How to learn a language, for example Na’vi

Solve these problems and you’ll learn na’vi (and they have nothing to do with grammar and vocabulary)

  • Who to talk to?
  • How to find the time?
  • How not to forget to do something with it every day?
  • How to keep the motivation going for the long run?

Find the Community

Sign up for a variety of community sites and know how to use them.

Mailing lists are for announcements and messages that are being ignored on forums.  Mailing lists are not good for posting translations for critique, and only so-so for question-answer.  When the traffic on forums dies out, mailing lists are better than forums regardless to message content because everyone gets the message on a mailing list. On a forum, only people who think to visit the site that day see the message.

Forums are good for posting question & answers and translations for critique. Translations for critique tend to be a good deal of work for both reader and readee.  Forums let the message stand until someone motivated can get to it.  On the other hand, messages deferred become messages ignored on mailing lists.

Blogs are good for messages that are huge, or controversial, or have no particular audience.  Mailing lists and forums can’t deal with a fifteen page essay.  Controversial messages can generate flame wars and can ruin mailing lists and forums– a blog is more indirect.  Blogs also tend to hang around forever, so you’re article will reach it’s audience in five years when someone interested in the reconstruction of proto-Na’vi pops into existence.

Wikis are good for moving the community forward, especially if the language is new.  If there isn’t enough content for a language, the language will die out.  Collaborative document writing lets a scattered group of people generate enough interesting content for the community to want to learn the language.

Miniblogging is good for doing a little bit in the language everyday without feeling overburdened by the need to catch up on the mailing list and unread forum posts.  Twitter

Meetups are essential, too,  because they are so efficient at identifying the people in your community who are also interested in the same language.  Internet communities subconsciously know there is a difference between online and offline communities or else the phrase “in real life” (IRL) wouldn’t be needed.


In a natural language, you have the advantage of being able to tap into pop media, like manga, bandes desines, music, etc, etc.  Na’vi almost has that, being a language embedded in a pop culture movie, but there is very little. I hope that who ever writes the first large work in Na’vi picks something approachable like Winnie the Pooh, instead of Hamlet, which is half unreadable in the original.

Motivation is again related to community.  If you have online and IRL friends in the language community, keeping those contacts alive is reason enough to keep working on the language.

The last big reason for learning a language is because it is a language.  Every language is a little laboratory for testing out ideas about how we communicate and finding out who we are.

One thought on “How to learn a language, for example Na’vi

  1. My language-learning wishlist is (in priority order): hanzi, toki pona, spanish, na’vi, and ilkash. I have no compelling reason to learn any of them… I just think learning them would be, well… neat.

    But when I think about the conlangs – tp, na’vi, ilkash – I find myself wondering: “what am I going to say in those languages?” It’s one thing to admit that learning, say, klingon is essentially pointless, or rather that the learning of it is its own point. It’s a different thing to consider that having learned to speak it there may yet be nothing to say. That’s a different kind of pointlessness, one that I haven’t come to terms with yet.