How to Learn Languages from Movies and TV

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From Klingon to Dothraki, how to learn them all

Television and film are replete with languages created specifically for the screen. Most famous of all, perhaps, is the Klingon language from the Star Trek shows and films. Some lesser known languages include the fictional Atlantean alphabet created for Disney’s Atlantis: The Lost Empire, as well as Kryptonian, the language of Superman’s home planet, conceived for the comics and the film Man of Steel. Such dedication to creating full languages adds depth to the backstory of the characters, whether or not the plots themselves are thoroughly fleshed.

Language apps today offer the opportunity to learn many of these languages. Let’s see which apps offer what, and how one might get started.

Klingon (from Star Trek)

We’ll begin with one of the oldest and most studied “fictional” tongues: Klingon (or Klingonese). Klingon is spoken by the warrior race by the same name. Because they favor battle, the language emphasises vocabulary centered upon warfare and space travel. Its popularity is so high that many works of classic literature have been translated into the Klingon language, from Hamlet to, unsurprisingly, The Art of War

Highly popular, Klingon can be learned from popular apps like Duolingo and from many websites, such as the Klingon Language Institute

Sindarin (from The Lord of the Rings Trilogy)

The elegant yet haughty elves of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy speak a language called Sindarin. Inspired by Welsh, Tolkien used his mastery of languages to create this common tongue of the elves of Middle Earth. Fans of the movies directed by Peter Jackson should already be familiar with the sound of the language, as the actors were charged with speaking the elvish dialect on screen. Tolkien created a number of languages and dialects for his books, including the notable Quenya, the language of the High Elves.

Want to speak like the elvish lady and lord Galadriel and Celeborn? You can learn Sindarin on Memrise and through dedicated websites.

Valyrian and Dothraki (Game of Thrones)

Dothraki and the Valyrian languages were conceived by author George R.R. Martin for his fantasy novel series, A Song of Ice and Fire. But the languages themselves didn’t become fully constructed until the HBO television series adaptation, Game of Thrones. High Valyrian is spoken by the older peoples, much like Latin in our world, and Dothraki is the language of the horse-riding nomads from the eastern lands of Essos. 

Most viewers of the television series will immediately recognize words in High Valyrian: dracarys (the command the dragon queen uses to incite her dragons to breathe fire) and valar morghulis/valar dohaeris (“all men must die”, and its response, “all men must serve”).

The most famous Dothraki word is undoubtedly khaleesi, which means “queen”, the title bestowed upon the dragon queen.

Fans can learn both Dothraki and Valyrian on fan-made websites. Penguin Random House offers an app for learning Dothraki, and Duolingo offers lessons in High Valyrian

Alienese (Futurama)

Looking for a simpler “fictional” language to learn? Try Alienese from the television series Futurama. The Alienese alphabet corresponds with English with simple substitutions for letters and numbers. While you probably won’t be conversing in the language, it might make the show more entertaining than it already is.

You can learn the Alienese alphabet with simple charts or start a lesson on Memrise.

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