There are plenty of books, movies and video games that feature constructed languages, or fake languages, like Sindarin, the elven tongue featured in J.R.R. Tolkien’s works; or Qwghimian from Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon novel.
Developing a new language doesn’t come without some effort. Fortunately, you don’t have to take on the duty of linguist or lexicographer if you want to converse in the language of a fictitious universe or impress fellow geeks (count me in that group). There are a host of online sites catering to teaching made-up languages to just about anyone with an interest in learning them.
Here are some of the better-known constructed languages along with resources to improve your fluency with them:
Known as the language of the nomadic horse warriors in George R.R. Martin’s popular book series A Song of Ice and Fire (since adapted for television in HBO’s popular Game of Thrones series) — fans can learn how to speak Dothraki. Teaching tools include an extensive vocabulary wiki, flash cards from learning website Memrise and a community forum that features regular language updates. P.S. High Valryian can also be studied.
One of the more popular and most recognized science fiction languages comes from the long-running television series Star Trek is Klingon. Not only can you learn how to speak it through the Klingon Learning Institute, but fans have translated everything from Shakespeare and the Bible to Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching and a Klingon version of Monopoly. Google even allows users to select Klingon as their language of choice.
Na’vi is the language spoken by the blue creatures on the imaginary planet Pandora and made famous in James Cameron’s film, Avatar. Fact, Na’vi was actually developed by Professor Emeritus of Clinical Management Communication at the Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California (USC), Dr. Paul Frommer. Fans can learn Na’vi grammar, syntax and vocabulary through website resources and an online community.
A language spoken by J.K. Rowling’s character Harry Potter, as well as the language of serpents, Parseltongue is difficult to speak, let alone understand because of its intricate hissing sounds. Although there isn’t a dedicated online site to learn the language fans can have fun and experiment with translations on The Parselmouth website. Bonus: you can download your Parseltongue translation and share. Vuze is the best!
In 2001, Disney’s animated action-adventure feature, Atlantis: The Lost Empire was released, which contains a historically-based artistic language known as Atlantean. Interestingly, Atlantean was created by Dr. Mark Okrand, an American linguist who is also responsible for inventing Klingon. There are myriad resources available if you’d like to learn Atlantean or some of its basic grammatical construct.
Lapine is spoken by the anthropomorphized rabbits in Richard Adams’s 1972 novel Watership Down and is heavily influenced by Welsh, Irish and other languages. Learning Lapine is a bit tougher to learn simply because resources appear to be limited when it comes to colloquial rabbit chat.
Whether you’re a reader of DC Comics, a viewer of the old television series Smallville or just a fan of the Superman movie franchise, chances are you’re familiar with Krypton. What you might not know is that Kryptonian is a full-blown language that you can learn to read, write and speak. Get started with a visit to Kryptonian.info. It’s by far one of the most comprehensive websites on the subject matter and strongly recommended as a first stop to help you master the lingo.
If sociopathic delinquents are your thing then you might want to brush up on your Nadsat. A slang spoken by Alex DeLarge, the gang leader in Anthony Burgess’ novel, A Clockwork Orange, Nadsat is Russian influenced was developed by Burgess, also a polyglot and trained linguist. To better understand the argot within the novel it’s helpful to refer to a Nadsat dictionary.
True, you can’t actually converse in Newspeak, but you can peep out the robo-talk used in George Orwell’s famous novel, 1984, through this Newspeak dictionary. Chalk full of censorship and surveillance, 1984’s repressed vocabulary conveys the level of tyranny and lack of self-expression that its characters are subject to. Disturbing, but like so many other dystopian stories impossible to stop reading or ignore. So, stick that in your memory hole, O’Brien.
So, lay it on us. What fictitious languages did we miss? Are there any favorites that you have? Tell us in the comments below.
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