Fantasy language, Fictional language, Grammar, Linguistics, Vocabulary, Words

The Fasctinating Facts Behind the Creation of Fictional Languages

In these 2+1 videos (the +1 will be a surprise at the end of this post) you can take a deeper look into the process how fictional/fantasy languages can be created.

Like almost all studies and articles related to this topic, we must start with the grandfather of all these language inventing methods, J.R.R. Tolkien. As explained in the following video, J.R.R. Tolkien was very consequent; being a linguist he knew all the important features of human languages in general, and took these into account. The video explains it very interestingly and thoroughly from the vocabulary to grammar rules, not forgetting the geographical and diachronic aspects that effect every language in our world – and in any fantasy world. It also analyses the Navi’ language (the one the main characters speak in Avatar), Star Trek’s Klingon and Dothraki spoken in Game of Thrones.

But if we go further, we must see that if J.R.R. Tolkien have been the grandfather of the idea of inventing fantasy languages, it must mean, his “children” and “grandchildren” developed his methods and invented new ones, bringing in new points of views, and so on. Accordingly, on the below video you can learn more about how many aspects you have to consider to invent a language. For example, you have to know the people using it, these people’s habits, their origins – even if they are only fictional! (Furthermore, the video is also about the communities of non-fictional people using these languages enthusiastically.)

And the surprise we promised: J.R.R. Tolkien speaking Namárië language fluently:

Additionally, we should certainly not forget that all of these amazing people put loads of effort to reach the level of being able to construct fictional languages. Mark Okrand, who invented Star Trek’s Klingon, has a PhD in linguistics from Berkeley, and Paul Frommer, the creator of Na’vi, is professor emeritus of clinical management communication at the University of Southern California.

Etymology, European Languages, Linguistics, Uncategorized, Words

Where Did the Words We Use Everyday Come From? Check out These Amazing Word Maps!

A very enthusiastic reddit user created these amazing word maps, reports. Did you know anything about the origins of the words church, apple, bear, orange, rose, pineapple, and so on? The etymology of these words might surprise you – as well as the similarities and differences of these words in the european languages.

Let’s start it with church. It seems to be coming from the ancient Greece, and you can see on the map below, how much it changed. The etimology of hungarian templom is kind of an easter egg: this word came from the latin templum.


The word bear probably comes from Russia, the land of the biggest bear-population of Europe, but there are some regions where it most probably have a whole different source. The original slavic word probably contained two elements: eat+honey.


The word beer also appears to show a remarkable variability: in the slavic languages it has some form of pivo, in western Europe and on the south-eastern region it is mostly beer, on the East it is a (deep/back) vowel and an l, on the Iberian Peninsula it is cerveza, and curiously, in the middle of Europe, in Hungary it is sör. The etymology of this hungarian word is unknown, but it is probably an old one: according to the most recent etymological studies, it must have been part of this language in a similar form for more than 1000 years!


A very othen used word to describe a very popular fruit, apple, shows an incredible variability accross Europe. In the areas marked with blue, alma probably came from an old turkish language more than 1000 years ago.


The “most popular” flower (rose) and an exotic fruit (pineapple) is almost unitary in the whole continent, as the following two maps show. Regarding ananas (pineapple), the fruit itself came from a whole different area of the world, therefore at the time it has been imported to Europe, it was unknown to all the european countries – and to describe the new thing, its original name has been imported, too. It was the word naná used by the guarani indians, living in Brazil, and the fruit – with its name – came to Europe through portugese and spanish people.



Another fruit that counted as an exotic one that time, orange, originally: narangha, came from the arabian region conveyed by persian and, partially turkish folks to Italy and Spain; then infiltrated to the whole continent. As in most of the cases, the original word changed a lot on the way to the north, and in the eastern region (marked purple) it has a different origin:


The world tea seems to divide Europe to two parts. To the yellow marked ares it originally came from malay (!) language to Europe, and spreaded from the dutch language. The original word, however, comes from China (surprise!). In the areas marked with green it probably came from cantonese via persian language.


On the map of cucumber, most of Europe is purple: the slavic word came from the medieval Greek ánguri, which probably had a secondary meaning: immature. It is probably because greek people used to eat raw cucumber. As you can also see on the map, the yellow areas borrowed this word from a latin or a pre-Italic mediterranean language, but in some regions they have whole different words for it: words that came from Persia.


