I am just a few lessons into my year long plunge into the Japanese language and I have already had a dream with Japanese words sloshing about 🙂 Although I have just started this journey, I feel like I am already getting some insights into my own practice as a language teacher. First of all, I love working with One Word Images (OWIs) to create a concrete object of conversation. It has helped me feel out how the Japanese language sounds and, unlike learning a few words out of context, I am already developing an early paradigm of Japanese grammar through the natural process of acquisition. Word order and these little particles are sliding into place, often I mimic them incorrectly in these first few hours of acquisition, but that is to be expected. I am feeling pretty good.
However, as a Spanish teacher I had never sensed how the first scripted questions of the OWI process leads to adjectives that are not particularly useful. Well, I always knew that the questions led to a whimsical initial vocabulary, and I have no problem with that… but why am I talking about colors so much? Physical descriptions are okay, but describing the physical environment is not a high-frequency skill needed by language learners! As a result, in the coming lessons I am beginning to explore changing the initial questions in the OWI process. As a learner I find it useful to have a predictable framework of questions around the unpredictable language of the tutors. I like being able to observe how different tutors answer the same questions but, rather than bringing forward language about colors and size, I want to ask questions that calls forth high frequency actions (i.e. the Super 7 and eventually the Sweet 16 verbs).
The interesting experiment that I will be conducting in the next few months is to determine how quickly I feel comfortable expanding out from the Super Seven to the Sweet Sixteen verbs. If you are unfamiliar with these basic building blocks of a communicative curriculum, take a look at this blog post I wrote about applying the concept to my Spanish classes.