“The basic pleasure in the phonetic elements of a language and in the style of their patterns, and then in the higher dimension, pleasure in the association of these word-forms with meanings, is of fundamental importance. This pleasure is quite distinct from the practical knowledge of a language, and not the same as an analytic understanding of its structure. It is simpler, deeper – rooted, and yet more immediate than the enjoyment of literature.” — J.R.R. Tolkien, “English & Welsh,” Oxford, 1955

Reading Assignments:

Not every fantasy or science fiction novel uses made up languages. If you don’t think your story needs its own language, read the Helpful Tips and Naming Conventions sections at the very least. That said, even if you’re not planning on sprinkling just a few words here and there in your manuscript, try creating a language anyway, for the fun of it. Something may spark and help you out with your culture building or anything else your world needs. 

For creating a whole or partial language, take a glance at each of these first three articles and go with the one that makes the most sense to you. Then read the articles under Helpful Tips, and Naming Conventions.

Creating a Language

1.) How to Create a Simple Language – by Jessica Lee
2.) How to Create Your Own Language – by The Council of Elrond
3.) The Language Construction Kit – by Mark Rosenfelder

Helpful Tips For Creating a Language

1.) Using Invented Language in Your Novel – by Roberta Osborn (Feel free to skip the middle section entitled “for your stylist or publisher”.) 
2.) The Four Rules of Using Fake Words – by Chris Winkle
3.) There Really Are 50 Eskimo Words For ‘Snow’ – by David Robson (This article isn’t about writing, but give it a quick skim for an interesting read on language and the importance of its use.)

Naming Conventions

1.) Naming places in a fantasy novel – by Susan Leigh Noble
2.) The Art of Fantasy Names – by Pace Miller


Writing Assignments:

1.)  Write down a possible alphabet for your language, including the sounds each letter, or combination of letters, will make. Need help with sounds? Listen to radio stations from around the world on TuneIn Radio to pick out sounds that appeal to you. In the upper left corner click on “Listen Now”, then click “By Location” in the menu to the left.  
2.) Using your alphabet, create a few words in your language, such as the name of the language, nouns, verbs, and character names. Make sure you write down what the English translation is!


Class Discussion:

1.) Discuss the articles you read. Where there any that were more helpful than others? List 1-2 things you learned that maybe you hadn’t known or thought of before. This is also a good place to reintroduce yourself, if necessary. 

Getting in the Mood:

1.) Write for 15 minutes: Imagine your world has a radio station, even if it doesn’t. Write the dialogue for two morning talk show hosts. Obviously they’ll be mostly speaking English, but you can write it in such a way that the reader will understand they’re actually speaking their native language. What is the hot news segment that morning? OR have them be native English speakers who are explaining specific words in your language that travelers might need to know and why? This could be a little funny, because you’re not likely to make up words like “bathroom” or “water” in your language, as they probably won’t be very necessary for your novel. So, why does the traveler need to know the larger nouns and verbs you’ve created?
2.) Split into smaller groups, if necessary. Each person gets a chance to read their 15 minutes of writing. 
3.) After each person reads, others give feedback: a) What worked? b) What needs more work? Be as specific as you can.

Group Assignments:

1.) Get into small groups and have each person explain their alphabet, the sounds of their language, and a few of the words created. What inspired you to choose the letters and the sounds you did? Also, why did you choose the words you did for translation into your language? What other words would be good to translate? How do you intend to use your language in your novel – a word here and there in dialogue? Whole passages translated? Comment on each other’s work and seek to help everyone improve their work.

LTWF: World-Building Course Syllabus