Thursday, April 21, 2016

Learning Language with M&M's

There are many ways to learn a new language.

My sister, who is quite the linguist, learns one way (very easily, I might add).

Some learn by immersion.

Some learn from Rosetta Stone or other on-line programs.

We used one called Pilat in Africa.

And now we are using another program called GPA (Growing Participator Approach).

We "grow" in our participation of the language.  For example, on March 13th, we started language, and yesterday, April 14, was the first time we spoke.

Yep.  All we've been doing this whole time is learning vocabulary words by listening.

As of yesterday, we had heard/learned about 589 words!!!

It's much like a child learns to speak his mother's language.  He listens for about two years, making some sounds here or there before he starts putting sounds together to make words himself.

We just sped up the process from two years to 25 days.

I thought you might be interested in some of the things we do, so I took a picture of some "lessons."

Here is one where we were learning vocabulary words about things outside.

We start with one card, hearing the word several times, and then we add more cards, one at a time.  After each added card, our language helper, tests each one of us on all the ones on the table (even if there are only 2), so essentially, we are getting to hear them a LOT of times.

Once we felt like we had a pretty good handle on all of the words, we looked at the picture below, and our language helper would say a word, and we would point to it.

After doing that for about 5 minutes, then he adds verbs, like: "I go to the mountain.  I stand in the snow.  I sit beside the river.  I walk on the sidewalk," and each time he says a sentence we choose the picture of the verb off the table (not shown here) and put that verb on the noun on the picture.

After doing that for 10 minutes, we would add adjectives: "The tired man looked at the sun.  The crying woman washed her hands in the river.  The old man sat on the roof and looked at the sun."

Confused yet?

Of course, by this time, we knew all the prepositions (in, beside, between, on, under, etc) and we had studied the adjectives (sleepy, hungry, tired, sad, happy, etc), so it just kept adding to what we already knew.

At the end of the lesson, we would make a video of all the new vocabulary so we could listen again in the evening.

It is difficult to hear and understand sometimes, but still, easier than speaking.

Another way we learn is through a book we have with pictures.  Our language helper will look at the pictures and tell us how the conversation might go in his culture.  For example, the page on the left shows a person sneezing.

Yep, in other languages, there are certain things you do or don't do when person sneezes.

The second series shows a person asking the time

The third series shows someone interrupting two people to ask a question.

You get the idea.

Then, once our helper discusses all the cultural nuances with us, we record him pointing at each series and saying what each person would say in each situation.

This video show us learning colors with M&M's, pencils, and cards.

Then, some days, we cover the table with all the items we can (they won't all fit), and our language helper will put random sentences together about anything, and we have to find the pictures that match what he is saying, from washing dishes, to eating food, to picking up clothes, to understanding the parts of the body (the word for nose is "kapoo" - pretty fun, huh?  And the word for mouth is "doe," which is what my kids call my mom, so that one should be easy to remember.)

We get excited when there's a "free word," like "plies" for pliers, "tip" for tape, "lampa" for lamp "potata" for potato or "kittlee" for kettle.  It's also nice when we hear something sort of familiar.  To say "this is a broom," it sounds like "owa jessica."  

And the color purple was the same as "purple" in another language we studied a little last year.

One thing I didn't expect was to be able to use anything we learned in Africa.

But the Lugbara had borrowed a lot of words from Arabic, so the words for "time," "okra," "pen," and "pencil, "for example, have been VERY close to what we learned when we were in Arua.

This isn't conclusive, but it will give you some idea of the kinds of things we do each day.

And that's how you learn language with M&M's!!

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