A is for Absorption! So how do we get these old brains of ours to learn new tricks? By old, I’m mostly referring to the language part of our brains that hasn’t had new work for quite a few years now! The human brain is amazing, but we’ve had to shake it up a bit to get it going! Hopefully, we can give you a glimpse into our day to day and maybe take away some of the mystery that shrouds this huge task that’s ahead. By the way, as a preemptive warning, this is long and detailed, so grab a snack or a glass of iced tea!
First off, we are in Stage 1 of language learning (there are 4 different stages). Stage 1 roughly lasts 12 weeks or until we’ve accumulated about 500 language hours. The theme is learning about the “Common and Familiar,” which means the common objects around us that are used in every day life. Our handy guide book is called the BEC–Becoming Equipped to Communicate. It has each lesson mapped out with what we should try to learn for that day (ex: common animals, body parts, plants, household items, etc and verbs that go along with them).
Remember! Everything we’re doing now is meant to be replicated later when we learn an unwritten language, so even now our learning will be less formal and classroom-oriented, since we won’t have those options later on and will have to rely on learning from people around us.
Back to our guidebook, the BEC. It really is only a guidebook, therefore requiring us to do a decent amount of planning and prep work to be ready for each week’s lessons, as well as adjusting some of the content as needed. Overall, it’s a great tool to make sure we’re covering all of our bases!
Our target–the nitty gritty (skip this if percentages bore you!). Each stage has it’s own goals, but right now, we’re following some basic guidelines. We’re trying to log 40 or more culture/language hours a week–it’s easy to get 40 if you just spend time around people, so right now our numbers are much higher, especially without any babies yet! Ideally, 50% of that would be us out and about in the community, whether it’s visiting or shopping or exploring something new. Another 30% should be spent learning new vocabulary with a helper, as well as the time it takes to practice and review. All that’s left is 10% that should be used to process or putting our freshly learned items into our culture/language software (for review and such) and 5% to plan all of our sessions for the week. And the extra 5% is because there are always required meetings and such that we have to attend!
The Daily Routine:
TPR (Total Physical Response). So about 4-5 times a week (for 2 hours each session), we have a language helper come to our house for and work on those BEC lessons with us. This is what it looks like:
We use pictures to learn most of our nouns. This means when we’re out and about, we have to snap photos of the things we see that we need to learn. For animals, we walked around our neighborhood and snapped photos here and there of chickens, turkeys, pigeons, dogs, cats, insects, etc. When we visited a tofu factory, we snapped shots of all sorts of baskets and containers for a different lesson. After sniffing our way to a pushcart, we asked the man making delicious crepes if we could take a few photos while he made our snack. You get the picture! (sorry, terrible pun, I know) Overall, the best learning tools are not just photos we stage or clip art, but things we see in real life around us. Our aim is 30-40 nouns each day.
We take pictures for common actions as we’re around town, or do or a variety of charades to learn helpful verbs. Verbs are a bit more difficult and 15 is about the maximum for our brains on any given day. We try to physically act out the verbs to help or play a charades type review game where we have to move objects around the room, sit and stand, open and close doors, etc. That’s why it’s called Total Physical Response! The physical part really does make it easier to lock words and concepts inside our brains.
Processing. After our helper leaves, we take their recordings of our new words and input them into our culture and language software. It usually takes an hour or so.
Exposure/Cultural Events. We try to get out for a few hours each day by experiencing some form of culture, whether it means buying fruit from a stand and trying new foods…or maybe it’s looking at multiple stores to find a door closer to keep the mosquitos from getting past the screen to your very edible, pregnant self. (Side note- the mosquitos won’t even look at Payton when I’m anywhere in the vicinity.) All of these activities come with profound amounts of language immersion and having to practice communicating at what ever level you might find yourself on a given day. For me (Grace) I spent lots of time talking with our house helper in 1/4 English/hand signals, just enough to make communication possible at our level.
Practice. Sometimes we use the computer to review with pictures and audio. Usually we also practice with our neighbors and say new things or talk about the crazy turkey that likes to chase motorbikes and people as they try to make it down the street.
Keeping track of things. Believe it or not, we actually keep time sheets. It helps us to record how we’re spending our time and see if we’re getting enough hours in each particular category. This also helps our language consultants to get us back into balance if we hit a wall in language study. Since we are being financially supported, it also is a way of being good stewards of our time and putting in a solid block of hours each week.
Classroom. We will get about 4 hours of formal study a month for this first stage. This will help us work on basic conversation and grammar. We just had our first session today and enjoyed it!
Other things that fill our time. Right now we have team meetings, all group activities, orientation and a few other random items that also get put into our schedule and time sheets. Pretty soon we’ll have a homeschooling workshop to attend, even though baby has yet to make his appearance. All of these things make for full days indeed, but we love having a task always in front of us as well as the constant reminder of why we’re here! We have to be patient as it’s not a fast process to learn a language and culture. We also have to draw from God, who is our true source of strength for every day.
Hopefully this helped you to get a better look inside of our current world of culture and language study. Onward and upward!