Method in Focus: Where Are Your Keys?

Have you head of “Where Are Your Keys?” before? It’s an interactive, collaborative, and engaging new method of language learning.  It’s also fast paced and incorporates sign language as a bridge, so even complete language novices can quickly pick up on vocabulary, grammar, and syntax.  Where Are Your Keys? approaches language learning as a game, which is quite different from the traditional approaches of “classroom” language learning.

Introduction to WAYK from Willem Larsen on Vimeo.

The Where Are Your Keys? website offers lots of information on using the system, including Universal Speed Curriculum, videos of the techniques in action, and a Fluency Manifesto.

The people in the videos look like their having tons of fun using the system to learn and practice languages.  It’s certainly more lively than the average language classroom!

The nonprofit is hosting a workshop in Seattle September 4-5 for anyone interested in learning the techniques.

WAYK Sḵwxwú7mesh snichim (Squamish Language) from Willem Larsen on Vimeo.

What do you think about this program? Do you think it could work for your community? Does it look like something you’d have fun trying?

For information on Where Are Your Keys?’s recent efforts to revitalize the Native language of the Unangax (also known as Aleut) community, read on!

Unangan (Aleuts) Partner with Portland Language Activists
A week of training in the accelerated community language learning method “Where Are Your Keys?” to save dying Unangax language

Portland, OR, August 18, 2010 — From August 24th-30th, Unangax (also known as Aleut) community members are gathering in Bellingham, WA, at the Northwest Indian College, to revitalize their language using an accelerated language learning method. The method, called “Where Are Your Keys?”™ (WAYK), was developed in Oregon by two language revitalization activists, Evan Gardner and Willem Larsen.

Linguists predict the Unangax language will go extinct by 2055. Spoken fluently only by 65 elders, previous attempts to teach it to younger generations have not been successful. Almost a third of the Unangax people live in the Pacific Northwest.

“I first experienced the method in June at the ‘Save Your Language’ conference in Vancouver, B.C.” said Unangax event host, Becky Bendixen, founder of the non-profit NW Unangax Culture, and leader of a traditional Unangax dance troupe. “We laughed and played for two days while learning American Sign Language. It was so much fun, it gave me hope again that we could revitalize our language. I’m inviting anybody with an endangered heritage language to come to the week-long training.”

WAYK is a community-wide language game that involves everyone, from children to elders, in building language proficiency. The method focuses on simultaneously creating language teachers and fluent speakers through game play. Gardner originally developed the method while working in the Chinuk Wawa (Chinook Jargon) language program at the Confederated Tribes of the Grande Ronde.

“Our goal is to give communities the grassroots tools to save their own languages.” said Gardner. “We believe with this community-driven method of rapid language teaching, we can completely turn around the global crisis of language extinction within the decade”
Researchers believe 90% of the world’s 7,000 languages will go extinct by 2050, and on average a language dies every two weeks.

“The ‘Where Are Your Keys?’ method is designed to be infectious fun,” said Larsen. “Once communities start playing it, it’s hard to stop – and since it applies to any language, players can teach neighboring communities with dying languages how to play too. It’s viral in that way, spreading from player to player, community to community.”

For additional information on the event, contact Becky Bendixen,

For additional information on the method, visit the “Where Are Your Keys?” website

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