Learning Kaqchikel with Ixkamey and Lajuj B'atz'

Xseqër k'a! Buenos dias!

As previous field school participants have noted, the immersive Kaqchikel classes are intense. Our instructors speak almost exclusively in Kaqchikel, and we don't use a textbook or other written demonstrations during class.

I joined the class on the fourth day. My only preparation was the first lesson of this short online course, so all I knew was a few greetings, yes and no, and thank you. I didn't know what to expect, and I was worried that I'd be too far behind to catch up.

Instructor Lajuj B'atz' plays sakonel, with Ixq'anil 
(Polina) as his client. No hairstyles were harmed in
language lesson. 
The class began with an exchange of greetings (yay, I understood that part!), and then launched into a review of the previous day. Before I knew it, my classmates were howling and crawling and hopping around: turns out we were reviewing vocabulary for animals.

In a typical language class, the teacher would probably point to an object (or a student pretending to be a monkey), and pronounce a single word. But here we always speak in full sentences (albeit simple, repetitive ones). I was initially lost in the continuous stream of speech, but soon enough I caught on to a few words and began to segment the sentences.

The teaching method has three main stages. First, the teachers demonstrate the new vocabulary or grammatical feature, often by performing a little skit and asking each other questions. Second, they ask us to point to objects or answer yes/no questions, engaging our comprehension of the novel material. Finally, they ask us to ask or answer wh-questions to practice our production.

Our instructors, Ixkamey (Magda Sotz) and Lajuj B'atz' (Edy Rene Guajan) are incredibly skilled teachers (tixonela). I was impressed that they were able to include me in the class from the beginning by asking me slightly simpler questions, gradually scaffolding my understanding of more complex sentences and catching me up on all the vocabulary I'd missed.

This method does require quite a lot of work outside of class. I've been studying for about three hours in the evenings and early in the morning to connect what I hear in class to more formal understanding of the grammar. Speaking of which, I need to go do that now!

Ke ri' k'a! Adiós!