Professional translators tend, as a group, to love language. The intricacies of grammar, interesting and unusual spellings, roots of words that have been borrowed from other languages – all of these hold a fascination for the linguistic enthusiast.
The concept of made up languages is also one that many freelance translators find interesting. A made up language (also referred to as a constructed language) is one that has been consciously created, rather than one that has developed naturally over time. Here we take a look at four made up languages, from the fun to the functional, considering their value in everyday life.
For science fiction fans, the first made up language that springs to mind is undoubtedly Klingon. From Wikipedia to the Klingon Language Institute, the ability to learn Klingon is a well-documented possibility. There are even apps that will allow you to translate everyday phrases into Klingon and vice versa, although other than at Comic Con or Star Trek conventions, places in which to use Klingon are rather limited.
Literary fans looking for a modern made up language need look no further than the hugely successful Game of Thrones series, which has now also been televised. Dothraki has emerged as the language of choice for fans of the series looking to take their enthusiasm for the books one linguistic step further than most. Want to join the party? Learn to speak Dothraki in 22 steps.
Elvish, stemming from JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series, is another made up language arising from fiction. Interestingly, Tolkien’s books actually contain two versions of Elvish – the ancient Quenya version and the more modern (in Tolkien terms, anyway!) Sindarin. As a polyglot who spoke more than a dozen languages himself, Tolkien’s fascination with linguistics even led him to record a recitation of an Elvish poem, which fans will no doubt be fascinated to discover.
Turning to more practical matters, the world’s most successful made up language that is actually in use today is Esperanto. Developed as a language that could cross borders and enable open communication between speakers of many different tongues, Esperanto captured the imagination of many language enthusiasts in diverse countries.
Although no official confirmation is available of the number of fluent Esperanto speakers in the world, estimates put the figure anywhere between 10,000 and 2,000,000. The majority of Esperanto speakers are based in Europe, perhaps due to the language’s roots in English, German, French, Spanish and various Slavic languages.
The brainchild of Ludwig Zamenhof, Esperanto was created with the lofty ambition of enabling world peace through linguistic commonality. Zamenhof designed it to be easy to learn, with a great deal of phonetic pronunciation. Although world peace seemed to be beyond the grasp of one made up language, it did catch on in many countries, leading to the creation of thousands of songs, books and even films in Esperanto.
Do you speak a made up language? If so, which did you choose to learn and why? Share your experiences with us via the comment box.