Peter leads a “Colors and Numbers” game

1 hour, 50 minutes, and 53 seconds.

[direct download]

Evan Gardner, Willem Larsen, Peter, and Joel interview each other on Chinuk Wawa Night (Chinook Jargon). Though this episode is almost two hours long, we really encourage you to  hang in there and soak it all up; many vital issues came up that should further illuminate the play of WAYK, and the goal of running your own language game night.

1. Technique “Obviously!

  • Evan ran to the dollar store to get the most “obvious” crayon props.

2. Technique “Colors and Numbers/Sesame Street

  • Peter is the master of leading this conversation.

3. Technique “Squatter’s Rights”

  • Adding more and more language complexity, almost in spite of technique “limit“.

4. Technique “Full Sentence Question and Answer
5. Technique “Push/Pull
6. Technique “Mentoring Language

  • Everyone is still working on changing the learning culture of the Chinuk Wawa attendees into the full-blown WAYK culture. Formerly the class was housed in a location that was highly influenced by the traditional academic environment.

7. Technique “Copycat

  • It’s a “copycat” game, not a learning game.

8. Technique “Full

  • They update the definition of “full” – it now includes when someone pulls out a notebook, or asks for a translation, that too means they’re “full“.

9. Technique “School Night/Game Night

  • They troubleshoot how to help players transition from more academic environments, back to the vitality and freedom of WAYK.

10. Technique “Colors and Numbers

  • Evan and Peter discuss technical aspects of how best to run the conversation.
  • Because Peter mastered and pioneers the “colors and numbers” conversation, something magical happened that night.

11. Technique “Ten Feet
12. Technique “Pull me through it

  • Joel talks about his first time learning Chinuk, that night, and how he “language hunted” Mary, his game leader, improving her game play through “modeling“.

13. Technique “Self-organization

  • Due to the Chinuk Wawa players reaching a tipping point of WAYK fluency, Evan was finally able to have a Superior conversation with Henry, our “Fluent Fool” – meaning he was able to “language hunt” to improve his own proficiency.
  • The room self-organized, everyone peeling out into games of their appropriate proficiency levels.
  • Through use of “Ten Feet“,  games impinged on each other a lot less.

14. Technique “Let’s Get This Party Started

  • Have a game already going, as players are arriving. It starts energy out very high, and saves time.
  • You don’t want people walking into a silent room at the beginning of the night.
  • If your language night starts at 4pm, start your first game at 3:59pm.

15. Techniques “Learning Buddy“, “Newbie in the Lunatic Fringe“, “It’s a Copycat Game

  • A new, older, native american player named Max had his first WAYK Chinuk night, so Willem adjusted game play to match exactly what he needed, as much as possible.
  • At one point, Justin recommended Willem lead a game just in English and ASL for Max, no Chinuk Wawa yet.

16. Technique “Cycle Full/Inner Circle Full
17. Technique “Full

  • Max called “Full”, retired to the “lunatic fringe“, and suddenly become much more confident in the game play, voicing and signing confidently.

18. Technique “Return to Superior

  • Willem responds to Peter, regarding why is important adults have time, during game night, to speak at a Superior conversation, whether in the target language (Chinuk Wawa), or, due to lack of proficiency in the target language, the mother tongue (in this case English) is fine too.
  • Adults need to refresh themselves by having intermittent Superior conversations, to come up for air from all the “Sesame Street” conversations.
  • You might balance a night through 95% immersion in target language, 5% Superior conversation in English (or whatever your mother tongue is).
  • It’s like holding your “intellectual breath”, being immersed in the WAYK  play.
  • It’s okay to have a Superior conversation about the target language, once you’ve finished game play – you might do some translating, but in this case, it will help the adult players refresh and recharge.
  • Joel speaks how his work with special needs kids creates this same kind of feeling; immersion in a world at a child’s proficiency, making him desperate for Superior conversations after work.

19. Technique “Ten Feet

  • Evan and Willem further troubleshoot how to separate noisy WAYK games.

20. Technique “Newbie Gets the Right of Way

  • Games with newbies get priority, in terms of playing quietly around them.

21. Technique “the Walk

  • Evan talks about dealing with sketchy situations while on “the Walk“.
  • Big tree and little tree, big white dog and little white dog – great coincidence, WAYK at its finest – knowing to take advantage of such situations.
  • Advantages of the quick, short “Walk“.
  • Willem considers “the Walk” an advanced technique, due to the inherent chaos of going outdoors. It can “sorry, charlie” and “full” players very quickly, if you don’t keep it short, sweet, and energetic.

