New Play Materials Coming Soon!

Here’s a sneak peek at our upcoming play support materials. Make sure you look at the free ebook, “Getting Started with Language Hunting”, so you are up to date on where the craft of language hunting is going.

Irish Immersion Summer Camp 2013 in Portland, OR, July 29th-August 2nd

Here you can see scenes from our last Irish language event this past April. This summer’s Irish Camp will look very similar, and we’ll be rolling out and implementing at least 4 new innovations to the language hunting system –

  • An improved Bucket Brigade involving separate tables for players at the 1 Q&A, 2 Q&A, and 3 Q&A levels of conversational exchanges.
  • The most recent iteration of the map of the Language Hunter’s Journey
  • New rules for organizing your own games – the Tree Diagram of Language
  • New rules for getting “over the hump” from Intermediate to Advanced – while staying in the flow of fluency!

To register for this summer’s Irish camp, follow this link. We look forward to seeing you there!

Wrapping up Our Irish Language Middle School Program

Yesterday was the finale of our 8 week (or 9, depending on how you count) program of Irish language hunting games at Corbett Middle School, here in the Portland, OR area.

We celebrated it by having an Irish-immersion Scavenger Hunt!

Below you can see selected photos from the last day of the program. We’re really proud of the kids (and ourselves) for all we’ve accomplished. It was a lot of hard work with some amazing results. We’re working on a video to showcase highlights from the program – stay tuned!

Language Hunting in Europe

conversation language hunt image

Image CC BY SA, papalars

Willem Larsen will be working in Europe during the month of May, 2012. This is an extremely rare in-person opportunity to set up workshops, talks, or one-on-one mentoring.

Here’s his approximate itinerary –

  • May 7-13, Germany
  • May 14-20, Finland
  • May 21-26, Sweden/Denmark

These are approximate dates – contact us at for more details and to schedule an event.

Irish Language Hunt Comes to Corbett Middle School

Corbett Middle School Irish Language Hunting

There are about 50 Corbett Middle School students hunting Irish in this picture, believe or not!

As of April 2nd, we’ve just begun a 9 week program in partnership with Corbett Middle School in Corbett, OR, where 100 Corbett Middle School students will language hunt Irish for an hour a day, 4 days a week.

We’re really excited about this project. Our goal is to bring the students to basic conversational fluency in Irish by the end of the program, along with training them to apply their new language hunting skills to any language. This pilot program could lead to bigger things in the Fall!

Corbett Middle School Students singing traditional irish song gaeilge image

Corbett Middle School Students singing traditional irish song, Gréasaí Brog.

We’re including a music element, teaching the students traditional Irish music along with the Gaeilge language.

There are many more images at our Facebook group.

We’re currently fundraising for this program; if you’d like to support this ground-breaking effort, contact us at

Rules Are Made to Be Broken

Chick egg hatching new learning rules of language hunting image

A new chick just beginning to emerge from its shell. (Image CC NC BA SY Travis Pritchard)

Rules Are Eggshells

-Language Hunting is a system of rules – but the rules are based on context, they are not cure-alls. Most of the rules direct attention to the beginning of learning, to the initial conditions necessary for fostering new learning; these rules are like eggshells.

-Eggshells protect what’s inside untill it is ready for the big world outside.

-Shells contain early growth, vulnerable beginnings, seeds of possibility.

Eggshells Are Made to Be Broken…When the Time Is Right

-Vulnerable beginnings, once mature, will suffocate if not released.

-Release them by breaking the egg, breaking the rule, opening up.

It’s All About Timing

Where in your life do you feel overexposed and vulnerable, where could you use more safety, more nurturing, more NARROWED SCOPE? Make a shell for it, a safe space for play and learning.

Where in your life do you feel stuck and stagnant, where could you use more risk, more excitement, more randomness, more ALIVENESS? Break the old shell you’ve made around yourself.

Read more about the Rules of Accelerated Learning

Want to know more about fostering and accelerating learning? Check out the Language Hunter’s Kit, a guide to accelerating learning, developed primarily for supporting the revitalization of endangered languages around the world. Learn the top 47 rules for creating the most vitalized, effective learning environments.

Language Hunting with Google Translate

alone language hunting silk road image

What can a language hunter do when you're all alone in the wilderness? (Image CC Jonathan Kos-Read)

The only true limit to rapid language acquisition, through the art of Language Hunting, is finding a fluent speaker. A speaker, with time to share their language over lunch, or a cup of coffee, or passing the time while waiting in line.

But what if you can’t find a speaker of your target language? What if you are all alone?

Well, as long as you still have an internet connection, there’s a little free service provided by a company (whose name you may have possibly heard before), that offers an interesting way to make your eventual hunt with a fluent speaker as productive as possible.

WARNING: Static resources of any kind, including texts, recordings, phrasebooks, dictionaries, and in this case a translation robot, must always defer to the living form of the language as spoken by an actual human being, in accord with ALIVE, the prime directive of accelerated learning. These resources, at their best, are excellent questions to drive your language hunting of a fluent speaker.

