Signing in WAYK

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Dec 18, 2015, 2:20:03 AM12/18/15
to Where are Your Keys?
Hi everybody!

I'm a french guy living in China speaking fluent mandarin, and I have been experimenting with using WAYK to teach some newly arrived colleagues some of it.

The group is small (3 people including me), and I have had some problems with the use of sign language.
I have tried to use the Chinese Sign Language (Shanghai Dialect) instead of ASL because of it being a better fit grammatically, and because I thought it would be useful were we to meet some Deafies later.
I do not have a lot of experience with WAYK, and it my first sustained and consistent use of it in a "real" environment (as in "not with my wife")

So far, my conclusions have been the following:

The positive aspects of it:

- It makes the game more fun and easier to engage in especially for people "that are afraid of learning".

- It keeps an atmosphere of silliness which helps reduce anxiety. Although it might not be enough. Some people are still very afraid of making mistakes.

- It helps "pulling people through it" without having to go back to L1. Although I haven't been able to leverage on that that much because they are not that comfortable with most of the signs yet.

- It does help a little with establishing meaning, although some signs are sometimes pretty removed from the concept they try to point to (at least it is the case with Chinese Sign Language)

- It is a good way to decompose sentence in meaning blocks. The problem is that people thus expect one-to-one mapping between the meaning and the signs, which might be a problem with particles (for example the possessive de 的)

The problems I have met with it though:

- It is extra learning, and I've had some people struggling to keep up both the talking and the signing. So I'm wondering if the mental resources should not be kept for the talking instead..

- It is a second source of mistakes on top of the talking. I've had a person stop talking because her hand "made a mistake". That person is really self-conscious when talking and low on confidence, and I guess I'm having trouble creating a forgiving enough environment for her to feel secure - but it seems that type of problem is hard to prevent.

- It tends to not be easily accepted by seasoned language learners, who tend to think it is just a waste of time and tend to dismiss it as amateur looking.

- It slows the general fluidity (fluency? - big question) because hands move more slowly than the tongue. Maybe this problem is particularly obvious with mandarin, in which words are monosyllabic or bi-syllabic most of time, so the phoneme/sign ratio makes it hard to keep up with the hands, and signs are easily botched.

I'd like to have some insights on how you guys might have used it, and what your thoughts are on how to improve its efficiency.
I also do have a few questions:

- When do you feel is the right time to not use it as much? Do you do it on a word to word basis, after each word seems to have been mastered sufficiently well? Or Is it a speed thing? Or is it unconsciously dropped when it has overstayed its welcome?

- Do you feel it is more important to slow the game to give people more time to sign (and maybe increase their retention by muscle memory) or to push fluidity and fluency (if it can be sustained by people's level obviously), even if that means that some sign will be botched and/or bypassed altogether?

- How hard should one try to keep everybody stick to signing, when faced with obvious discomfort towards it?

- Do you have any references on its efficiency (I guess this is tied to TPR research), and in which ways do you feel it is the most useful?

- In general (not related directly with signing) how do you deal with groups of varying levels of self-perceived proficiency? By that I mean that some learners feel they got the point after 2 reps, whereas others feel they need 9 to feel secure, although both actually probably need 6. If I do 6 the "fast" learner feels bored, whereas the other person feels she's being rushed. I have thought about giving more responsibility to the "fast" learner, by for example setting up a "Fluent Fool" framework, but I feel he might want to push through and not abide by "everybody together" principle.


Zachary Sarette

Dec 19, 2015, 8:36:52 AM12/19/15
Technique 3's helps. If you feel that people think that it's too childish, just remember that they have to play in the language to fully acquire it. It's training for fluency, not simply word recognition. I used WAYK to teach some of my Japanese students Korean recently. 

 The signs aren't so important, honestly. I'm not fluent in ASL or JSL, but sometimes I used the ASL online dictionary in order to make the signs more obvious or clear. Sometimes I've dropped signs, but usually not, because mostly I'm still doing a lot of pulling. Especially the overconfident ones. They will feel that they don't need the signs, then they stumble, and I sign it out to pull them through it. How fascinating! :D

I could say a lot more, but I think other people should weigh in as I'm no expert in WAYK. I wish I could use it outside of my Human Communication club at my Junior high here in Japan. :)


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Lunar Memory

Dec 20, 2015, 9:01:42 PM12/20/15
to Where are Your Keys?

It's a little off-topic, but I would love to talk with you about your use of WAYK in Japan. Have you used it for English instruction? I currently live in Japan and found WAYK while reading up on TPR. I'd love to know what your experiences using WAYK have been like here... also about what area are you located in?

In response to the original topic - I think the creating a game-like free atmosphere is one of most important part of WAYK. One has to realize that mistakes are conducive to learning - so it is the teacher's responsibility to foster that environment. It's way easier said than done, but it might be valuable to explore some activities where mistakes are expected and celebrated.

Zachary Sarette

Dec 21, 2015, 7:15:14 AM12/21/15
English instruction, not so much. Because I'm merely an assistant language teacher. They usually like that communicative stuff that doesn't really work. And they are very strict on which grammar point to go over and teach properly. Since I don't have a license to teach English, I can't really go off and do my own thing, unless I teach private lessons or run my own English conversation school. English is pretty much taught like math or any other subject. The poor students will be confused and have no chance at learning English, where the more well off students will have more access to less government prescribed formulas. Much how it is in many countries around the world. :(

Zachary Sarette

Dec 21, 2015, 7:16:32 AM12/21/15
Also, you can skype me at zachary.w.sarette

I'm free in the evenings usually. 

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