When you watch a movie or TV show that has a fictional culture in it, and they speak to each other in a language you’ve never heard, someone had to create that language. Now, it’d be very easy to just make up some gobbledygook and call it “Martian” or whatever, but for a culture to have authenticity, even when it is not itself authentic, you need to spend some time and actually, you know, create the language, from every guttural noise to every predicate noise. This is where people credited as “ConLangers” in movies and TV shows come into play, and their work is amazingly intricate and requires some serious skill.
The above video produced by the Motion Picture Academy highlights three of these ConLangers who have contributed three of the most complex and popular languages in modern films. First, Paul Frommer who created the Na’vi language for James Cameron‘s Avatar, David Peterson who created Dothraki for Game of Thrones and the Dark Elven language for Thor: The Dark World, and perhaps the most famous of all, Marc Okrand who cemented and filled-out the Klingon language beginning in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. All of these languages are amazingly different, and all of them had to basically be built from the ground up, with the exception of a few words here and there.
It’s astonishing how complex each of the languages are. Books have been written filling out words and phrases not used in any movie or TV episode; classes can be taken to learn to speak them, and societies exist for people who have become fluent and demand more things to say. It’s a whole cottage industry, but as Okrand says in the video, “It’s not bringing to life something that I’ve created, it’s bring to better life something somebody else has created.”
Do you speak any of these fictional (although now quite real) languages? How about any of those ones Tolkien made up? Let us know in the comments below which, and write it in that language please.
Image: Paramount Pictures
Kyle Anderson is the Weekend Editor and a film and TV critic for Nerdist.com. Follow him on Twitter!