Don’t Burn Out

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14 thoughts on “Don’t Burn Out”

  1. Ben-
    This is just what I needed as I prepare for my fourth monthly class with my adult students. They never do the work needed to take their learning up a notch. While they are committed to coming, they just want me to open their heads and pour in the language without doing the work necessary to committing it to their knowledge and not just as an exercise in being Indian.

    But, I must admit that I too as an adult learner let life happen and don’t push myself to move ahead in my own learning.

    Recently our Master gathered the learning community together at her home. We had an intensive weekend where I realized I wasn’t so far behind the leader (oh those 4%ers). She developed a 6 week matrix for us finally that has us looking at reading and writing as well as speaking. So, all those conferences I went to over the summers have paid off in helping her too.

    I am grateful as always for what you’ve done here to open a forum so that we can learn and speak our minds. Courageous work! Thank you! Mvto!

  2. Hi Kate how long has it been? I miss you. It seems like ages since I was sitting there in Las Vegas and Susan Gross was there and you were saying brilliant things to us about reaching kids. Now, I have just a few questions:

    Can you expand on this:

    …they never do the work needed to take their learning up a notch….

    The reason I ask is because I don’t think they should have to work at all to learn a language. Did you? Just to review some key points: learning a language is a completely unconscious process and in the best of all classrooms there is not work being done on the conscious level. The deeper mind is doing all the hard work. All the students have to do is have the discipline* to not let their conscious mind get in the way during class, and they do that by focusing on the message and not the language.

    Therefore, our students should be allowed, in my opinion and based on what I have learned from Krashen’s work, to literally just sit there and enjoy focusing on interesting sounds and the images that are created with them in order to extract meaning from them. There should really be no work involved at all. It’s all on us, to create that flowing focus on the message in our classes.

    And then the other thing is that your Master has:

    …developed a 6 week matrix for us finally that has us looking at reading and writing as well as speaking….

    So the way I see it is that in languages for the first hundred hours at least, it could be a thousand or more, we focus only on doing the input skills of listening and reading, asking our students only to listen and read and not write or speak. That is the way we learn languages. After huge amounts of time spent listening, our students begin ever so slowly to speak (this is a natural process that cannot be forced requiring a really long time for the neurology to occur – just as small children can’t speak properly for YEARS and should never be forced to speak).

    Also after huge amounts of time spent reading, writing can occur. How many years does it take for a small child to write? Why would adults be any different? Because they are adults? They are not adults when it comes to the language – they are babies. And they can’t THINK their way into knowing it, because language acquisition occurs at the level of the unconscious mind. See the category “Unconscious” on the right of this page for more on that.

    *not all students have this discipline. I addressed this in the same article you commented on.

    1. Ben–
      It has been a long time! I miss you too! But as we say in Conscious Discipline, you are in my heart.

      I agree as language learners we have to hear the language to take it in unconsciously! You are so right. Unfortunately for our ENDANGERED language there isn’t much out on the web for us to listen to. We are counting on the handful of speakers left to get us the input to our baby ears and distance and technology often separate our opportunities to hear COMPREHENSIBLE input. I used for my learners a CD of our first three lessons so that they could listen at home, but few plugged it in.

      What the Master is doing is locating things on the web in our language and distilling some of that to us on a private link so we can listen from afar to speakers who are now no longer alive. So there is an assignment for us.

      She also has us skypeing as a group to her once a week and connecting with a language buddy once a week. I had set up language buddies for my class but there are really only two partnerships that are actively using that. One set is a mother & daughter-in-law, the other two are newly acquainted with one another, but are still building their skills at least once a month.

      As Krashen spoke to me a few summers ago. Once we are at a reading stage in our heads, we hear the words (hopefully not misspoken) and so reading can bump us up quickly. The reading issue with Mvskoke is that our verbs contain the who, what, and when all jumbled into one word. That makes it difficult sometimes to sort out and a dictionary almost impossible to use. His suggestion with an endangered language was to jump into that reading as quickly as possible to help me get a boost. It isn’t always Comprehensible (meaning understandable) nor is it always Compelling. I guess the compelling part comes from wanting to learn.

