DIY language learning

Language Acquisition Made Practical

This handbook teaches you how to learn any language on your own, in the language’s home turf, by teaching a native speaker to be your teacher.

The trick is to instruct your local agent to teach you something he/she is hardly aware of — the structure of their language. You will supply the plan and so are teaching yourself through them. Comprende? It’s done slowly, naturally, and playfully – the way you learned English. Your assistant doesn’t even have to speak your language.

You begin using a few easy words, trying to make as many mistakes as you possibly can, entertaining the folks in the marketplace or anywhere else they’ll put up with your blabberings. Then you systematically add additional words in steady daily use, guiding your guide in what you want to learn next. This well-tested method was devised by missionaries trying to learn languages lacking scripts, courses, or guidebooks, and works great for dialects, or indeed any language you want to learn.

The text of this workbook shows you how to construct your own exercises that fit the language you are after and later how to discover its grammar by yourself. The goal is multiculturalism, inseparable from multilingualism. Like realizing that you don’t need a degree in anything to build your own house, learning that you can become fluent in another language without a course or classroom is deliciously radical.

If you like this approach check out other online texts by missionary linguists which take the same approach of enabling an intermediate to become your language teacher.

This DIY process works best on location, rather than before you arrive.

— KK

Language Acquisition Made Practical
E. Thomas Brewster and Elizabeth Brewster
1976 (1998 printing); 384 pp.

Available from Amazon

or $15 from Lingua House

Author’s website:
Lingua House
P.O. Box 704
Pasadena, CA 91102 – 0704
626/ 500-6278

There’s more of the same approach (different book) here at SIL, also a language site for missionaries.



To prepare for a Comprehension drill, you need to plan a list of related activities and have Kino make up a 3 x 5 card with activities written in his language. The activities for the first day might include sit, stand, squat down, clap your hands, scratch your leg, stretch your arms. In the drill, Kino will instruct you in his language to do an activity; for example, "stand up." He will stand up and you observe and then mimic the action by standing yourself. Do not say what he says. Kino then introduces the second item, performing the activity while giving you the verbal instructions. You mimic the activity - for example, "sit down." Kino then again gives the first instruction, "stand up," and you respond by standing. Then Kino can give the instructions without acting them out himself - "sit down," "stand up," and you respond to his verbal directions. When doing comprehension drills, respond rapidly without hesitation and make a distinct robust response with your body.




Production of Modifiers
Kino says a sentence with modifiers. You repeat the basic sentence without modifiers.

Kino: "The blue jug with the pretty flowers is on the high wooden shelf."
You: "The jug is on the shelf."

Then reverse roles -- he says a simple sentence and you embellish it.

Kino: "This is a book."
You: "This is a good book about the people of this country."
Kino: "This is a candle."
You: "This is a red candle."

Look around you. You can talk about virtually any object, then restate it with modifiers.




By using these sentence patterns you can get extra drill on new vocabulary while talking with people. You can touch an object and ask "What is this?" They may answer, "This is Kefala." You can then touch a similar object and ask "Is this Kefala?" and they will answer positively or negatively.
If you are talking with children, this can become quite a game and give you lots of practice with new words. Children will often catch on, and participate with you in the game. First, you can ask the questions while they answer. Then you can trade roles and let them ask the questions while you try to answer. If you enter into the spirit of the game, everybody can have fun while you practice vocabulary.



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