22. Technique “Language Hunter

  • Joel has attended our 2-day WAYK workshop, and knows “language hunting“. He talks about his game with Mary, a recent regular at Chinuk night.
  • Evan had coached Mary on leading the game with Joel.
  • Mary had her own kit of limited objects; beads, thread, a needle. She teaches beading (and other skills) as a volunteer at Fort Vancouver.
  • Joel had never yet actually language hunted a “fluent fool“; he’d seen how it might be done, but never done it. [he attended one of our first workshops where we didn’t yet include field role-plays of “language hunting” “fluent fools“.]
  • Willem walked by Mary and Joel’s game, the table’s objects looked a bit like the contents of a junk drawer; he encouraged Joel to “limit” the objects, and use other techniques according to his own counsel of the WAYK techniques he’s trained in.
  • Joel’s first instinct was to turn off his “language hunting“, and just follow Mary’s guide.
  • Essentially, Joel improved Mary’s technique use (“Set-up“, “Limit“, “Sorry, Charlie“), while she taught him Chinuk. Again, who taught who? WAYK again confounds the hierarchical expert-student relationship.
  • Evan asks Joel if he got to “Make me say yes…“, “Make me say no…“, “Mine/Yours“.

23. Technique “Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

  • Willem talks about the last “language hunting” sense to develop; a sense of discomfort when “set-up” isn’t “limited” and “obviously!” enough.
  • Getting pickier, pickier, and pickier, due to leading games.
  • Let out your inner control freak.
  • Crayola needs to sponsor us. We need better Crayon props.
  • We control everything we can; so the stuff we can’t control feels maximally fun, a healthy dynamic chaos.
  • Mary thought Joel had played Chinuk WAYK before; Joel meant to say he had just played WAYK in ASL and English.

24. Technique “We’ll All Get There Together

  • Two of our WAYK community, one from Portland (Sara), one from Vancouver (Cheyenne, Dustin Rivers’ sister), bumped into each other at an Ethnobotany conference, not knowing they both played WAYK.
  • They didn’t sit down and share language, which means we haven’t built the skills in yet for distant WAYK players to bump into each other and swap language. Sara could have learned Squamish language, and Cheyenne could have learned Sara’s German!
  • Our dream is to have WAYK players accidentally bumping into each other, and swapping language, all over the world.
  • Joel tells a story about how Mary kept “pulling him through it“, in spite of her reservations.
  • After the game, Mary tells Evan she needs bigger (more “obviously!”) beads. Yay Mary!

25. Technique “WAYK Eye on the Straight Guy”

  • Willem wants to put a tablecloth on everything now. He thinks WAYK has made him a better decorator.
  • Solid, clear colors, and simple surfaces.

26. Technique “We’ll All Get There Together

  • Evan feels so good that he got to finally have a superior Chinuk conversation on Chinuk night, because other people stepped into the MC roles, as their WAYK fluency role has increased.

27. Technique “Do Food

  • Evan remarks that our food is getting shabby. There is indeed a technique for the ideal WAYK food layout, for learning and teaching.
  • Evan wants to do a podcast on food and learning.

28. Techniques “Superior proficiency“, “Contract

  • Evan and the other Superior speakers got a chance to “contract” a new Chinuk word for ‘handcuffs’.

29. Technique “We’ll All Get There Together

  • 7 year old Jackson has begun really jumping into games, and helping out. Children are an integral and necessary part of Chinuk night!

30. Techniques “Most Successful Moment“, “What would you do differently next time?
31. Technique “Technique!

  • Evan reveals game leaders and players aren’t marking techniques very often, including himself. Willem says: “well I am!”.
  • There apparently is a hitch in transmitting the culture of WAYK to the Chinuk Night players.
  • Willem admits he has a history of prioritizing language proficiency over teaching “language hunting“.
  • They troubleshoot this issue. Making announcements? A special technique focus for each night, like letters/numbers on Sesame Street?
  • Willem: “every game need to starts out with the words, “techniques are the rules of the game. If I mark a technique, it means I’m showing you a new rule.”

Written by Evan Gardner


Jay Bazuzi

Regarding getting people to call out techniques: would it work to have a language night dedicated solely to WAYK skills? Like a mini-workshop.


To fix the problem of crayons rolling away: there are triangular crayons. Crayola also has an “anti-roll” crayon with one flat side.

Alternately, you could drag them across a sidewalk to create a flat side.


I get the need to help people make the transition from classroom mind to WAYK mind, but what exactly is the Technique: of School Night / Game Night? How do you apply it?



Some of the techniques falls under the category of “reframing what we’re doing”. I.e., “this isn’t a learning game, it’s a copycat game”, and so on.

“School Night/Game Night” is a way of reframing what we’re doing when we play WAYK. “Yes, on some other night, perhaps you’re “learning French” in a classroom, with books and paper, but tonight, you’re just “playing french”. There’s no learning here; it’s game night!”

Since WAYK is so counterintuitive, half the effort you expend in teaching the game can be through reframing. Usually the older, more schooled, the player, the more reframing they need.

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