环境的影响 (The Impact of Environment)

这星期,Willem,Language Hunters的公司总裁,去俄勒冈州的海边出席一个会议,所以我需要自己教我们Language Hunters俄语和爱尔兰语课。我教的学生是差不多六到十二岁,都很想要学新的语文。这星期真的给我看环境真的对 Language Hunting 有很多影响。

教俄语课的时候, 我跟西班牙语和音乐老师需要都在一个课堂在一样的时间教我们的课,所以我们的环境一点热热闹闹。因为我们的环境是这样的,我的学生一者在看右边或者看左边很少时间在看我想要给他们看的东西。我问为什么他们一者看左边一者在看右边的时候,他们给我说是因为我们的环境是热闹的。我这样学到环境对Language Hunting 有很大的影响。

This week, our other Russian teacher is attending a conference on the Oregon beach, so I am solo teaching the Russian classes Language Hunters is providing to a local private school. The children in this class range in ages between six and twelve, and they are all very excited about learning a new language. This week of solo teaching has really taught me how much of an impact an environment has on Language Hunting.

While teaching Russian class, I noticed that there was a direct correlation between how quickly the students were able to pick up new material and how quite and focused their surroundings were. When the music class took a break, the kids were able to absorb the new Russian ideas much more quickly than when the music class was playing. Similarly, when the near-by Spanish class was playing a loud or active game, my students became distracted, as did I.

大家们好! New Chinese Blog Posts

Once a week Caitlyn, our newest intern and Chinese speaker, will be documenting her experiences leaning language hunting in Chinese.

从今天以后,我就告诉大家们我怎么在学有很多很少说的语文。我总是主在美国俄勒冈州的波特兰城市, 还有我父母只能说英文所以我怎么在学中文,俄语,西班牙语,和爱尔兰语,还能学别的语文?Language Hunters帮我学怎么学语文,所以我就教你们怎么用 Language Hunters 的想法学语文。

Starting now, I will be sharing my experiences learning new and endangered languages. I have always lived in Portland, OR, USA and my family all only speaks English, so how am I learning Chinese, Russian, and Irish, and other languages? Language Hunters is showing me how to learn all theses languages at once, so I am going to share with all of you how Language Hunters is making this happen.


-Hello new friends,



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 info@languagehunters.org 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 info@languagehunters.org.

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, http://translate.google.com (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: http://www.abair.tcd.ie/index.php. 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: