No More Teachers, No More Students


Endangered languages present a fascinating challenge: how do you create speakers of a language with vanishing few speakers left, as quickly as possible, before their tragic destinies and the cultural oppression of globalization come to fruit?

Languages on the precipice force us to rethink how we teach and learn languages, which in fact forces us to step back and rethink how we teach and learn anything.

Have we become hypnotized by institutional experiences of learning? Can we step out of the box and begin judging our learning by the high standard of actual fluent competency, over certifications of “knowledge”?

Willem tells the story of joining up with partner Evan Gardner to create a viral, collaborative, and in a non-software sense, “open source” game system of learning and teaching in high-stakes environments (such as endangered languages), where the line between teachers and students is obliterated for the benefit of everyone. They call this system the “where are your keys?” community learning game.

Working locally with the indigenous Chinuk Wawa language in partnership with the Confederated Tribes of the Grande Ronde, the revitalization of Chinuk Wawa is a story of hope and adventure in a field rife with worsening news every day.

What if learning languages was so easy, it became normal to meet a child who spoke 20 languages? What if the endangered language crisis, through sheer necessity, has forced us to successfully rethink what is possible when it comes to learning?

Willem Larsen

Affiliation "Where Are Your Keys?"

Willem grew up on the Southern Oregon coast. He spent 10 years working in nature education in Portland, OR, before slowly making the transition to working with endangered language revitalization and cultural survival.