Like you, I have many hobbies and interests in all things geek; from games to superheroes to horror films, the list goes on. Also on this long list is linguistics. Yup, I am also a languages nerd. According to linguistic professor O’Grady (2005),
Language is many things–a system of communication, a tool for thought, a medium for self-expression, a social institution, a source of ethnic pride and political controversy.”
As geeks, we have a language of our own: sayings and words of characters we like that we take and make our own, references from our fandoms that integrate themselves in our daily interactions, for example. But, we also have other languages, actual languages that people have taken the time to create and I thought that today we could look at these constructed languages and how to go about learning them.
Any Tolkien fan would be familiar with Elvish, the language of the Elves in Middle Earth (well, Aragorn spoke it, too). Not only was Tolkien a writer, but one of his hobbies was language making. Of the languages he created, Elvish is one of the most developed. The first primitive form of Elvish is known as Qenya (and later, Quenya) which is High-elven. There is also Sindarin or Grey-elven, though most people just refer to these as Elvish.
So how can we learn Elvish? There is the strictly input method; reading a book about the language. A Gateway to Sindarin looks at the history of the language along with the grammar. There are names, vocabulary, and a glossary of terms. Or you could check out the Sindarin-English Dictionary. Just remember to practice what you are reading about; language is best learned when you use it. If you’d like to learn more about the alphabet, I found this website that offers courses in the languages though I have yet to try them as I am currently working on learning a different constructed language.
If you have read the A Song of Ice and Fire series or have seen Game of Thrones, then you must know about the Dothraki people, the nomadic warriors of Essos. While they have their own language, for the books George R.R. Martin only created some words, phrases, and even a few sentences which put some constraints on linguist David J. Peterson when he had to develop the language more fully. In an interview with Rolling Stone, he said,
The language I was going to be creating had to match both the aesthetic in the book and whatever grammar was in the book.”
Being a Targaryen and Daenerys fan made me more interested in the Dothraki language especially after Dany rose to Khaleesi. I was online shopping for a gift for someone else when I found a language course! It includes over a 100 pages of guide to the language and an audio CD with words, phrases, grammar explanations, and exercises. Of course I had to buy it for myself. Now I just need a Khal of my own to practice with. Preferably one that won’t die from a festered wound…
Peterson also developed High Valyrian, though he did not have the constraints with this language as he did with Dothraki. High Valyrian is not used for everyday communication, but you can still learn it using Duolingo, a free app. Duolingo works on all four skills: reading, writing, speaking, and listening. It is a fun way to learn any language, not just a constructed language as it gamifies learning. You can score points, do timed exercises, and level up.
And I haven’t forgotten about any Trekkies out there! Klingon, the language used by the race of the same name, can also be learned by geeks. James Doohan first worked on the guttural language for the movie, but it was later more developed by Marc Okrand who also worked on Vulcan. For the readers, there is a Klingon Dictionary available to help you learn the vocabulary. But if you prefer to learn in a more interactive way, then you should check out Duolingo.
For any new language learning, it might be a good idea to make your own bingo cards. I heard a friend doing this and they have fantastic results practicing it with other native speakers of the language she was learning.
Do you already speak one of these constructed languages? Which one do you plan to learn? Tell us in the comments!