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.