Willem Larsen was born at the mouth of the Rogue River in Oregon. He grew up on the Chetco, Winchuck, Coos, and Willamette Rivers and is now working and living in Portland, OR.
Willem has worked in community education for the past 15 years—at the Oregon Zoo, OMSI, Tryon Creek State Park, and the Eddy Foundation Land Trust, Cascadia Wild!, and TrackersNW. Through his work in environmental education Willem came to realize that endangered indigenous languages are storehouses of priceless ecological knowledge.
Since then Willem has worked on addressing the worldwide endangered indigenous language crisis through development of the Language Hunting system of accelerated community learning. As President of the non-profit org Language Hunters he has worked with many languages - from Native American tongues like Tlingit, Chinook Jargon, Unangam Tunuu, to endangered european languages such as Irish and Scots Gaelic.
Willem believes that languages, traditions, and skills are treasures that communities hold as a whole—only by learning together can we create the rich lives we want for each other.
There is a terrible crisis right now; we've lost half of the worlds languages in the last few hundred years, and we'll lose 90% of what's left by the end of the century, a terrible loss of human cultural and intellectual wealth. Forces like globalization, ecosystem destruction, and colonization are destroying and homogenizing cultures all over the world. Many people question the need for knowing more than one language; whether the global language is to be Chinese, Hindi, Russian, or English, the loss of whole literatures and culture is tragic. What can be done?
To respond to this crisis, the collaborative and open system of Language Hunting was born; a skillset designed for communities to rapidly become fluent in any language through easy, playful conversations, and to teach them to others in the same fashion. In this way, families are able to keep their languages alive, or revitalize languages that they were on the edge of losing. Language Hunters can be thought of as practitioners of a linguistic "mental martial-art", the ability to break down languages into a series of needs-based conversations that can be rapidly set up and absorbed, all the way to fully educated adult proficiency, like a native speaker.
In order to turn around the global endangered language crisis, the world must become deeply multilingual - but with the help of Language Hunting, this is far more achievable than we previously thought.