Site icon Nora McNamara

How to plan for working with your language parent-beginning phase

A good plan for learning a language is a plan that changes over time. The games you play in the beginning are not as powerful for you later, and the games you can play later are way over your head in the beginning.

To be honest, I’ve been using the plans that Greg and Angela Thomson wrote, which you can download here.

But when I am making a plan from scratch in the beginning phase, it follows this  outline. This is also the general outline that Greg and Angela follow in their plans.

  1. Greeting, hospitality and small talk.
  2. New Objects (around 12)
  3. New Objects + Old Actions
  4. New Actions (around 4)
  5. New Actions + Old Objects
  6. Handy Phrases (around 3)

Let me unpack this a little bit.

1. Greeting, hospitality, and small talk. 

So, I’m a kind of task oriented introvert, and I tend to jump right in to playing games when I start, so I have to write this in to remember to treat my language parent like what they are-a person. Embarrassing to say, but yes, if I don’t have it written down, I forget.

2. New Objects (around 12) Demonstration video here.

Every day in the beginning I want to play listening games to learn new words. What’s important here is that I have actual stuff. Fruit, toy furniture, dolls, stuff I bought at the market, whatever. Interacting with 3 dimensional objects in this phase, things with color, shape, and texture, makes the learning stick. Watch this video to see how this kind of game works.

3. New Objects + Old Actions

The key here is to kill two birds with one stone. Instead of reviewing the actions I learned before by themselves, I can practice my new objects and strengthen the old actions at the same time. It is REALLY important to do this, mixing the old with the new. It doesn’t have to be objects and actions, it could be objects and colors. And then get more complicated. Make it objects, colors, and numbers. Then throw in old actions too! Three brown cows are jumping. You grab 3 toy cows, a brown crayon, and then make the three brown cows jump.

4. New Actions (around 5) demonstration video here.

The key here is to get up and DO the action.  That’s how to make the words stick-our brains make a connection between what our ears are hearing and what our body is doing. This is Simon Says, and it’s really fun! Resist the temptation to point to a picture of a person doing an action, actually do it!

5. New Actions + Old Objects video here.

Same principle as before, mixing old with new to be more efficient. This should be fun and silly, ok? You’re learning to understand your new language in all sorts of different combinations, and that’s great!

6. Handy Phrases – demo video here.

I like to learn to understand a few new handy phrases every day. I just play listening games with them with my language parent, but when I’m out and about, I say them as best as I can. The key here is learning to understand them, and understand them as whole chunks. Don’t get distracted yet trying to understand all the little pieces in them, that will come with time.

Another super important key is how you ask your language parent about them. A classic mistake is to say “How do you say ‘Good morning’ in your language?” They want to help, and so they’ll give me a phrase. And then I’ll walk around saying this phrase to people, and get discouraged when they just look at me funny and don’t understand. A better thing to do is ask, “What do you say to someone the first time you see them?” In one place I lived, it was “You woke up!”

I spend about 30 hours total playing only listening games with my language parent before I add in talking games-which shall be the subject of another post. Thanks for reading! What has your experience been playing games like this? I’d love to hear that, and your questions!


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