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.