Why did you do it? Why did you kill the faery?

32 minutes and 14 seconds.

[direct download]

1. Technique “Killing Faeries”

  • Every time you ask for a translation, and receive it, you kill a faery.
  • It’s not the end of the world, but it does indicate a lost opportunity for gaining more proficiency in the craft of language hunting, rather than just acquiring language.

2. Technique “Bridge Language”

  • In the beginning, we kill a lot of faeries, purposefully using English as a bridge language to help acquire the sign language.
  • This is a short-term, temporary accelerator, just to get started. Technically, you’re still killing faeries.
  • Words don’t directly correlate to other words in other languages; you can only approximately translate them.
  • We make this sacrifice to build momentum, but then stop using the English (or other) spoken bridge language as soon as possible.
  • If you continually kill faeries, you create faerie-killing addicts, who want you to kill even more faeries.
  • The multiple faeries you kill every time you settle for translating: the faerie of the language and its unique meaning/spirit, the faerie of the immersive game flow, and the faerie of the emerging language hunters’ ability to learn to set-up their own game.
  • Evan loves it when language hunters set-up the game to double-check with him if they understand and can employ some new language structure that he just used.

3. Technique “Superman III”

  • When you translate, all those lost fractions of pennies start rolling out everywhere, on many levels.
  • Evan: “It’s faerie genocide.”

4. Technique “Killing Faeries”

  • Willem explains the appropriate sounds to make when faeries start dying. He encourages you, like the Lorax, to speak for the faeries, because no one else will.
  • Willem: “Don’t do it man – don’t kill the faerie – they believe in you, man…”

5. Technique “Dictionary Addiction”

  • People tend to get defensive when you simple ask them not to translate – their addiction tends to start speaking back at you…
  • It helps to have softer, gentler, more amusing techniques to apply to these kinds of touchy situations.
  • Dictionaries have a particular, perfect use: “I wonder if this is true? I wonder how this is true? I wonder in what context this is true?”.
  • Dictionaries are a set of really good questions. They allow you to become a very informed questioner.
  • Dictionaries are not books of answers; they are books of questions.

6. Technique “Speak to Remember, Write to Forget”
7. Techniques “It’s Science!”/”Scientific Studies Have Proven”

  • The stages of language acquisition go: Understanding, Speaking, Reading, Writing.
  • If this is the order, why do you want to write things down?

8. Technique “Full”

  • We have an expanded set of “full” indicators; now if someone writes something down, or asks for a translation, we can tell they’re getting overwhelmed.

9. Technique “English Brain”

  • Don’t encourage or feed your English brain when learning another language.

10. Technique “Bridge Language”

  • Evan doesn’t feel like people are paying attention to the totality of his communication if they only listen while writing things down. He thinks his body language is important to understand too, to acquire the language.
  • When someone writes something down, we’ve noticed that it tends to be a signal that people aren’t coming back.
  • Use a tape recorder instead of writing things down.
  • If you write things down, rather than fully participating in the game, you can’t take the 3-D holographic notes onto your friends and family.

11. Technique “Speak to Remember, Write to Forget”

  • Willem relates a story about a language hunter who wrote Italian down, that she had hunted, so that she could lead a game in it later.
  • Willem talks about the issues involved; the probability of finding another Italian speakers, the opportunity to push language into your “living, human, immersive, 3-d holographic database”.
  • If you must document, prioritize using video recorders, audio recorder, and lastly writing.
  • In spite of all of this, if you must write for your own self-care, of course, do what you need to do. Just focus part of your effort on transitioning to more effective techniques, eventually.
  • If you stop taking notes, make sure your replace it with something: a full-on willingness to play, or focusing on thorough, 3-d holographic notes with friends and family, or something. Don’t just stop writing, replace writing with more effective techniques.

Written by Evan Gardner


Jay Bazuzi

I noticed that taking video at the SYL conference was a decelerator for me. It took me out of the experience; it occupied my hands so I couldn’t sign; I knew the mic was next to my mouth, so I didn’t speak.

I do wish for good recordings of these things, but I lost a lot to get the recordings I got.


Yes, that was a sacrifice to make those recordings. I am usually the default videographer for events, and not only does it take me out of play, but I don’t always remember to turn the recorder on in important moments.

We definitely need some better techniques for this.


(the last comment was based on reading the notes, specifically the bit about video > audio > writing.)

I can imagine, when someone asks “Does ‘rojo’ mean ‘red’?”, tell them “I want you to find that out. Run an experiment on me, in the language. Set up some props and ask me some questions to check if ‘rojo’ means ‘red’.” In doing this, I’m telling them “Hunt me.” It seems like a great way to get them thinking about actively hunting me early, instead of being fed.

Saying “don’t kill a fairy” is a negative thing: I’m telling you want *not* to do. Saying “hunt me” is a positive thing: I’m giving you something you can actively do.

I think the first time, I walk you through it, “modeling” a setup. Here’s another red thing, is it “rojo”? Here’s a non-red thing that otherwise is a lot like the red pen, is it “rojo”?

Also, I just thought about how a brand newbie’s first experience in a language is to ask “What’s That?”, and so they are actually hunting *in* the target language, as soon as they begin. Sure, they’re following my instructions, but they are actually *asking me* for language before I give it to them. They are hunting before they even realize it consciously. Brilliant.


It seems to take a while for newbies to make the paradigm shift to “hunting”. Until they click into it, we use “don’t kill a fairy!” to keep them on the rails, since they are essentially already hunting by asking “what is that?”.

Though in general I also avoid “negative” instructions, like you say, for some reason “don’t kill a fairy” really works. It gets a big laugh, and refocuses players on just copycatting and playing to fluency.

Whatever works!

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