That should be plenty for your second conversation.

When she figures it out you what you are up to either by watching you or by asking then you can play “with” her.

Conversation #3
“Set up” the “same conversation”.
Start impressing the socks off of her by asking her “what is that?”
Now work in “Craig’s List” me/mine while working in “want”


A few conversations in and you should be working through CL want/have/give/take

Use the sign language all the way through. Don’t worry about teaching her the signs… She will pick them up from you. The signs help so much that she won’t be able to help herself from wanting to use them while she is talking… Maybe her language already has signs for things… contract the signs and use them.

You are now “language hunting” your way to fluency while having casual coffee/tea conversations. Once you set the patterns then you will both start using the patterns/techniques to guide your conversations. Go slow. Limit. Enjoy! Then teach your kids everything you learn as soon as you learn it! Grandma will cry tears of joy when the little ones start in asking “what is that?” in her language.

Written by Evan Gardner

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