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The Most Elaborate Made-Up Languages in Popular Culture

There are many examples of constructed languages in movies and fiction. Here are some facts about the most interesting ones.

Valentina Dordevic
Valentina Dordevic

Imagine an alien civilization, real or imaginary, in a realm far, far away, without a distinct language.

Let’s say you’re watching a movie. The plot takes place on another planet—or an obscure dimension of this world. The characters don’t quite look like regular humans from the 21st century. Their features are different. Their robes only have vague similarities with our clothes. Their behavior, traditions, societal order, worldviews, and other aspects of their culture are different from ours. Yet they speak perfect US English.

How authentic would it appear? Obviously, not very much.

Okay, most authors and screenplay writers don’t usually bother to create a whole new language just for the sake of one project. But the best ones do. There are many examples of constructed languages in movies and fiction. Here are some facts about the most interesting ones.

Fictional Languages in Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books, Movies, and Series

A fictitious world would not be complete without its own language.

Sci-Fi Language in Star Trek

You don’t have to be a Star Trek fan to know about Klingons. If you’ve ever watched a single episode, you might remember human-like creatures with large, elaborate (and not particularly pretty) foreheads. They belong to a fictional tribe called Klingons, and they use a language with the same name (also referred to as Klingonese and Klingon).

Marc Okrand was the person who developed the language. Okrand studied several languages, including those of East Asia and Native American peoples. Later, he said that he never intended to use the elements of those languages when devising Klingon, but he couldn’t avoid it. He was well aware of the linguistic patterns of natural languages in general, but he decided to abandon most of them. For that reason, Star Trek protagonists sometimes had trouble with translation.

Klingon continued to develop beyond the Star Trek franchise. There’s an institute that promotes it and a number of experts that translated some classic books and plays into this constructed language.

Fictional Languages of Tolkien’s Mythical Realm

Tolkien invented a whole family of Elvish languages with distinct vocabulary, grammatical patterns, morphology, syntax, and rules. Quenya and Sindarin are the most famous, but he developed a whole network of languages that correspond with the fictional history of the tribes that inhabit his fantasy world. By reading his books, we can study a sort of linguistic evolution that culminated within the imaginary world of The Lords of the Rings.

The incredible list of Tolkien’s made-up mythological languages includes Naffarin, Lhammas, Quenya, Valarin, Sindarin, Telerin, Old Noldorin, Noldorin, Ilkorin, Danian, Taliska, and Lemberin (North, West, and East Lemberin). And that was all before he wrote The Lords of the Rings.

The languages that first appeared in The Lord of the Rings are Adûnaic, Rohirric, Entish, Dwarfish, and Black Speech.

When it comes to inspiration and influences, Tolkien found them in his field of study. He was a classical philologist and expert in Old English and other ancient Germanic languages. He studied Finnish as well, and he really enjoyed it. Oh, and he also knew ancient Greek, Latin, and Spanish. As a result, this language genius started making up new languages and cryptographic codes for fun - and it was long before he wrote his famous books that later found their way to the movie theaters.

Languages in Star Wars Movies

Star Wars is another project that includes a bunch of made-up languages. Their grammar is not as detailed as that of Tolkien’s languages, but it does the work. The approach was different, and the creators focused on the sound more than the other elements of a language.

Languages of inhabitants of different planets in the Star Wars universe are based on specific sounds that appear in natural languages throughout the world—except English. They don’t have defined grammar rules, and sometimes they don’t even have distinct words. These “languages” mostly consist of yells, blurts, roars, and similar sounds. They include Huttese, Ewokese, Droidspeak, and, of course, Shyriiwook, the language of Chewbacca and his kind.

Movie Languages in Avatar and the Game of Thrones

This list would not be complete without Dothraki and Na’vi - the languages that appear in the legendary GoT and Avatar. Both languages are relatively complete and learnable. Both are created by competent language professionals who had the task of creating a functional language that can’t be linked with any known language of the world. The realization was successful, and the sphere of imaginary languages got enriched substantially.

Fictional Languages You Can Learn and Fake Languages

While most made-up languages you can hear in movies only appear as actual languages, some of those that I outlined above have most elements of a real language. You can learn Klingon and any of Tolkien’s languages. Na’vi and Dothraki are also well done, and you can learn them. Out of Star Wars conlangs, we can say that Huttese is relatively learnable.

On the other hand, Ubese (Star Wars) is a fake language. It is not fake because it is invented but because it isn’t invented well. In the Return of the Jedi, one phrase appears three times and is translated differently every time. Pay attention to the scene in which Princess Leia negotiates with Jabba the Hutt.

Language Learning

Valentina Dordevic

Hello! My name is Valentina. Book digesting is my specialty. I transform book ideas into easy-to-follow summaries, articles, study guides, reviews, essays, analyses, slides, or e-books.


Milena Lazova

I'm an ESL teacher with over 7 years of experience in providing original content. I really like writing educational articles which may help others learn some aspects of English.

Valentina Dordevic

Hello! My name is Valentina. Book digesting is my specialty. I transform book ideas into easy-to-follow summaries, articles, study guides, reviews, essays, analyses, slides, or e-books.

Beth Taylor

Hello! My name is Beth. I'm from France. I'm a French and English native speaker and I really like writing.