For example, after reading a word that the dictionary claims to correspond to the English word “cup” in your target language, as a language hunter, you must ask, “In what context(s) is this true (if ever)? In what contexts is it not true? Was it true once, but the language has shifted? How does it vary in different situations? How does it differ among dialects?” This rule is called THE BOOK OF QUESTIONS. You can read more about this and other rules of language hunting in The Language Hunter’s Kit, available online.

With this warning under your belt, we can now have some fun!

Welcome to the wonders of Google Translate, (click on the picture below to enlarge it). Go to the website, and we’ll start playing with Russian as an example.

"What is this?" Russian Google Translate language hunting image

Using the translator is fairly self-explanatory. Write in the box on the left in English, and choose the target language on the right (in this case, again, let’s do Russian). I’ve started to build my first game, “What?”, by typing “What is this?”. I recommend starting with the word “this” as a default.

The first problem is you’re looking at the written orthography of the language, which will start intervening between you and your fluent conversational ability right away. I recommend putting a sticky note over the target language box, so you don’t have to see the written form of the target language, and can maintain the most rapid absorption of the spoken language, until you have finished the RACE TO THE PARTY.

“But!” you may say, “where’s the speaking part?”

Google translate language hunt symbols imageAh! Well, in the lower right corner of the box on the right,  you’ll see a series of symbols. One of those symbols is a tiny speaker. Click on it!

That’s the magic of Google translate. The next step is obvious – now answer your question!

Google Translate 3 image

Now continue, making your series of games, clicking on the little speaker to add each new BITE-SIZED PIECE. Build a game (for more info on how to do this, see The Language Hunter’s Kit, and check out our Youtube or Vimeo channels), then practice it over and over with an imaginary (or real) friend.

Once again, and you can’t know exactly when, you will eventually (perhaps immediately) build a game with some goofy off-base articulation of your target language. Incorrect grammar, idiom, or even pronunciation. “Isn’t this a bad thing?” you may wonder.

Even while you’re hunting live, your fluent speakers of the target language might suffer from all kinds of problems; they might be confused from juggling English and their native language; might misunderstand your SET-UP; might speak a different dialect than you’re expecting; might decide not to correct you out of politeness or shyness. You must always hold whatever language you hunt lightly, as a temporary answer, to be verified and affirmed through future hunts.

The language you get from Google Translate then becomes just another application of this understanding. In addition, research shows, that students who make predictions about the answer to a riddle, a math problem, or the results of an experiment, have far greater retention of the “true” answer whether they were right or wrong to begin with. So this is good stuff.

You can use Google Translate to build a rough, “good enough for now” path through the RACE TO THE PARTY, for exploring your target language with a live fluent speaker later. You will have much more success than anyone else relying on nothing else but static resources or input-only for their language acquisition. And you can layer in other resources, such as immersion via media in your target language (podcasts, television, movies, etc.).

Other issues to consider with Google Translate:

  • Which accent in which dialect of your target is Google Translate offering? This information isn’t provided. Proceed cautiously.
  • Not all languages have the option of the little speaker in the corner – Google often only provides written translation. For example, there is no audio translation for Irish/Gaeilge (yes, I looked!).
  • Typing and thinking in English to elicit translations from Google Translate will tend to encourage old mental translation habits that slow down learning. This is just one of the pitfalls of hunting language this way; stay focused on building games, playing through them, and thinking in the target language as soon as possible.
  • Hunting language this way will cause your pantomime skills (emoting with body language, sculpting situations with sign and gesture) for eliciting language from live native speakers to atrophy. The more you use this crutch, the more they’ll atrophy. Test the games you build with this on live speakers as soon as possible.

In the end, this is a distant second best to having a fluent speaker with time to share their language – but it’s still pretty cool.

UPDATE 4-10-2012: For your convenience, here are the languages available for hunting (i.e., they have an audio feature in addition to the standard written translation on Google Translate):

Human voice:
  1. Dutch
  2. English
  3. Finnish
  4. French
  5. German
  6. Greek
  7. Haitian Creole
  8. Hindi
  9. Hungarian
  10. Italian
  11. Japanese
  12. Korean
  13. Latin
  14. Norwegian
  15. Polish
  16. Portuguese
  17. Russian
  18. Slovak
  19. Spanish
  20. Swedish
  21. Tamil
  22. Thai
  23. Turkish
  24. Chinese
Robovoice (annoying, tinny, difficult to understand or copy-cat, may be improved or upgraded at some point?)
  1. Esperanto
  2. Icelandic
  3. Indonesian
  4. Latvian
  5. Macedonian
  6. Romanian
  7. Serbian
  8. Swahili
  9. Vietnamese
  10. Welsh


It turns out that you can get spoken Irish, if you combine Google Translate with this service: Cut and paste the google translation into the box you’ll find at the other link – it will pronounce any written Irish you paste into it!

This makes me wonder if this service is available for other languages, that Google doesn’t support with voice?


Microsoft’s Translator also has speaker options! Try it: