FAQ

What is Language Hunting (lh), in a nutshell?

 Language Hunting is a core system of rules that accelerate and deepen language  learning. With it you can create learning games for groups, and become fluent yourself in a desired language through conversations with fluent speakers.

Is language hunting for everybody?

Language Hunting isn't for everybody. It's best for a particular set of contexts:

  • When achieving conversational fluency is key, along with general proficiency in a language.
  • When you don't just want to learn a language personally, but want to grow a language community around you.
  • When there is an urgent need for language acquisition, and limited time or resources.
  • When the target language is a small or regional language or dialect, with limited or no conventional learning materials available.
  • When the target language is an endangered language.
  • When the target language(s) are unknown.
  • When the goal is to learn many languages.

Language Hunting is designed to foster rapid learning, at the cost of more intense participation from all participants; teachers, students, players. This can leave some participants feeling mentally fatigued afterwards, and needing more recuperation between sessions.

Can you learn to write with LH?

Yes, you can (and must if your language belongs to a literate culture). You will design games to teach reading and writing, just like you will have done with listening/speaking. You simply delay it until you have a basic fluency in the language, just like children do. Then learning to read and write is much easier and more rapid - almost an afterthought.

Can you become fluent in an entire language with LH?

Yes - one goal of Language Hunting is to keep playing until you can participate in conversations at the highest, most educated level.

Do you have to learn sign language to use LH?

Not necessarily; sign languages, as spoken by deaf communities, are very powerful and fluent systems of communication, and thus highly recommended for their own sake and as aids for language acquisition, but you can invent your own gestural system if you're in a pinch. Additionally, although it is one of the core learning accelerators, gesture and sign is not mandatory for Language Hunting. If for some reason you can't sign, or have difficulty signing, mastering the other rules will still have a profound impact on your language acquisition. For participating in the larger community of Language Hunting, you'll still want to at least be familiar with how signs are used in game play.


The videos seem really slow - why do you say LH is fast?

 In-person games can be tuned to the ability of the players on hand; videos of game play assume that you're at the beginning of your language journey, by default. If you need them, there are many tools for speeding up or slowing down videos online, and on your desktop. Additionally, though games start out slowly, they quickly can get up to speed. In full play most players experience a "wind in the hair" effect where they feel like they are playing at top speed.

I can see how LH would work with an easy language, but mine is especially complicated.

 Each language has its own way of being complex. Though perhaps initially simple, English has endless vocabulary to master. ASL has several dozen classifier hand signs (and multiple counting systems) required for describing different shaped objects and relationships. Irish (Gaeilge) has a highly idiomatic and unpredictable system of prepositional pronouns. Tlingit has a dozen words for "giving". All these languages have larger cultural contexts too, that need to be taken into account. Complex languages aren't a problem; they are the whole point of Language Hunting, they are the riddle to solve, one game at a time.


I'm a fluent speaker already - I don't want to learn the sign to teach with LH. Do I have to? Can I use LH without it?

If you want to access the full power of the system, we recommending learning to sign, or inventing your own signs. If you want to teach your language using the LH system (including sign), initially you will feel almost like you're having to relearn the language you're already fluent in -  you may consider having your students learn LH and then "hunting" the language from you. We call this the "fluent fool" position. Especially for elder speakers, there is no reason to put the burden of language transmission on them (and learning a new system/language of teaching). All they need to do is have enjoyable conversations - the language hunters will do the rest.

I learn best by translating into English. Why can't I when playing LH games?

Translation seems like such a simple short-cut, but carries with it the growing burden of "double-thinking" when trying to become fluent in your desired language. First you need to think of what you want to say, then translate it into the target language from English. By skipping these steps, and going right into "thinking in the language", you greatly accelerate the speed at which you learn. Translation also steals the "a-ha!" moments that you'll begin to become addicted to during language play. Learning, at its best, feels like solving riddles. Language Hunting turns language acquisition into a linguistic riddle game. There are many more reasons not to translate, but these are a good beginning. For more information you can research "language immersion".


Why can't I take notes?

Note-taking goes hand in hand with Translation as the enemy of rapid language acquisition. The natural language learning arc runs Listening, Speaking, Reading, and Writing. Writing is the very last element of language we tackle. The best way to document (and re-experience) game play is through video and audio. Note-taking slows down game play, and gives the false impression that you'll learn faster. In order to benefit from notes, you'll need to look at them later - but then they take up time you could be playing with friends (or rehearsing alone). The best way to learn is to have as many conversations as possible, over and over, through game play. If you're taking (or reading) notes, all you're doing is practicing writing and reading - if you haven't mastered fluent conversation first, you're simply extending the amount of time it's going to take.

I've looked at all the online videos. What do I do next?

 There are lots of options. You can play what you know with friends and family. You can hunt "What is that?" plus "Make me say Yes/No" from the first ten language you can find a speaker for.  You can register for mentoring over Skype. You can attend a Language Hunters workshop. You can purchase The Language Hunter's Kit eBook.You can donate to our work so that we can put more language videos up, and help more communities. Contact us.

What about pronunciation? Your beginning students’ doesn't seem very good.

 LH purposely emphasizes "mumbling" in the early stages. The quest for perfect pronunciation often paralyzes you before you've even begun. Beginning language learners usually don't have the "ear" for hearing the subtle (though seemingly obvious to native speakers) and different shades of sound. They simply don't have the cognitive equipment yet. However, through sufficient game play, they develop their ear, and their pronunciation is "tuned-up" to remarkable levels. This is common with immersion-style learning.

Our culture values different things; do we have to use pens or cups as conversational props?

You can use any simple, everyday objects that your culture values and likes to talk about. Pens are an obvious, portable, common modern object, that you can find almost anywhere. You'll want something similar for your target culture and language.

I don't want to have to teach, I just want to learn the language.

Then who will you talk to? Part of the joy of language games is creating your own speech community around you. It's not only important for endangered languages; all languages have challenges of isolation. LH gives your target language wings, so it can fly from person to person, so you can have as much practice and enjoyment speaking in it as possible.

 

How do you learn structure and grammar without ever talking about it?

The same way children do (with the accelerated power of the adult mind). The most challenging, obtuse, eccentric languages in the world (to the native English speakers ear) are learned effortlessly by children every day. Surprisingly, we've found adults are far more effective language learners than children too, as long as the adults can reclaim some of that child-like willingness to play.

Don’t hand signs get in the way of speaking - do you have to use them, they seem awkward?

Like any skill or game, they may feel awkward at first. They are certainly awkward for fluent speakers (and why we recommend fluent speakers intially playing the part of the "fluent fool", abstaining from gestures), as it can feel you are relearning how to speak. This first stage is usually a short one, and once you've passed through it the benefits are immediately apparent.


Sure you don't want me translating out loud, but isn’t translating inside my head good? Isn’t that what I’m supposed to do? 

One mystery that remained unsolved for a long time, was why certain notably intelligent players seemed to be so slow at language play, dragging far behind everyone else. We finally figured out that they were still translating, but only translating internally. This extra puzzling slowed them down so that they weren't fully involved in the game and simply couldn't keep up. All we can say is: don't translate! Let the "a-ha!" moments happen, and enjoy them, without worrying what English thinks about it all. You're building a new language brain while language hunting - keep that baby brain safe until it's strong enough to defend itself from its English older brother.