Our merry band of Boston-area language hunters.

In the grassroots spirit of WAYK, we held our workshop hosted at a private residence of one of the participants. For language communities, our first recommendation is to do just that; language and community begins at home! There’s nothing like playing WAYK in someone’s living room to remind us of that.

Another new technique we tried - every time you pass through this door on the way to the bathroom, put up a feedback sticky!

Willem (me) ran the workshop, and I wanted to try a new experiment. As my skill increases as a language hunter, I find that I need to keep upping the scale and challenge of my experimentation to “stay in the zone”: neither overwhelmed (sorry, charlie!), nor bored (heaven forfend such a thing!). This is an ongoing obligation of every player – if you don’t apply technique to keeping the “flow” state, you’ll find yourself losing the spirit of play. It takes work to to make things effortless!

My major experiment was to pick a new language, present in the group, to hunt. We had a choice of Hindi and Tamil. According to tq A Few of My Favorite Things and Same Conversation, I chose Hindi, because I have players at home hungry to hunt just that!

So the attendees got to witness an experienced language hunter at his most awkward and foolish, mumble-ing his way through the first steps of a totally new language. This allowed us to form a tq Bucket Brigade almost immediately as the various learning speeds differentiated out into different levels, after lunch on the first day.

5-year-old Shreya mugging for the camera. She played a critical role, pulling players through Hindi, though she was just learning it herself - no joke!

The hunt was such a success, I plan to do this from now on: pick an available language, and form the bucket brigade accordingly. If I can continue working languages I have at a low proficiency and pull them up to Superior, so much the better!

One of the attendees, Alex, found himself somewhat under-challenged; it manifested at first by a frustration over not understanding “the meaning” of what he was saying, but strangely he didn’t want to kill fairies – he wanted to keep playing but something was missing, something else was going on. It took him a while to realize that he had moved out of flow, in the direction of “bored”.

The ever-present carb-free food table. We do indulge the coffee habit.

This happens periodically, usually with younger, whip-crack smart players, this “falling out of flow” can happen fast because they catch on to the techniques in spurts (almost like a delayed reaction). We collaborated on a solution that would help both our attendee Alex, and others in this same situation, and we now have a new technique for language hunters with his same temperament. TQ “More, Faster!” This means just what it sounds – when Alex (and players like him) experiences a frustration over “not knowing what I’m saying”, the technique to throw is to speed up the flow of bite-sized pieces, or make them larger bites. “More, Faster!” The player then doesn’t have time to worry about “what it means”.

There was one other, major new insight that I received as a culmination from both Agile Games and the Boston WAYK workshop. I’m going to save that for its own blog post, so stay tuned!

Here’s some of the feedback from the workshop:

Rekha, Agilist and mother of 5-year-old Shreya:

A very interesting workshop. I wish I had encountered this when I was a little girl. Better late than never. The technique is very simple to use and it was fascinating to see how much Hindi was covered using simple WAYK techniques. My quest is to see how I can use these techniques at my work to learn new technology. Willem is a wonderful teacher. I had given up the hope that my daughter will ever be multilingual. WAYK technique makes me hopeful – that I can teach my daughter my native language [Tamil] in a playful, un-intimidating way. Thank you Willem and Evan for putting so much thought and effort to develop this simple, easy to use technique.


I love learning and my mom taught me hindi.

Alex Baranosky, Agilist:

-Use of techniques as the solution is much better than the usual “try harder” response.
-Language fluency = being the language
-Hunter can hunt the core structure of a language and has the tools to fill in the details.
-Techniques are for accelerated learning, not just languages!

Nancy Van Shooenderwort, Agile Coach:

I’m usually a big “note-taker” but this workshop helped me see that the WAYK methods are only slowed down by doing that – it really is not necessary. For Agile practitioners, I believe time will show that WAYK’s dynamics are as “game-changing” for us as Architecture’s “patterns” concept was over 10 years ago.

Doug Ross, Agile Coach:

I am afraid of NOT having you around! The workshop  unlocked my fear of learning language. I now (finally) have techniques and a game I can use to pull language to hunt fluency! Thank you so much Willem for sharing this gift.

Michael De La Maza, Agile Coach:

WAYK techniques have the potential to greatly improve workplace communication. I was surprised by how quickly and easily and painlessly I learned the techniques. My hope is that I will be able to share them with agile teams.

Written by Evan Gardner



Hi Willem,
Alex and I came up with a technique to speed up our game. When it was my turn, I played the early sentences (I needed TQ slower) so I went 1, 2, 3. And when it was his turn, he played the later sentences (he needed TQ faster) so he went 1, 4, 5, 6. We TQ contracted always start at 1 and run the sentences in the order that they were learned by the group to TQ limit change. This allowed us both to get what we needed. The speed and flow of play increased significantly. I here by dub this the Alex/Doug technique. 🙂


We also call this “the 12 days of WAYK Christmas” – on the first day of christmas, I said ‘what is that’…


Hey, I went to the little store on the corner with Christine to get some fresh produce for diner! Guess who was there? The Ethiopian shopkeeper we met when you were visiting Boston. I pulled Ethiopian language from him while we were cashing out! One of the Ethiopian guys working behind the counter said my pronunciation was good. Our shopkeeper friend replied quickly, “The purpose of language is to communicate… not to pronounce it!” I quickly chimed in, “…but we understood each other, right?” His big smile said more than the mere word he offered up, “yes.” I think Christine is starting to take notice. What a blast!!!! “Every time you come in I will teach another word”, he said as Christine and I walked out. Everyone was laughing and having a blast. Even if I never speak another word of Ethiopian, that was worth every minute of learning how to hunt a language.



AWESOME! Those are exactly the moments that put the cherry on top of everything. Yes, the addictive a-ha’s, yes, building bonds and connecting by ‘pulling each other through it’, and after all that, yes, having the language of home, family, and comfort come from a stranger’s lips creates a magical moment. We’re building a deeply multilingual world together!

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