For any thing that we want to learn (or revitalize), we first need to open up a regularly occurring space for it in our lives.
This first step, even if you don’t quite know what to do next, opens up all the possibilities. It gives you a learning laboratory in which to explore and play. At the beginning, just regularly schedule a time to play “what is that?”. Play until you wear out the game (we find this happens within 45 minutes with a strong game leader, and as soon as 15 minutes with new folks leading their own game). Then have tea and cookies.
This approach stems from techniques “bite-sized pieces” (which encourages always finding the easiest, smallest, most accessible next step) and “fluency” (which encourages playing with that next, easiest piece until you do it effortlessly and fluently, as opposed to playing until you think you ‘know it’).
In our videos, and in our demonstration games, we have a lot of fun taking new players from zero to “Want/Have/Give/Take” in 45 minutes – but don’t let this whirlwind tour of the game fool you! One of the most fundamental techniques, “accordion”, directs you to take a small piece of language and streeeeeetch it out (like an accordion), rather than flying by it at breakneck speed, as we do in our high-energy demonstration games. There we only have one chance to show the power of the game, so we give it our all; but on your own time, you need to go deep, and to fluency.
So, “what’s that?”, a question we pass over rather quickly in the videos, becomes an entire game unto itself. We ask it with every emotion and attitude we can dig up; happy, sad, shocked, disappointed, angry, suspicious, nervous, snobby, humble, disgusted, flirty, and on and on (of course we have a “Craig’s List“ of all of these…but feel free to make up your own for now).
Both of these concepts – just getting together for a regular conversation, and making that conversation as basic as possible (and then having tea and cookies as soon as you run out of brainpower!), express the fundamental attitudes of the game. When you want to learn something new, and bring something into your life, then above all else, do something, do it regularly, and whatever you do, keep it simple (adding just one bite-sized piece at a time).
I just realized that this is missing for me, and it has stopped my learning. The Arabic speakers in my family live far away from me, and I don’t meet them often.
I guess I need to lead some games with my kids.
I highly recommend it. I’ve written a blog post that should appear Monday about addressing this in a more general sense, but I can’t overstate the need for a regular space for conversation!
As a follow up, I have different “same conversations” with different people. A couple of examples:
For my friend Peter, we have a “same conversation” walking up and down a nearby active street. We essentially have designed “the Walk” for my neighborhood.
For my girlfriend, whenever we get in the truck to go on trips, or do errands, that triggers a “same conversation” too.
It’s important to find that one regularly occurring space or situation upon which you can ride your language play – then the situation itself will remind you to play. I find that just walking down my street (or getting in a car) now makes me relive conversations in other languages, keeping it all fresh and alive.
[…] you can commit to holding a regular space for conversation, that’s when the magic really […]