Elvish linguistics learning tool

Today we have a guest post by Juan Sandoval.

Recently a few Tolkien linguists – inclining David Salo, the primary linguist from the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films – came together and thought of a way to make Elvish a more accessible, learnable language to the many fans who strive but fail to understand its many inherent nuances. While it’s easier to use intuitive software like Rosetta Stone to learn existing languages, currently fictional languages need to be learned through hard years of linguistic research since there is no established population or culture to immerse oneself in.

They’ve addressed this problem by launching a campaign to build a language decryption tool, which will be open-source, available to all language enthusiasts and customizable to any other language. Essentially, the tool packs together a translator, a dictionary, an IPA, the language’s grammar rules, audio, and much more into the very page you’re reading. As you follow along with your finger (or mouse) the phrase is instantly broken down in real-time, allowing you to see what the surrounding context is doing to influence each word. You can see a live prototype here of some of this tool’s functionality.

An ideal mix between structured learning and immersion learning…
As you use this tool, you don’t have to go anywhere else; all the information needed to read the sentence is provided right there. This eliminates the “stumped” factor, and allows the reader to get familiar with the flow of the sentences the more they read content without blockades. This accelerates the process of learning. As we continue reading and looking at the translations side by side with the grammar explained, the decryptions become more vaguely ‘familiar’ to us — so that even if we start out completely new to the language – we quickly develop an intuitive sense of how it all flows. The reader may soon find themselves anticipating what the grammatical breakdown will be, and can check with a simple mouse-hover to see if they’re right. Eventually the reader won’t need to hover over the words at all.

This approach presents a perfect blend between structured learning and immersive learning. All the information of a structured approach is there for you so there is no need to stop and look-up words, or apply algorithms. This makes the reading process itself non-mechanical and visceral, which is how language has been shown to stick better. You learn grammar rules as they come up in situations, much like in natural language.

It takes a teacher …
The text documents you read with this tool are created by someone who knows the language, so essentially this is also a teacher’s toolkit. It is a way for a teacher to be able to compose documents in such a way that the intended meaning & reasons for those meanings are embedded into each word. The software has a custom user interface for inputting grammar rules as you make entries, and seamlessly adds all the right information onto the submitted post.

Help bring this tool to life …
The campaign is close to its goal (90%) and needs just a little more to bring it to life. Please feel free to contribute or spread the word about this tool, to help make learning languages much easier.

Conlangs, Language, Language learning 1 Comment

Pretending to speak a language

In E. F. Benson’s book, Queen Lucia, two of the characters, Lucia and Georgie, speak bits of Italian to each other, which leads their friends to believe that they speak the language fluently, and impresses them, which is the point. When an Italian gentleman visits their village it soon emerges that Lucia and Georgie are unable to engage in conversation in Italian beyond a few phrases.

A similar story appears in the recent TV adaptation on the BBC – in this version Lucia pretends to be ill, and Georgie spends a few days away from the village in order to avoid meeting the visiting Italian speaker, the English wife of an Italian who admits that her knowledge of Italian is also limited, even though she has lived in Italy for 10 years. So Lucia and Georgie’s secret remains undiscovered.

Have you ever pretended to be able to speak a language, or exaggerated your knowledge of a language? Has you subterfuge been revealed?

English, Italian, Language, Language learning 3 Comments

Language quiz

Here’s a recording in a mystery language.

Can you identify the language, and do you know where it’s spoken?

Language, Quiz questions 4 Comments

Happy New Year!

Bloavezh mat / 新年快樂 / Blydhen Nowydh Da / Šťastný nový rok / Gelukkig Nieuwjaar / Happy New Year / Bonne année / Einen guten Rutsch ins neue Jahr / Athbhliain faoi mhaise daoibh / Felice anno nuovo / 新年おめでとうございます / Blein Vie Noa / Feliz Ano Novo / С Новым Годом / Bliadhna mhath ùr / Срећна Нова Година / ¡Feliz Año Nuevo! / Gott nytt år / Blwyddyn newydd dda, and so on!

Breton, Chinese, Cornish, Czech, Dutch, English, French, General, German, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Language, Manx, Portuguese, Russian, Scottish Gaelic, Serbian, Spanish, Swedish, Welsh 1 Comment

Language acquisition

I spent Christmas with my family at my brother’s house in Devon in the south west of England. His daughter is now 20 months old and it’s fascinating to see how she’s acquiring language.