Did you find this post interesting? Check out our previous ones!

The beauty of being a #freelance #translator

“The Most Difficult Languages of the World” – Does Such Even Exist?

Every now and then we bump into articles, gags, blog posts, videos saying something like “The top 10 hardest languages in the world”. But does such a thing at all exist? Let’s take a better look on that with linguists!


In the above video it is stated: danish is the 10th of the most difficult languages of the world. And the argumentation if the following: its phonemic system differs from all the other languages. Well, let’s admit, it can be said about every language.


We can see amhara in the 9th position in the video, with the reasoning that the people speaking amharic, think, that their language is so difficult, it is impossible for anyone non-native to learn it. But which language’s speakers wouldn’t think the same?


This language has been used for coding during WW II, and the codebreakers really could not break it. The reason behind it is, they had no idea the text they need to understand is not in english…


Allegedly, japanese is easy to speak, but hard to write. Well, yes. We can imagine that. But all the japan cultural achievements are difficult to learn; let’s just think about the etiquette.


Regarding mandarin, there are 5000 symbols in it and, according to this video, it takes 2000 hours to learn them (25 symbols/week takes 2×5 hours a week, and in 4 years, manageable). According to this video, the grammar is easy, because there is no affixation. But on the other hand, it also means, that it makes – like all isolating languages – the order of the words, a.k.a. the syntax a lot harder. Not to mention the difficulties of pronunciation.


Allegedly, the difficulty of estonian is the 14 cases it has – which can make the native english speakers really terrified. But in fact, what’s “terrifying”, is rather the fact that Estonian is an inflectional or fusional language in the morphological typology, which means, there are internal changes in the etymons to express semantic changes. And some other circumstances, like pronunciation and the rules of using tenses.


This video interestingly does not even mention the high number of cases in the hungarian language, just “the numerous types of inflection paradigms” and the complicated grammar rules in general. Plus, there are some exotic letters is the video, but everybody just keep calm: these are not the hungarian letters.


The difficulty of bask language is, according to this video, that it is one of the few european languages that does not connect to english. They might not mean here the linguistic affinity but the fact that bask is not an indoeuropean language. On these grounds, this could be the same “problem” with estonian and hungarian as well..


The writing in arabic is the biggest challenge, the video suggests. But in reality, there is an advantage in the writing: the written and printed text do not differ as much as in case of latin and cyrillic alphabet. The biggest challenge the ones learning this language have to face might be rather be the pronunciation and the affixation.


The video explains that cantonese is even harder that chinese, because there are 9 different tones. This is partially true but inexcusably unpunctual: there are 6 versions of intonation in cantonese. And another difficulty is, that the written text does not mean the same as it means when spoken. Well, this could cause a problem only if we already speak cantonese – but in this case, the other difficulties might not even be difficulties anymore…

The beauty of being a #freelance #translator

Your View Of The World Is Influenced By The Language You Speak

A very interesting article has been published on it is about researches showing the language you speak actually changes your view of the world. It is even more exciting when it comes to bi- or multilingual people…

One of these researches has been published in Psychological Science. In this research scientists studied German-English bilinguals and monolinguals to find out how different language patterns affected how they reacted in experiments. So they showed these bilinguals video clips of events with a motion in them, and found that  a monolingual German speaker tends to describe the action but also the goal of the action. So they would tend to say “A woman walks towards her car” or “a man cycles towards the supermarket”. English monolingual speakers would simply describe those scenes as “A woman is walking” or “a man is cycling”, without mentioning the goal of the action. The worldview assumed by German speakers is a holistic one – they tend to look at the event as a whole – whereas English speakers tend to zoom in on the event and focus only on the action.

And here comes the explanation of it: the linguistic basis of this tendency appears to be rooted in the way different grammatical tool kits situated actions in time. English requires its speakers to grammatically mark events that are ongoing, by obligatorily applying the –ing morpheme: “I am playing the piano and I cannot come to the phone” or “I was playing the piano when the phone rang”. German doesn’t have this feature.

