For all my problems reading the work of JRR Tolkien (Before you scold me, remember: Mileage, as always, may vary), I have a great appreciation for the time and effort he put into creating the languages used in his work.  Indeed, his development of the tongue of the elves was six-decade project for him, and one which shows a great deal of thought and a great deal of work.  While I’ve never been one of the guys who loved Star Trek enough to learn to speak conversational Klingon, I am occasionally a tiny bit jealous of their skills.  (Full disclosure: I CAN read the Interlac alphabet as seen in many issues of Legion of Super-Heroes, mostly notably in Element Lad’s 80s-era chest-symbol.)  Indeed, though I have a passing familiarity with several real Earth-type languages, I’m only fluent in English (and that is occasionally questionable) and I wouldn’t mind being able to converse in Dwarven at the gaming table, which leads us to today’s lingua franca query…

The MS-QOTD (pronounced, as always, “misquoted”) also wouldn’t mind being able to communicate in the ancient language of The Whales, whiiiiiiiiich IIIIII aaaammmm  tooooooooollllld sooooooooooouuunnnnddssssss liiiiiike thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiissssss, asking: What fictional language would you most like to learn?

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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9 Comments

  1. May 18, 2015 at 11:34 am — Reply

    Huttese sounds funny, so I’ll go with that. One could have nice convos in Jabba’s palace over a drink with it.

  2. DamienR
    May 18, 2015 at 11:53 am — Reply

    Based on the smurfs I find myself smurfing with, it smurfs that there are a lot more Shyriiwook smurfs out there than we smurf, so that might be smurfy.

    But, I’ve always smurfed to smurf the dialect used by the Swedish Chef.

    • Alisha
      May 18, 2015 at 11:59 am — Reply

      Bork! Bork! Bork!

  3. Alisha
    May 18, 2015 at 11:59 am — Reply

    My goddaughters and I already speak some Klingon, a little bit of a few different versions of Elvish, several partial Star Wars languages and a few other fictional languages. Not a single conversation goes by where we don’t use at least one word from a fictional language, and more often than not we use several or full phrases in normal conversation. Even my nephew (who isn’t even two years old yet) has picked up several words. While he can’t say them all correctly yet, he does use them in the right context.

    But I’d love to be able to speak some of the Star Wars languages (Ryl, Huttese, Mando’a, etc) more fully. Many of them are only partially developed, with some being incomplete and only having a few select words or phrases that actually mean something, and others that are mostly made up on the spot by writers.

  4. May 18, 2015 at 1:32 pm — Reply

    I’ve never been particularly interested in learning a language from fiction, but I have wondered if taking a dying language that already exists, and graphing it onto a character in fiction couldn’t help revive it. Say introduce a race of aliens that speak Xellerian for instance, but it’s really Navajo, you just don’t tell the readers until they’ve learned it, adopted it, and propagated it.

    • Alisha
      May 18, 2015 at 3:07 pm — Reply

      Actually, several fictional languages are based on foreign and dead languages, so you are in good company with that idea. Many are altered to varying degrees (some use an existing language as the base and just put emphasis on different pronunciation or inflection than the actual language does, some reverse or mirror the letters/symbols/etc. or add an extra character/letter/symbol/etc to words), but some just flat out use an existing language and slap a different label on it.

      My old Jr. High/High School guidance counselor (who was the one who taught me some of this stuff so I could “swear” at teachers and get away with it) used to show me articles about it because I thought it was fascinating.

      • May 18, 2015 at 4:24 pm — Reply

        Yeah, being from a country with few people and strange language myself, I see regularly funny things based on Finnish in pop culture and literature. For example, Star Wars universe martial art called Teräs Käsi is straight up Finnish and means “Steel Hand”. I guess it sounded exotic enough for Lucasfilm.

      • Bill
        May 20, 2015 at 9:45 am — Reply

        This is another example of the way Mandarin was used in Firefly to say horrible things to people in prime time. Only better, because even fewer people will know what you’re talking about.

  5. Bill
    May 20, 2015 at 10:42 am — Reply

    Klingon is fun, but I’d really like to learn Romulan. I only recall hearing one Romulan curse in the TNG episode “The Defector,” but it had a slippery, flowing quality about it that I enjoyed.

    For me it’s hard to choose just one. If I could choose a super power for myself, the short list includes having the ability to understand and communicate in any language I hear or see.

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