"A Few Simple Ideas for New Language Learners" Reviewed by:Greg Thompson for SIL International

It might seem odd, when we have such a small number of simple activities to share, that we should devote a whole activity to a single book that you'll have to order if you want to do the activities. But Moran's Lexicarry (details above) is the best single all in one language learning resource that we have come across. Now the nay sayers will rise up and shout, "But it is too culture specific." Well, as soon as they produce better tools that are more appropriate to specific parts of the world, we'll stop recommending Lexicarry for those parts of the world. For reasons we can't figure out, we decided to demand considerably less than perfection in such matters. And actually, the pictures are plain enough that in many instances culture specific changes could easily be made using a pencil.

The first lengthy portion of Lexicarry contains comic style story strips. Typically there are three frames per story, and the stories have comic style bubbles with the words missing. The stories illustrate approximately sixty common language functions and communication situations. During our first month, we like to concentrate on learning to understand, and so we can use the story strips in the manner of simple activity 1.

Our native speaker friend begins by telling us what each person might be saying in the stories and then asks us questions like "Who is saying, 'May I help you?'; who is saying, 'I'm sorry'?". In a few moments, by using activity 1 with the Lexicarry, we can recognize ten new useful expressions. But simple activity 2, really kicks in once we start talking more (in month two). You can still begin the Lexicarry activity as with activity 1, but then adding a talking step. You learn to understand half a dozen new story strips (the number that can typically be viewed at once). You each take your turn at pointing in response to your friend's questions. Then you have your race. Finally, and this is the new step, you can each take a turn at trying to tell each of the half dozen story strips. You don't tell them verbatim from memory. Rather, you tell them in your own words as best you can. It is a struggle, but your native speaker friend helps you out at every step by expanding or recasting your broken utterances. For us, once again, we get to do this four times, if we wish, each taking a turn while the others watch and intently listen. If you are all alone, then you really will want to have three or four separate friends to visit and do this with. And/or you can tape record your visit and listen to the tape over and over.

That's it for activity 2. Simple, eh?

So now you're growing this huge vocabulary of concrete nouns and verbs (and adjectives too), using activity 1, and you're learning all sorts of useful things to say in activity 2. But the world of experience that you are communing around is not just a matter of objects and actions, or nice things to say in social situations. It is a story in the making. And so you might as well start learning to relate language to stories. But they need to be stories that unfold as you talk about them. You are not nearly at the point where you can cope with stories about what you cannot see.

Greg Thompson SIL International

The purpose of SIL International (formerly known as the Summer Institute of Linguistics) is to work with language communities worldwide to facilitate language-based development through research, translation, and literacy.