And this will really make you say “Wow!” – When it came to bilingual speakers, they seemed to switch between these perspectives based on the language context they were given the task in. We found that Germans fluent in English were just as goal-focused as any other native speaker when tested in German in their home country. But a similar group of German-English bilinguals tested in English in the United Kingdom were just as action-focused as native English speakers.

Another huge advantage of speaking languages is: you can  make better financial decisions in your second language – another study found. Apparently, in contrast to one’s first language, the second language tends to lack the deep-seated, misleading affective biases that unduly influence how risks and benefits are perceived.

See? The language you speak in really can affect the way you think! You are lucky to be freelance translators – make an advantage of it!

The beauty of being a #freelance #translator

How to Learn Languages Effectively? Here Are 8 Advices of a Famous Woman Who Spoke 16 Languages!

Kato Lomb, a hungarian polyglot was one of the first people who worked in simultaneous interpretation, spoke 16 languages – most of them she learnt as an autodidact – and travelled all around the world. Have you ever thought about learning more languages – or did our previous post inspire you to do so? Here are 8 of her tips for you!

  1. Do it every day

If you only have 10 minutes, say a 10 minute long monologue in the language you want to learn.

  1. Don’t stop, rather change

If you are losing your enthusiasm, look for another way of learning: reading instead of listening to music, or talking instead of reading. Or vice versa.

  1. Words – with context

Never try to learn just words. Always memorize them in a context.

  1. Keep your eyes open

When walking on the street, try to translate everything you see into the language you are learning. For example, if you see an ad on the window of a shop, when walking by, try to translate what you saw.

  1. Do it right

Once you learn something, make sure it is correct – ask a teacher to check it, or find trustworthy sources to avoid learning something falsely.

  1. Imagine it as a building

Learning a new language is like building a house: you have to make the walls stable, therefore you have to support them from all sides. Meaning: read, listen, talk, watch movies, et cetera.

  1. … speaking of speaking…

… don’t be afraid to speak!

  1. Watch the idioms!

All the idioms you memorize, do it in first-person, singular! For example: “I’m just kidding.” Oh wait. Why do you think she said that? Let us know your guesses in a comment!

The beauty of being a #freelance #translator

5 Tips for Translators to Find More Motivation

Working as a translator is a beautiful job: you can use your creativity, have the freedom to decide when and where to work, bridge language barriers – it is full of advantages! But if you want to be honest, this lifestyle has its difficulties as well. Have you ever experienced being exhausted, feeling unable to find motivation to keep going? Here are 5 tips to help you find your way back to those happy days of work!

Change your location
Of course it is very convenient to work from home: you do not have to go out to the street (which can be a great advantage in winter), you do not have to worry about being late, you can work alone, independently, in full peace. But after a while, it can be really demotivating, so even if you have to give up some comfort, go out! Pick a nice bar or a quiet library to be your temporary workplace. It will make you feel more alive! Also, even if you are at a new place, do not forget to check the job offerings on Babelprojekt!

Participate on translation events
Going out does not only mean that you take your work with you outside of your apartment. Meeting other professionals, sharing ideas or just laughing together on stories and jokes that only translators understand will definitely cheer you up. Experiencing that you are not alone helps you get back to work with more enthusiasm.

Switch. Off. Everything.
Take a day off sometimes. Literally: unplug and switch off all your devices, take a day watching trees, the sky, the birds, of, if it is winter, the snow; if it is raining, grab a cup of tea and stare at an entertaining book instead of staring at the monitor. The next day, you will have a lot more enegry to get back to your work.

Try new things
You are a professional in translating legal texts, but also attracted by literature? Do you always translate topics related to agriculture, but you would like to try to translate articles in the field of marketing/PR? Challange yourself and add these fields to your Babelprojekt profile so that clients can find you!

Set new goals
If you are extremely ambitious and it is not enough for you just to try some new things, you can also set bigger goals to find your unexplored talents. How about learning chinese? How about translating material related to japanese pottery, to, let’s say, icelandic? On of your greatest talents is creativity – you can use it for anything, not only in your everyday work.

Have ou ever tried any of these practices or do you have any other ones that helped you and would help other professionals, too? Do not hesitate to let us know by writing us to [email protected] or in a reply below this post!

– Babelprojekt Team –