The last time I saw her was at Easter this year when she was nearly a year old. At that time she was able to say a few words, but now she has a lot more words and little phrases, and understands more as well. Most of her words are in English, but she also uses some Russian ones (her mother is Russian) such as сок (juice), and even some BSL signs, such as thank you, picked up from baby signing classes.

As well as English and Russian, she’s picking up some French from the French nanny who looks after her a few days a week while her mother is working. So she is on the way to becoming a polyglot. Whether she’ll be as enthusiastic about languages as I am remains to be seen, but it will be very interesting to see how her language develops.

Do you have or know children who are being raised bilingually or multilingually? Do you have any tips and stories you’d like to share? Guest posts on this topic are very welcome.

English, French, Language, Language acquisition, Linguistics, Russian 5 Comments

Language quiz

Here’s a recording in a mystery language.

Can you identify the language, and do you know where it’s spoken?

Language, Quiz questions 7 Comments

Why Staying Motivated When Learning a Language is So Hard

Have you ever got excited about learning to speak a language?

I mean REALLY excited.

Woman in a kimono

Maybe you met a beautiful girl or a hot guy from another country.

Maybe you heard a song in a foreign language that sounds so good it touches your soul.

Or maybe you bought this new language learning book/program that looks very promising.

And every time, when something got you excited, you are so sure that you will finally stick to it and learn to speak the language you’ve always wanted to speak, once and for all.

This motivation will last for about a week or two, maybe a month if you are really motivated.

Then what happened?

Life happened.

“I will just learn tomorrow.” or “I will get back to it next month when I have more time. For sure.”

Essentially, you stopped learning.

And sooner or later, something will get you excited to learn your target language again!!

But the same faith of losing motivation over time is like a curse that never goes away.

If you are embarrassed, guilty or even ashamed of being stuck in this vicious cycle for more than a few years, I understand, because I’ve been there before.

My language learning progress was laughable.

The good news is, we are not the only one.

I’ve spoken with hundreds of language learners around the world, from beginners to hyper polyglots, we all face the same dilemma.

The bottom line is, it doesn’t matter if you have:

  • The most effective language learning method in the world
  • The most comprehensive language learning materials
  • The most amazing language learning software or app

It’s completely useless if you are not able to stay motivated to use it and learn consistently over time.

So the lack of consistent motivation is every language learner’s biggest roadblock to fluency.

3 Things that Suck Your Motivation Away

1. Too Hard, Too Easy or Too Boring.
Your language learning activities have a big impact on your motivation.

If you do something too hard, too easy or too boring, would you want to do it again the next day?

Most likely, you will be less motivated compared to when you first started.

The key is to find multiple language learning activities that is not only effective for your language learning style and it has to be something that you enjoy doing.

You need multiple language learning activities because if we do the same thing over and over again, it’s inevitable that you will eventually get bored.

So experiment and find language learning activities that are:

  1. Something you enjoy doing
  2. Effective for your learning style

Then put them on rotation and switch things up once in awhile to keep things fresh.

The key to meeting any of your language learning goal is this:

“Do whatever it takes in this hour, for you to want to learn another hour tomorrow.”

-Anthony Lauder, Polyglot

Note: Sometimes it takes a little bit of time to get used to a new activity for it to become fun and effective. So you need to fully give it a try and take some time to adjust it so it works for you. If you just try it once and abandon it, you will be missing out without giving it a chance to work.

2. No Clear Define Goal With An End Date
Most language learners usually say, “I want to learn Spanish.” or “I want to learn Mandarin” without any specific goal with an end date, so what usually happens?

Nothing much.

No matter what we want to accomplish in life, without a specific, measurable goal with a time frame to strive for, we will usually just let the drift of life take us away instead of getting what we want.

Learning a language is no different, especially as we live in a world full of distractions which could pull us to many different directions.

So if learning your target language is important to you, make sure you create a specific measurable goal with an end date.

For example, if you want to take your reading skills to another level, then set a goal to read 3 books in the foreign language in 3 months.

Or if you like to finally speak your target language, take on holding a 15 minutes conversation with a native speaker in 90 days with other language learners around the world in the Add1Challenge.

Here are some videos from past Add1Challengers’ 15+ minutes conversation with a native speakers on day 91, many started from scratch or learning their first ever foreign language. So a 15 minutes conversation with a native in 90 days is totally possible.

