My name is Stephen and I was introduced to Chinuk Wawa and the Where Are Your Keys method about 2 years ago. I am a student at Portland State with Sky, Melissa, Alina, Stevie and have had some lessons with Evan. Although, I originally intended to simply satisfy my university language requirement with a native language, I have found the whole WAYK system very fun. Enough that I find myself practicing the language even when I am not speaking it with others. Speaking a different language makes me think in new ways and it feels good to improve over time and be a part of something that offers a completely new perspective on life.

One of my favorite parts of learning this new language is the need to pay attention to the intonation. It requires people to be much more emphatic in their speech and the theatrics needed to learn are captivating. Sometimes, props are required to learn the language and I have found myself watching my mentor pick up a table or walk around to clarify the meaning of a word. It’s like a game of charades and if you get what they are trying to convey, then you unlock a new level of the language.

All of the facets of the language were not originally evident. However, it is interesting to see, over time, the actual mechanics of the language and the different connotations the words have. It made me aware of how easily it can be to misunderstand someone talking in a different language, yet alone someone talking from a different location using a different dialect. It is really interesting because not all the words are spoken with an absolute stance, yet the inflection makes them absolute. The words are a reflection of deep societal values and I think discovering these values is what has been most appealing in my pursuit of learning this new language.

One of my favorite aspects of the WAYKs program is that I am able to learn a new language anywhere. In fact, the whole system provides a tool for interaction, not necessarily for the typical pursuit of profit, but simply to talk and interact with others. I enjoy my time learning the language because this type of interaction is lacking so much in today’s caffeinated society. Also, because it doesn’t take any expensive tools or books to do, it’s easy to strike up a session pretty much anywhere and at any time. My biggest hurdle is just being patient with myself, because I am the type of person that wants to open a book and learn as much as I can as quick as I can. However, I can’t do this with Chinuk Wawa because the words don’t translate perfectly. I need to wait until I am sure I know the word, its various meanings and where it fits into a sentence. I still have a ways to go, but I am grateful for the opportunity to be involved with a project that offers so much value for such little effort.

Written by Evan Gardner