      There lies the rub. Why do you want to learn (after all who will talk to you)? And how much time and effort are you willing to put into your learning?

      I told my learners I was a toddler and they were babies. I asked them what they wanted to learn. I’ve focused my lessons at what they want to learn. And I’ve done it in little bites. I’ve tried to be SLOW, but I guess my SLOW is just frustrated at how SLOW they are to grasp and the fact that while they show up, they aren’t putting forth an effort regularly on their own. But my frustration shouldn’t be taken out on them you are right. Can’t slap the baby around!

      Today we will work once again or greetings and the who and what of the structures.

      I’m hanging in there and my word for this year is Renew. So I am renewing my subscription to this forum once again to continue learning. SLOWLY. My word for last year that I am carrying forward as well is Mindful. Thanks for reminding me to be mindful of what I am doing and keep at it.

        1. Sean –

          Kate Taluga teaches Myskoke in Florida. We met when I presented in Oklahoma three or four years ago at the Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Tribes Native Language Summit. Kate was there from Florida because her tribe was moved there following the Indian Removal Act of 1830. Kate should really address this (please clarify what I am saying Kate), but my own personal reaction to meeting with her and others from Oklahoma was more than sobering. It was kind of an opening of the heart. They knew, Kate knows, I figured out the point Kate made in an earlier comment today that comprehensible input is about the only way to get sleeping languages to wake up, but that the invaders did such a thorough job of stopping the use of their language that now in the 21st century there is precious little comprehensible input to be had. Like Kate said, she is a mere toddler with Myskoke and her students are babies. But then I lost touch with Kate until now. So this is a happy day. Those in the PLC who were in St. Louis in 2012 remember the impact Kate and the members of the Sauk, Chickasaw and Euchee tribes had on that conference. You can read more by Kate and about revitalizing native languages by clicking on this category:

          Especially moving is this video:


      1. Kate why didn’t I remember the special set of challenges you face in keeping Mvskoke alive? Mes apologies for the lecture. Oh boy! No comprehensible input available really, so what to do? Do you hear from the Sauk and Chickasaw people to see what they are doing? I have lost touch with them.

  3. So the update on Sauk/Fox is that Katie and company are teaching and presenting to Native Language Learners at conferences. They recently held their own one day which I did not attend–too far and too much money to fly there. My Master speaker/elder did go with her 4%er daughter-in-law. They came back with a lot of great ideas for our language learning community.
    First the presentation was on their Master/Apprentice program that Katie and Mosiah did with Jacob’s aunts. But, they did a lot of CI/TPRS that they’d learned from Ben and Jason F.
    Jacob has taken on another job within the language world and that is setting up for Bacone College their immersion Master/Apprentice programs for all different nations.
    That was all the news I could get from folks. Most of that was from the white daughter-in-law. So it looks like Sauk/Fox is alive and kicking butt.

    It is heart stopping when you look at how quickly these languages are being stopped. And yet at the same time, there are folks like myself who are old but trying to foster younger people in learning their original heritage language. I can only be a conduit. I doubt I’ll ever be fluent, but I did make it up to Novice High in the AFLACK (that is my acronym for the official FL teaching group).

    And yesterday my group went well. There were 9 at the table including me. I stayed in target for about 20 minutes before I broke into Wagina (English). Then it was in and out. And yes, my other Master sent grimmer sheets which I did hand out at the end and we reviewed. He is the linguist after all. But for the most part it was comprehensible input and a lot of it. Just not so compelling. Time for some stories.

  4. So last night my elder and my class got together. We had a few questions about the grimmer grammar that he’d sent. And we had caught his mistake. He happily replied, “See I told you that it was easy to understand. You got me.”

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