3. The Feeling of Being Alone

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

– African Proverb

As you know, learning a language is a long journey and it requires consistent hard work over a long period of time.

If learning a language alone is not challenging enough, adding the two motivation suckers above makes staying motivated even harder.

Which is why you should tap into the power of learning with a community.

If you have done any kind of sports like basketball, running or even yoga, the experience of practicing alone compared to practicing with a group of people is like the difference between night and day.

There is magic that can’t be explained in words when we’re learning something together as a community and being part of something larger than ourselves.

Learning together in a community is not only more effective, it is also a lot more fun too.

So seek out language learning communities online that resonates with you and supports you to achieve your language learning goals.

Here are a few communities that I recommend:

Lang-8.com – Lang-8 is a community where you can practice your writing by posting something in the foreign language. Native speakers from around the world will then correct your writing. In return, you do the same by correcting other people’s post in your native language.

iTalki.com – italki.com has a similar function as Lang-8, where you can post your writing and get correction from native speaker. The only difference is, italki.com is also a easy and affordable place where you can find a language tutor. What’s good about that is, maybe your tutor would be correcting your writing and you can get feedback directly from your tutor during your lesson.

Add1Challenge – Add1Challenge is a challenge where language learners around the world strive for the goal of holding a 15 minutes conversation with a native speaker in 90 days. We are 100%, solely focus on supporting and motivating you to stay consistent with your learning. There is an application process to ensure everyone who gets in the community are committed to getting result.

Polyglot Conference – The Polyglot Conference is a conference that takes place once a year. It is a conference where language learning enthusiast gather together to meet other language learning enthusiasts around the world, share language learning ideas and practice our target languages. People who attend the conference do not have to polyglots, as long as you are interested in language learning, you will be welcome.

Polyglot Gathering Berlin – Unlike the Polyglot Conference which take place in a different city around the world every year, the Polyglot Gathering Berlin only stays in Berlin. Nevertheless, the vibe and the atmosphere is just as good as the Polyglot Conference. This is also where I met the Simon, the creator of Omniglot for the very first time.

I hope you learned some tips and trick on how to stay motivated when learning a language from this article.

After 300+ language learners around the world went through the Add1Challenge in the past year, I have learned a lot about what it takes to empower language learners to stay motivated, so they would learn consistently and get results that they didn’t think it would be possible before.

If past Add1Challengers can hold a 15 minutes conversation with a native speaker in 90 days, why can’t you?

So if are sick and tired of not getting the result you want and you are ready to take actions, here is a video where I went even more in-dept about the “3 Keys to Stay Motivated When Learning to Speak a Language”.

Let’s finally learn to speak the beautiful language you’ve always wanted to speak, together!

Language, Language learning, Motivation 4 Comments

Merry Christmas


A multlingual Merry Christmas and happy language learning in the New Year!


English, General, Language Leave a comment

Language quiz

Here’s a recording in a mystery language.

Can you identify the language, and do you know where it’s spoken?

Language, Quiz questions 5 Comments

Hedgehogs and Urchins

I discovered today that sea urchins (echinoidea) are known as zee-egels (sea hedgehogs) in Dutch, and that they used to be known as sea hedgehogs in English as well. They have similar names in other languages, for example, in German they are Seeigel (sea hedgehogs), in French they are oursins or hérissons de mer (sea hedgehogs) and in Spanish they are erizos de mar (sea hedgehogs).

The word urchin comes from the Middle English word yrichon (hedgehog), from the Old North French word *irechon, from the Old French herichun (hedgehog) – in Modern French hedgehog is hérisson – from the Vulgar Latin *hericionem, from the Latin ericius (hedgehog), from the Proto-Indo-European root *ghers- (to stiffen, bristle, stand out). From the same root we also get such English words as gorse, hirsute, horror and ordure.

The word urchin is apparently still used for hedgehog in some English dialects such as Cumbria, Yorkshire and Shropshire. It came to refer to people who looked or acted like hedgehogs from the early 16th century, and to poor, ragged youths from the mid 16th century, though this usage didn’t really take off until the late 18th century. Sea urchin was first used in the late 16th century.

Sources: Online Etymology Dictionary and Indo-European Lexicon

Dutch, English, French, German, Language, Latin, Proto-Indo-European, Spanish, Words and phrases 3 Comments